By Rachael Link, MS, RD
Although gluten is not a problem for most people, some may not tolerate it well.
Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease that triggers an immune response to gluten. For those with this disease or a gluten sensitivity, eating gluten can cause symptoms like bloating, diarrhea and stomach pain (3).
Many of the most commonly consumed grains contain gluten. However, there are plenty of nutritious gluten-free grains available, too.
This article will list nine gluten-free grains that are super healthy.
Sorghum is typically cultivated as both a cereal grain and animal feed. It is also used to produce sorghum syrup, a type of sweetener, as well as some alcoholic beverages.
This gluten-free grain contains beneficial plant compounds that act as antioxidants to reduce oxidative stress and lower the risk of chronic disease (4).
A 2010 test-tube and animal study found that sorghum possesses significant anti-inflammatory properties due to its high content of these plant compounds (5).
Additionally, sorghum is rich in fiber and can help slow the absorption of sugar to keep blood sugar levels steady.
One study compared blood sugar and insulin levels in 10 participants after eating a muffin made with either sorghum or whole-wheat flour. The sorghum muffin led to a greater reduction in both blood sugar and insulin than the whole-wheat muffin (6).
One cup (192 grams) of sorghum contains 12 grams of fiber, 22 grams of protein and almost half of the iron you need in a day (7).
Sorghum has a mild flavor and can be ground into flour for baking gluten-free goods. It can also substitute for barley in recipes like mushroom-barley soup.
Summary: Several studies have shown that sorghum is high in plant compounds and may help reduce both inflammation and blood sugar.
Quinoa has quickly become one of the most popular gluten-free grains. It is incredibly versatile plus rich in fiber and plant-based protein.
Additionally, quinoa is high in protein and is one of the few plant foods considered a complete protein.
While most plant foods are lacking in one or two of the essential amino acids required by your body, quinoa contains all eight. This makes it an excellent plant-based source of protein (9).
One cup (185 grams) of cooked quinoa provides 8 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber. It's packed with micronutrients as well and fulfills much of your daily magnesium, manganese and phosphorus requirements (10).
Quinoa is the perfect ingredient to make gluten-free crusts and casseroles. Quinoa flour can also be used to make pancakes, tortillas or quick bread.
Summary: Quinoa contains a good amount of antioxidants. It's also one of the few plant foods containing all the essential amino acids.
Though most well-known as the staple ingredient in bird seed, millet is a very nutritious ancient grain that may provide many health benefits.
One animal study found that feeding millet to rats decreased both blood triglycerides and inflammation (11).
Another study looked at the effects of millet on blood sugar levels in six diabetic patients. It found that millet resulted in a lower glycemic response and lower blood sugar levels compared to rice and wheat (12).
One cup (174 grams) of cooked millet contains 2 grams of fiber, 6 grams of protein plus 19 percent of your daily need for magnesium (13).
You can incorporate millet into your breakfast with a hot bowl of millet porridge. Additionally, you can use millet or millet flour to cook falafel, bread or croquettes.
Summary: Animal and human studies have found that millet may decrease blood triglycerides, inflammation and blood sugar.
Oats are very healthy. They also stand out as one of the best sources of beta-glucan, a type of soluble fiber with advantages for health.
A review of 28 studies found that beta-glucan effectively decreased both "bad" LDL and total cholesterol without affecting "good" HDL cholesterol (14).
1/4 cup (39 grams) of dry oats provides 4 grams of fiber and 7 grams of protein. It also provides phosphorus, magnesium and B vitamins, as well (17).
Although oats are naturally gluten-free, many brands of oats contain gluten due to contamination from how they are grown and processed.
If you have celiac disease or a gluten sensitivity, be sure to look for oats labeled as certified gluten-free.
A hot bowl of oatmeal is the most popular way to enjoy oats, but you can also add oats to pancakes, granola bars or parfaits for extra fiber and nutrients.
Summary: Oats contain beta-glucan, which may decrease blood cholesterol and help regulate blood sugar levels.
Despite its name, buckwheat is a grain-like seed that is gluten-free and has no relation to wheat.
