There are a plethora of gluten free grain/seed options available and they include: rice, corn, quinoa, amaranth, buckwheat, tapioca, millet, chia, flax, potato flour, chickpea flour, lentil flour, coconut, and nut meals e.g. almond or hazelnut meal
Whether you need to eat wheat or gluten free, it’s best to mix up sources of grain/seed/flour products for reasons of variety, and most alternatives have better nutrient profiles anyway. The most nutritious options are: quinoa, amaranth, millet, chia, flax, coconut and lentil.
As per my previous post, I don't advocate the consumption of a lot of gluten free substitutes, however there is a place for them and understanding how they can be used from a flavour, textural and nutritional point of view, is important.
In a nutshell, quinoa is a good rice substitute. Anywhere you would normally use rice, you can usually use quinoa - with curries, fried rice-like, porridge, salads etc. quinoa is also a saviour for vegetarians and vegans as a complete protein source. I love it for brunch on the weekend, tossed in some coconut oil, a splash of Braggs, a little chilli and some green peas. Served with eggs and a beautiful salad can't be beaten!
Quinoa & Amaranth are actually seeds that originate from ancient South American times. Quinoa originates from the Incas and Amaranth from the Aztecs. The seeds are extremely versatile and can be used as an alternative to rice in whole form and flakes can be used to make porridge. They also come puffed for breakfast cereal, can be sprouted, and also ground into flour.
Quinoa, pronounced ‘keen-wa’, comes in different varieties including:
-White is the mildest in flavour and the best multi-purpose quinoa
-Red is a slightly larger seed, having a stronger, nuttier flavour, great for soups and salads
-Black is smaller with a husk that stays firm with cooking, creating texture and providing fibre++
Amaranth is a tiny seed that apparently has different coloured varieties; however the light brown seeds are found commercially.
Quinoa and Amaranth have a low glycemic index (GI), are gluten free and are jam packed with nutrients including a complete amino acid profile. This means it contains all eight essential amino acids which is rare in plants. Humans can’t manufacture these amino acids so must be provided in food. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein that form tissues like muscles and skin and help create enzymes. Compared with other grains and some vegetables, quinoa and amaranth are higher in protein, B vitamins, potassium, zinc, calcium, iron and Vitamin E.
Quinoa and Amaranth have around 16 % protein compared with around 7.5 % for rice and 10% for wheat and millet.
Quinoa is considered a super-crop by the United Nations, and NASA are considering using quinoa as a food on its space flights for its superior and balance nutritional profile.
Soaking before cooking
Most grains/seeds contain anti-nutrients on their coatings such as enzyme inhibitors and phytates. These prevent sprouting till activated by water and deter pests from eating them while dormant. These substances also interfere with mineral absorp-tion, particularly Calcium, Magnesium and Zinc, and B vitamins. Soaking not only results in an increase in available nutrients, it makes digestion easier and also reduces the cooking time by about 5 mins.
To soak, cover with good quality water, and add a Tbs of lemon juice. This helps the breakdown of the anti-nutrients by starting a gentle fermentation process. Cook in ¼ cup less water for 1 cup of seeds if soaked, and cook for 5 mins less in the thermomix.
To sprout, soak in filtered or spring water overnight, place in a glass jar with tulle held over the the top with an elastic band. Rinse and drain twice daily till the tail is ½ to 1 cm long. Store in the fridge and consume within a few days.
For flour, grind in a mill, Vitamix dry jug or Thermomix. Bought or self milled flour should ideally be kept in the fridge or freezer to keep it as fresh as possible. Quinoa flour tends to taste bitter as it is milled dry and still contains the saponin coating. You could remedy this by soaking, rinsing, dehydrating then milling. Amaranth flour is better than quinoa as it does not have the bitter saponin coating.
Pasta noodles, flakes, puffs and various cereal combinations are available from good health food and organic shops.