Wheat is one of the staples of the average person’s diet. The French have bread with every meal, the Italians eat pasta like it’s going out of style, Texans eat a TON of flour tortillas, and we all love the baked cookies, cakes, and treats served for dessert. It’s hard to imagine life without wheat!
Unfortunately, wheat contains gluten, a protein that has proven to be an allergen for many people. More and more people are developing not just gluten sensitivities (a mild to strong allergic reaction to gluten), but celiac disease–an autoimmune disorder that can be serious if left untreated.
In order to avoid gluten problems, many people are forced to cut wheat out of their lives. That means no more noodles, bread, flour products, or pastries made with wheat. But what does that leave us then?
Thankfully, there are A LOT of alternative foods to wheat products.
Did you know that wheat (in the form we commonly eat it) is actually one of the least nutritious of all the grains? All of these wheat alternatives offer a wide range of health benefits, and they contain far more minerals and nutrients than even whole wheat. If you’re trying to be healthy, it may be a good idea to add these grains to your diet as much as possible!
The Common Choices: Rice and Buckwheat
If you want a simple, easily accessible gluten-free grain, there are two great options to consider: rice and buckwheat.
Buckwheat isn’t actually a form of wheat, but it’s a grass–meaning it’s 100% gluten-free. It has a very strong taste (making it a bit hard to get used to), but it can be used to make noodles, bread, and other flour products (we all love buckwheat pancakes!).
Rice is another gluten-free wheat alternative. It can be eaten with many dishes, or it can be ground to make rice flour. Rice flour can be used to cook or bake, and it’s a gluten-free alternative. The only downside to rice is that brown rice is often hard to find, and white rice has had most of its nutritional content bleached away.
The Ancient Grains: Quinoa and Amaranth
Want to find grains that pack a nutrient punch? Quinoa and amaranth are your two best options!
Quinoa is the ONLY grain that contains all of the amino acids your body needs to produce protein. Eating a bowl of quinoa is almost like eating a complete meal, as it contains protein, carbs, and fiber (all you’re missing is the fat). It was called the “Grain of the Gods” by the ancient Incas, and it was a staple part of their healthy, balanced diet.
Amaranth is another ancient grain that is amazing for your health. It, too, is rich in protein, and you’ll find that it’s fairly low in calories. You can eat the amaranth seeds like cereal or grind them into flour to use for baking and cooking. You get a lot more amino acids and far fewer carbs in a bowl of amaranth.
The Distant Relations: Potatoes and Tapioca
Want to get plenty of healthy carbs WITHOUT worrying about eating too many calories? Potatoes are the way to go!
Potatoes are loaded with all sorts of minerals, and they are a good source of fiber along with their complex carbs. You’ll find that they can be cooked in many delicious ways, making them the perfect alternative to wheat.
Tapioca is a less-common root vegetable, but its starch is very useful for thickening soups and stews.