It provides plenty of antioxidants, including high amounts of two specific types: rutin and quercetin (18).
Eating buckwheat may also help reduce some risk factors for heart disease.
In one study, buckwheat intake was associated with lower total and "bad" LDL cholesterol plus a higher ratio of "good" HDL to total cholesterol (21).
Another study had similar findings, showing that those who ate buckwheat had a lower risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol and high blood sugar (22).
One cup (170 grams) of buckwheat delivers 17 grams of fiber, 23 grams of protein and more than 90 percent of the magnesium, copper and manganese you need for the entire day (23).
Try soba noodles made from buckwheat as a gluten-free swap for traditional pasta. Or, use buckwheat to add a bit of crunch to soups, salads or even veggie burgers.
Summary: Buckwheat is rich in antioxidants and has been associated with reductions in heart disease risk factors, such as blood cholesterol levels.
Amaranth has a rich history as one of the staple foods for the Inca, Maya and Aztec civilizations. Moreover, it is a highly nutritious grain with some impressive health benefits (24).
A 2014 study found that the compounds in amaranth were effective in blocking inflammation in both humans and mice by preventing the activation of a pathway that triggers inflammation (25).
Thanks to its high fiber content, amaranth may also decrease several heart disease risk factors.
In fact, one animal study found that amaranth seeds decreased both blood triglycerides and "bad" LDL cholesterol levels (26).
One cup (246 grams) of cooked amaranth contains 5 grams of fiber plus 9 grams of protein. It also meets 29 percent of your daily iron needs and contains a good amount of magnesium, phosphorus and manganese (27).
You can use amaranth as a substitute for other grains, such as rice or couscous. Amaranth that has been cooked and then chilled can also be used in place of cornstarch as a thickening agent for soups, jellies or sauces.
Summary: Some studies show that amaranth may be effective in reducing inflammation and reducing several risk factors for heart disease.
As the smallest grain in the world,
teff is a tiny but powerful grain.
Despite being just 1/100 the size of a kernel of wheat, teff packs a nutritional punch.
One cup (252 grams) of cooked teff contains 10 grams of protein and 7 grams of fiber. It also provides plenty of B vitamins, especially thiamin (34).
For gluten-free baking, try substituting teff in part or in whole for wheat flour. Teff can also be mixed into chili, made into porridge or used as a natural way to thicken dishes.
Summary: Teff is the smallest grain in the world but is high in fiber and protein. Both these nutrients are essential to health and come with many benefits.
Corn, or maize, is among the most popular gluten-free cereal grains consumed around the world.
In addition to being high in fiber, corn is also one of the few foods containing the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin, plant pigments that act as antioxidants (35).
One study found that those with a high intake of carotenoids had a 43 percent lower risk of age-related macular degeneration compared to those with a low intake (37).
1/2 cup (83 grams) of yellow corn contains 6 grams of fiber and 8 grams of protein. It's also high in magnesium, vitamin B6, thiamin, manganese and selenium (38).
Corn can be boiled, grilled or roasted for a healthy side dish to a well-balanced meal. Enjoy it right off the cob or add it to a salad, soup or casserole.
Summary: Corn is high in fiber and a good source of lutein and zeaxanthin, two carotenoids that are associated with a decreased risk of eye disease.
Although brown and white rice come from the same grain, white rice has had the bran and germ of the grain removed during processing.
Brown rice thus has more fiber and a higher amount of many micronutrients, making it one of the healthiest gluten-free grains around.
Both varieties of rice are gluten-free, but studies show that replacing white rice with brown rice comes with added health benefits.
One cup (195 grams) of brown rice contains 4 grams of fiber and 5 grams of protein. It also provides a good portion of your magnesium and selenium needs for the day (42).
Brown rice makes a delicious side dish all on its own or can be combined with vegetables and a lean source of protein to create a filling meal.
Summary: Brown rice is high in fiber and associated with a decreased risk of diabetes, weight gain and heart disease when used in place of white rice.
The Bottom Line
When you have celiac disease or a sensitivity to gluten, following a gluten-free diet can be challenging.
