Thursday, January 8, 2009

No wheat, potatoes or rice, need substitutes?

When you can't eat wheat, potatoes or rice, that leaves what? A lot actually! So you can't have piles of carbs, but there are plenty of great substitutes out there. Baking with different flours is challenging and requires some practice, as I have mentioned in a previous post, but when it comes to grains, a lot of the substitutes are as easy as making rice dishes! Finally, something in this diet that doesn't require a degree!! I will give you a brief run down of the different options available for replacing the old stand-bys.

MILLET - If you haven't already tried this fabulous grain, this is a must! The name is a bit of a turn-off, I know it swayed me, but when I finally bit the bullet four months after starting this diet and tried it, we found it to be one of our favorites!! It has a very mild texture and taste and is almost the consistency of stuffing when you cook the grains whole. We added shredded carrots, zucchini, tomatoes, currants, fresh oregano, sea salt and lots of garlic. Grayson wasn't the only one gobbling it up!! Dave was thoroughly impressed with our new find too! This grain is also a great first food for babies! Just grind it up in a grinder (preferably not one you use for coffee beans since you will feed this to your baby) for about a minute or two, it will become a fine powder, like flour. Use 3 tablespoons to 1 cup of water, boil the water first, then briskly whisk the flour into the boiling water, simmer for ten minutes whisking frequently to prevent lumps and burning. I also toss it all into the Magic Bullet when it's done to get a nice creamy consistency. It's mild flavor and low-allergen traits make it very appealing for babies! Amazingly, this is also one of the cheaper grains out there! It is also great added to bread and muffin recipes.

The nitty gritty on millet - The term millet actually refers to a variety of grains, some of which do not belong to the same genus. Millet is technically a seed, but has been classified as a grain by many. It is a heart-healthy food (up there with oatmeal) because it is a good source of magnesium, which studies have also proven to reduce the severity of asthma and reduce the frequency migraine attacks as well as reduce blood pressure and risk of heart attacks. Magnesium acts as a co-factor for more than 300 enzymes, including the enzymes involved in body's use of glucose and insulin secretion.

One cup of cooked millet contains: 33% manganese, 31% tryptophan, 26.4% DV magnesium, 24% DV phosphorus

Warning - Millet contains goitrogens, naturally-occurring substances in certain foods that can interfere with the functioning of the thyroid gland. Individuals with already existing and untreated thyroid problems may want to avoid millet for this reason. Cooking may help to inactivate the goitrogenic compounds found in food. However, it is not clear from the research exactly what percent of goitrogenic compounds get inactivated by cooking, or exactly how much risk is involved with the consumption of millet by individuals with pre-existing and untreated thyroid problems. For more on this subject, please see "What are goitrogens and in which foods are they found?"

QUINOA - As I must commonly remind Dave, it is pronounced keen-wah. It's a bit nuttier and crunchier than rice or millet and it has a very distinct flavor. The odor is stronger than the flavor though, so don't be put off by that when cooking it. It actually smells bitter! The bitterness is reduced by rinsing thoroughly before cooking to remove the soapy saponins that coat quinoa seeds. We use quinoa for stir fries, sausage and peppers over it, basically any way you would use rice. Chilled, it's a great base for salads. We make fabulous tabbouleh with it. It's very high in protein so it's a great choice for those who don't eat red meat. Just like rice and millet, this can be made into a cereal for babies, it is even sold in a flake variety for ease of cooking! The flakes are great for adding to recipes such as pancakes and muffins too, providing a nice protein kick to the recipe.

An uncooked 1/4 cup of quinoa contains: 48% DV manganese, 22.3% DV magnesium, 21.8% DV iron, 18.8% DV tryptophan, 17.5% DV copper, 17.4% DV phosphorus

The nitty gritty on quinoa - This "grain" is actually not a grain at all, it is the seed of a plant related to leafy green veggies like spinach, beets and swiss chard! It is one of the least allergenic grains available. An ancient grain native of South America, it was considered the "gold of the incas" who recognized it's value of increasing stamina in warriors. Quinoa is the complete protein package, meaning that it includes all nine essential amino acids! A great choice for vegans and vegetarians. In addition to many of the same nutrients and benefits of millet, quinoa is also a good source of riboflavin (vitamin B2), which is necessary for proper energy production within cells. Quinoa is relatively new to the US, being discovered and grown by two Americans for the first time in Colorado in the 1980's! It is not a new grain at all though, it has been cultivated in the Andean mountain regions of Peru, Chile and Bolivia for over 5,000 years, and it has long been a staple food in the diets of the native Indians. The Incas considered it a sacred food and referred to it as the "mother seed."

BUCKWHEAT - One of our favorite ingredients of pancakes!! I had buckwheat pancakes for the first time (well before the diet) in New Jersey at a cute little pancake place by the water. I ended up on a mad hunt for the perfect buckwheat pancake, little did I know that we would be eating them regularly as part of a special diet some day... In the groats form, buckwheat can also be made like rice, but I personally cannot get past the odor or texture to eat it like this.

One cup of buckwheat contains: 34% DV manganese, 25% DV tryptophan, 21.4% DV magnesium, 18.2% DV (4.54g) fiber

The nitty gritty on buckwheat - It is a fruit seed that is related to rhubarb and sorrel, although as with all the others, it ends up categorized with the "grains". Buckwheat flowers are quite fragrant and are attractive to bees that use them to make a strongly flavored, dark honey. Diets that contain buckwheat have been linked to lower cholesterol and blood pressure. It's rich supply of flavonoids (a phytonutrient) protect against disease by extending the action of vitamin C and acting as antioxidants. The nutrients in buckwheat may also contribute to blood sugar control, not to mention, their ability to satisfy hunger!

AMARANTH - Another seed, also known as a "grain" with very high protein and enormous health benefits. This isn't one of our favorites, because of it's peppery taste, but we do try to add it in small portions to baked goods as a flour. It can also be cooked like rice and popped like popcorn (which we haven't tried yet). This is another of the "ancient grains" used by the Incas. Since we don't use this one quite as much, I don't have as much information readily available, but the basics are that one cup of amaranth contains: 28g protein, 29.6g fiber and the following nutrients - calcium, iron, magnesium and folate. I plan to try to incorporate more amaranth into our diet, perhaps trying it as a popped kernel or mixed with other sweeter grains. I'll let you know, if I embark on something interesting with this one. Please share if you have anything to add here...This link brings you to a site where you can buy prepackaged amaranth side dishes very much like rice side dishes - They also sell amaranth cereals and formula add-ins for a protein and calcium boost.

SORGHUM - Another grain (also known as Milo) we are experimenting with more and more, but I know little about. In the few recipes I have tried sorghum (pancakes and muffins) I am in love with the "normal" consistency it gives the finished product. For anyone who knows what it is like to bake GFCF and egg free...this is a BIG leap in the right direction!! It also has a sweet taste and so far, we LOVE it. It's also another grain that can be popped like popcorn, which I look forward to trying. I am not sure of the daily values, but a half a cup of sorghum contains: 10g fiber, 8g protein, 28 mg calcium, and 4.41 mg iron.

Well there you have it, probably more information than you needed on a few of the nutrient-packed "grains" that can benefit not only the gluten-free world, but a good addition to the diets of those who are just plain health-conscious.

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