3 Gluten-Free Wheat Substitutes

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Cereal for breakfast, sandwiches for lunch, burgers, pizza or spaghetti and meatballs for supper. What do all these dishes have in common? If you said wheat, you’d be absolutely right. If there’s one food we eat more than any other – in quantity and frequency – it’s wheat.

It’s no coincidence that our modern North American diet contains a lot of wheat. We’re on a huge land mass that offers optimal growing conditions for cereal grains. Our governments have become heavily invested in keeping our consumption high and keeping our wheat farmers in business. But is wheat good fuel for our nutrient-depleted bodies?

Wheat is a hot topic these days, in part because of the buzz surrounding Dr. William Davis’s popular and controversial diet book, Wheat Belly. The airwaves and the internet are already filled with both praise and criticism for Dr. Davis, so I’ll keep my own opinion short and sweet.

While Dr. Davis recommends avoiding wheat (and a long list of other foods), I am an advocate of adding in healthy, plant-based food to whatever you’re eating, not eliminating this or that food from your diet.

That said, I can say that the problem with wheat is two fold. First off, most wheat we consume is highly processed and therefore void of vital nutrients which leads to energy crashes. Secondly, wheat is high in its gluten content. A lot of people, myself included, have terrible difficulty digesting gluten. This can lead to a whole host of chronic health problems. In fact, a review paper in the New England Journal of Medicine listed a whopping FIFTY FIVE diseases that may be related to gluten sensitivity, including a number of auto-immune and neurological diseases.

If you suffer from chronic illnesses, allergies, inflammation of fatigue, you may want to consider whether eliminating gluten from your diet – or at least reducing your consumption – is right for you.

If you want to give it a try, here are my top three gluten-free alternatives to wheat. Unlike cereal grains, these are known as pseudo-grains because they are not from the wheat family and offer many healthy gluten free benefits. Substituting these powerful pseudo-grains into your wheat-based recipes is a great way to start cutting down on your gluten consumption.

Quinoa

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Quinoa is one of the healthiest pseudo-grains you can eat. It is full of complete proteins and all the essential amino acids your body needs. It is also easy to digest, offering an instant energy boost that lasts all day.

Quinoa can be cooked just like rice or soaked and sprouted for even easier digestion. I keep a cup or two of prepared quinoa in my fridge for quick access to add it into whatever I am eating throughout the day. Soups, salads, smoothies, you name it, quinoa works.

If you want a fix of quinoa right now, try my Yam Quinoa Soup! Or check out my post on How to Sprout Quinoa with Ease and stock your own supply to add into your favourite recipes.

Buckwheat

Despite the name, buckwheat has nothing to do with wheat. It is the seed of a broadleaf plant more closely related to rhubarb than any grain-producing grass. Nevertheless, you can use buckwheat in pretty much any recipe calling for wheat or rice.

Buckwheat is low on the glycemic index, high in protein, and a great source of the essential amino acids lysine and arginine. These amino acids reduce stress and anxiety and are deficient in wheat and other true grains.

If you’re looking to keep the Thanksgiving celebration rocking, give my buckwheat loaded, gluten-free  Hempkin Pie recipe a try.

Amaranth

This powerful pseudo-grain was a staple of the pre-colonial Aztec diet. It contains 30% more protein than wheat flour, oats or rice. It’s high in lysine and a great source of essential vitamins and minerals.

Amaranth is also great for your heart. It has been found in a number of studies to reduce LDL cholesterol (the bad kind) in both animals and humans, probably due to amaranth’s high phytosterol content.

The next time you think about preparing oatmeal, give amaranth a try instead. It has  texture similar to to cream of wheat, but without the gluten. Cook it just like rice – 1 cup of amaranth for 2 cups of water, and in 10 minutes you have a fantastic energy breakfast to go! Add a little maple syrup, chopped almonds and cinnamon and you’re rockin’.

If you are looking for some more creative ways to use it, I also share in my book The Power of Food how to prepare my Amaranth Stuffed Squash as well as my Amaranth Tabbouleh.

If you’re thinking of going gluten free, I hope this information has been useful to you. I’d love to hear your feedback in the comments below. Especially if you have a creative recipe using one of the foods above!

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About Adam Hart

Adam Hart is the bestselling author of The Power of Food. When not on stage speaking, Adam can be found helping one of his many corporate clients in awakening an abundance of energy through his highly engaging stress management solutions.Contact Adam to book a demo for an enhanced corporate wellness experience.

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