However, there are plenty of gluten-free options available to replace wheat.
From providing antioxidants to reducing the risk of disease, these nutritious gluten-free grains can be incredibly beneficial to your health.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Authority Nutrition.
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By Tony Carnie
South Africa is home to around 1,300 of the world's roughly 7,100 remaining cheetahs. It's also the only country in the world with significant cheetah population growth, thanks largely to a nongovernmental conservation project that depends on careful and intensive human management of small, fenced-in cheetah populations. Because most of the reserves are privately funded and properly fenced, the animals benefit from higher levels of security than in the increasingly thinly funded state reserves.
Vincent van der Merwe at a cheetah translocation. Endangered Wildlife Trust
Under Pressure<p>Cheetah populations elsewhere in Southern Africa have not prospered over the past 50 years. In Zimbabwe, cheetah numbers have crashed from 1,500 in 1975, to just 170 today. Botswana's cheetah population has held steady at around 1,500 over the same period, but illegal capture for captive breeding and conflicts with farmers and the growing human population are increasing. In Namibia, there were an estimated 3,000 cheetah in in 1975; roughly 1,400 remain today.</p><p>In contrast, South Africa's cheetah numbers have grown from about 500 in 1975 to nearly 1,300 today. Van der Merwe, who is also a Ph.D. student at the University of Cape Town's Institute for Communities and Wildlife in Africa (iCWild), says he's confident that South Africa will soon overtake Namibia and Botswana, largely because the majority of South African cheetahs are protected and managed behind fences, whereas most of the animals in the neighboring countries remain more vulnerable on mainly unfenced lands.</p><p>Wildlife researchers Florian Weise and colleagues have reported that private stock owners in Namibia still trap cheetahs mainly for translocation, but there are few public or private reserves large enough to contain them. Weise says that conservation efforts need to focus on improving tolerance toward cheetahs in commercial livestock and game farming areas to reduce indiscriminate trapping.</p><p>Van der Merwe says fences can be both a blessing and a curse. While these barriers prevent cheetahs and other wild animals from migrating naturally to breed and feed, they also protect cheetahs from the growing tide of threats from humanity and agriculture.</p><p>To simulate natural dispersion patterns that guard against inbreeding, the trust helps landowners swap their animals with other cheetah reserves elsewhere in the country. The South African metapopulation project has been so successful in boosting numbers that the trust is having to look beyond national boundaries to secure new translocation areas in Malawi, Zambia and Mozambique.</p><p>Cheetah translocations have been going on in South Africa since the mid-1960s, when the first unsuccessful attempts were made to move scores of these animals from Namibia. These relocations were mostly unsuccessful.</p>
Charli de Vos uses a VHF antenna to locate cheetahs in Phinda Game Reserve. Tony Carnie for Mongabay
Swinging for the Fences<p>But other wildlife conservation leaders have a different perspective on cheetah conservation strategy.</p><p>Gus Mills, a senior carnivore researcher retired in 2006 from SANParks, the agency that manages South Africa's national parks, after a career of more than 30 years in Kalahari and Kruger national parks. He says the focus should be on quality of living spaces rather than the quantity of cheetahs.</p><p>Mills, who was the founder of the Endangered Wildlife Trust's Carnivore Conservation Group in 1995, and who also spent six years after retirement studying cheetahs in the Kalahari, says it's more important to properly protect and, where possible, expand the size of existing protected areas.</p><p>He also advocates a triage approach to cheetah conservation, in which scarce funds and resources are focused on protecting cheetahs in formally protected areas, rather than diluting scarce resources in an attempt to try and save every single remaining cheetah population.</p><p>"People have an obsession with numbers. But I believe that it is more important to protect large landscape and habitats properly," Mills said.</p><p>He suggests that cheetahs enclosed within small reserves live in artificial conditions: "It's almost like glorified farming."</p><p>"In the long run we have to focus on consolidating formally protected areas," he added. "Africa's human population will double by 2050, so cheetah populations in unfenced areas will become unsustainable if they are eating people's livestock."</p>
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