Understanding Gluten-Free Grains and Their Advantages

Did You Know? Ancient grains are healthy and highly nutritious gluten-free grains used as alternatives to modern grains such as wheat, rice and corn. A study published in the National Center for Biotechnology Information found …

Did You Know?

Ancient grains are healthy and highly nutritious gluten-free grains used as alternatives to modern grains such as wheat, rice and corn.

A study published in the National Center for Biotechnology Information found that most ancient grains can be used as healthy and highly nutritious gluten-free alternatives to modern grains (Brenan et. al. 2023).

In recent years, gluten-free diets have surged in popularity, driven by an increasing awareness of gluten intolerance and sensitivity. Gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye, can cause health problems for a significant portion of the population. This blog post explores gluten-free grains, the nature of gluten intolerance, and gluten sensitivity, providing a deeper understanding supported by studies, statistics, and expert opinions.

What is Gluten?

Gluten is a group of proteins present in wheat and related grains, including barley and rye. It helps foods maintain their shape, acting as a glue that holds products together. Gluten can be found in many types of foods, even ones that would not be expected, such as salad dressings and soups.

Gluten Intolerance vs. Gluten Sensitivity

Gluten Intolerance and Gluten Sensitivity are terms often used interchangeably, but they signify different reactions within the body:

  1. Celiac Disease

This is an autoimmune disorder where the ingestion of gluten leads to damage in the small intestine. According to the Celiac Disease Foundation, about 1 in 100 people worldwide have this condition.

  1. Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity (NCGS)

People with NCGS experience symptoms similar to celiac disease, which improve when gluten is removed from the diet, but they do not test positive for celiac disease. Research, including a study published in the journal ‘BMC Medicine’, suggests that NCGS affects between 0.6% and 6% of the population.

  1. Wheat Allergy

This is an allergic reaction to proteins found in wheat, including but not limited to gluten. According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology, wheat allergy is most common in children and is usually outgrown before reaching adulthood.

Gluten-Free Grains: Alternatives for a Healthy Diet

For those who need or choose to avoid gluten, there are several nutritious grains and starches that can be enjoyed:

  • Quinoa – A pseudo-cereal that is high in protein and fiber. Studies have shown that quinoa can improve your overall nutrient intake without affecting blood sugar levels negatively.
  • Rice (Brown and White) – A versatile staple that is naturally gluten-free and can serve as a base for a variety of dishes.
  • Corn – Including cornmeal and polenta, corn is another gluten-free staple used worldwide.
  • Buckwheat – Despite its name, buckwheat is not related to wheat and is gluten-free. It is rich in antioxidants and dietary fiber.
  • Amaranth – An ancient grain that is high in protein and fiber, amaranth is also known for its lysine content, an essential amino acid often lacking in grains.
  • Sorghum – Used in many gluten-free flours, sorghum is high in antioxidants and is a good source of protein and fiber.
  • Teff – Originating from Ethiopia, teff is high in protein, calcium, and iron.
  • Oats – While oats are naturally gluten-free, they are often contaminated with gluten. It’s important to choose oats that are certified gluten-free.

Nutritional Considerations and Recommendations

Opting for gluten-free grains often leads to positive health outcomes, especially for those with gluten-related disorders. However, it’s crucial to choose whole or minimally processed grains to maximize nutritional benefits. According to a study by the Whole Grains Council, whole grains, as part of a healthy diet, can reduce the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and some forms of cancer.


Adopting a gluten-free diet can be beneficial for those with gluten intolerance or sensitivity. Understanding the different types of gluten-related disorders and the array of gluten-free grains available can help individuals make informed dietary choices. For those considering a gluten-free diet, consulting with a healthcare provider or dietitian can ensure nutritional needs are met.

For more information on gluten-free diets and celiac disease, reputable sources like the Celiac Disease Foundation or the American College of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology offer valuable resources and guidance.