Gluten is the protein found in wheat, rye, oats and barley. Thus, everything else is gluten-free. The myth that following a gluten-free diet is very hard isn’t the reality. There is no shortage of grains which can provide healthy alternatives for a diet free in gluten, the problem lies in the cross contamination. Most people who suffer from Celiac disease can become uncomfortable even when a small amount of gluten is eaten. This may happen despite them buying and eating ‘gluten-free’ foods because most places of production do not exercise the highest standards of hygiene and the chances of cross-contamination remain high.
This at first seems overwhelming since wheat is everywhere in our culture, but a little research will show there are many great alternatives.
1. Rice is the seed of grass species Oryza Sativa (Asian Rice). It is the most widely consumed staple in Asia. It is grown in warm parts of the world mainly in Asia, Africa, northern Italy and west coast of North America. Rice has a large variety like brown rice, red rice, black rice and wild rice found in various parts of the world. In a gluten free diet rice is a mother grain and can be used as is or used to make flour that can be used to make rotis, cakes and cookies.
2. Sorghum is a genus of plants in the grass family. It is native to Australia with a range grown in India, Africa and Asia. In India it is called ‘Jawar’ or ‘Jowar’ and it is easily available at a local store. Jowar can be milled to make flour to make rotis and it is used as a blend in the gluten free flour to make all baked goods.
3. Millets are a group of highly variable small-seeded grasses, widely grown around the world as cereal crops or grains for fodder and human food. Grown mainly in Africa and Asia. Millet is found in three varieties – Pearl Millet is called Bajra, Finger Millet is called Ragiand Proso Millet is called Barri in Hindi. Millets can be cooked in the grain form and can be milled to make excellent flour that is multipurpose in nature from rotis to patties, breads.
4. Amaranth is a cosmopolitan genus of annual or short-lived perennial plants. Some amaranth species are cultivated as leaf vegetables, pseudo cereals, and ornamental plants. Most of the Amaranthan species are summer annual weeds and are commonly referred to as pigweed. In India, Amaranth seed is called ‘ramdana’. It is very easily available and is an excellent grain that can be substituted as starch in a gluten free cooking. Replace corn-starch with powdered amaranth. My favourite is brownies with amaranth.
5. Buckwheat is a plant cultivated for its grain-like seeds and as a cover crop. Buckwheat is not a grass and is not related to ‘wheat’. It is also referred as a pseudo cereal. Buckwheat in India is known as ‘kuttu’ and is eaten during the Navaratri festival. Buckwheat is found as groats known as “Kasha”, hulled, unhulled version. Buckwheat is used to make gluten free beer. The ways of using buckwheat are many – from roti to pancakes, cakes and cookies.
6. Corn or Maize is a large grain plant first domesticated by indigenous people in Mexico. The six major types of corn are dent corn, flint corn, pod corn, popcorn, flour corn and sweet corn. Maize kernels are often used in cooking as starch. Corn is known as ‘Bhutta’ in India, it is easily available as fresh, dried and can be milled to make flour. Corn is the most popular grain in the world. I love corn in all its forms, from the fresh ones to the milled.
7. Quinoa is the common name for Chenopodium Quinoa of the flowering plant family Amaranthaceous. It is grown as a grain crop primarily for its edible seeds. It is a pseudo cereal rather than a true cereal, due to the fact that quinoa is not a grass. Quinoa is closely related to the edible plants beetroot, spinach and amaranth. Quinoa is found in Peru, Bolivia and Chile.