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9 Super Healthy Gluten-Free Grains

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By Rachael Link, MS, RD

Gluten is a protein found in certain types of grains, including wheat, barley and rye. It provides elasticity, allows bread to rise and gives foods a chewy texture (1, 2).

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

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

Quinoa has quickly become one of the most popular gluten-free grains. It is incredibly versatile plus rich in fiber and plant-based protein.

It's also one of the healthiest grains, boasting a high amount of antioxidants that could be beneficial in reducing the risk of disease (8).

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.

Millet

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

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).

Other studies have shown that beta-glucan may slow the absorption of sugar and lower blood sugar and insulin levels (15, 16).

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.

Buckwheat

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).

Some animal studies have suggested that rutin may be beneficial in reducing symptoms of Alzheimer's disease. Meanwhile, quercetin has been shown to reduce inflammation and oxidative stress (19, 20).

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

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.

Teff

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.

Teff is high in protein, which can help promote satiety, reduce cravings and boost metabolism (28, 29, 30).

It also fulfills a good portion of your daily fiber needs. Fiber is an important part of the diet and is associated with weight loss, a reduced appetite and improved regularity (31, 32, 33).

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

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).

Studies show that lutein and zeaxanthin can benefit eye health by decreasing the risk of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration, two common causes of vision loss in older adults (36).

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.

Brown Rice

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.

In fact, brown rice in place of white rice can lead to a decreased risk of diabetes, weight gain and heart disease (39, 40, 41).

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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Guillain-Barre syndrome occurs when the body's own immune system attacks and injures the nerves outside of the spinal cord or brain – the peripheral nervous system. Niq Steele / Getty Images

By Sherry H-Y. Chou, Aarti Sarwal and Neha S. Dangayach

The patient in the case report (let's call him Tom) was 54 and in good health. For two days in May, he felt unwell and was too weak to get out of bed. When his family finally brought him to the hospital, doctors found that he had a fever and signs of a severe infection, or sepsis. He tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 infection. In addition to symptoms of COVID-19, he was also too weak to move his legs.

When a neurologist examined him, Tom was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre Syndrome, an autoimmune disease that causes abnormal sensation and weakness due to delays in sending signals through the nerves. Usually reversible, in severe cases it can cause prolonged paralysis involving breathing muscles, require ventilator support and sometimes leave permanent neurological deficits. Early recognition by expert neurologists is key to proper treatment.

We are neurologists specializing in intensive care and leading studies related to neurological complications from COVID-19. Given the occurrence of Guillain-Barre Syndrome in prior pandemics with other corona viruses like SARS and MERS, we are investigating a possible link between Guillain-Barre Syndrome and COVID-19 and tracking published reports to see if there is any link between Guillain-Barre Syndrome and COVID-19.

Some patients may not seek timely medical care for neurological symptoms like prolonged headache, vision loss and new muscle weakness due to fear of getting exposed to virus in the emergency setting. People need to know that medical facilities have taken full precautions to protect patients. Seeking timely medical evaluation for neurological symptoms can help treat many of these diseases.

What Is Guillain-Barre Syndrome?

Guillain-Barre syndrome occurs when the body's own immune system attacks and injures the nerves outside of the spinal cord or brain – the peripheral nervous system. Most commonly, the injury involves the protective sheath, or myelin, that wraps nerves and is essential to nerve function.

Without the myelin sheath, signals that go through a nerve are slowed or lost, which causes the nerve to malfunction.

To diagnose Guillain-Barre Syndrome, neurologists perform a detailed neurological exam. Due to the nerve injury, patients often may have loss of reflexes on examination. Doctors often need to perform a lumbar puncture, otherwise known as spinal tap, to sample spinal fluid and look for signs of inflammation and abnormal antibodies.

Studies have shown that giving patients an infusion of antibodies derived from donated blood or plasma exchange – a process that cleans patients' blood of harmful antibodies - can speed up recovery. A very small subset of patients may need these therapies long-term.

The majority of Guillain-Barre Syndrome patients improve within a few weeks and eventually can make a full recovery. However, some patients with Guillain-Barre Syndrome have lingering symptoms including weakness and abnormal sensations in arms and/or legs; rarely patients may be bedridden or disabled long-term.

Guillain-Barre Syndrome and Pandemics

As the COVID-19 pandemic sweeps across the globe, many neurologic specialists have been on the lookout for potentially serious nervous system complications such as Guillain-Barre Syndrome.

Though Guillain-Barre Syndrome is rare, it is well known to emerge following bacterial infections, such as Campylobacter jejuni, a common cause of food poisoning, and a multitude of viral infections including the flu virus, Zika virus and other coronaviruses.

Studies showed an increase in Guillain-Barre Syndrome cases following the 2009 H1N1 flu pandemic, suggesting a possible connection. The presumed cause for this link is that the body's own immune response to fight the infection turns on itself and attacks the peripheral nerves. This is called an "autoimmune" condition. When a pandemic affects as many people as our current COVID-19 crisis, even a rare complication can become a significant public health problem. That is especially true for one that causes neurological dysfunction where the recovery takes a long time and may be incomplete.

The first reports of Guillain-Barre Syndrome in COVID-19 pandemic originated from Italy, Spain and China, where the pandemic surged before the U.S. crisis.

Though there is clear clinical suspicion that COVID-19 can lead to Guillain-Barre Syndrome, many important questions remain. What are the chances that someone gets Guillain-Barre Syndrome during or following a COVID-19 infection? Does Guillain-Barre Syndrome happen more often in those who have been infected with COVID-19 compared to other types of infections, such as the flu?

The only way to get answers is through a prospective study where doctors perform systematic surveillance and collect data on a large group of patients. There are ongoing large research consortia hard at work to figure out answers to these questions.

Understanding the Association Between COVID-19 and Guillain-Barre Syndrome

While large research studies are underway, overall it appears that Guillain-Barre Syndrome is a rare but serious phenomenon possibly linked to COVID-19. Given that more than 10.7 million cases have been reported for COVID-19, there have been 10 reported cases of COVID-19 patients with Guillain-Barre Syndrome so far – only two reported cases in the U.S., five in Italy, two cases in Iran and one from Wuhan, China.

It is certainly possible that there are other cases that have not been reported. The Global Consortium Study of Neurological Dysfunctions in COVID-19 is actively underway to find out how often neurological problems like Guillain-Barre Syndrome is seen in hospitalized COVID-19 patients. Also, just because Guillain-Barre Syndrome occurs in a patient diagnosed with COVID-19, that does not imply that it was caused by the virus; this still may be a coincident occurrence. More research is needed to understand how the two events are related.

Due to the pandemic and infection-containment considerations, diagnostic tests, such as a nerve conduction study that used to be routine for patients with suspected Guillain-Barre Syndrome, are more difficult to do. In both U.S. cases, the initial diagnosis and treatment were all based on clinical examination by a neurological experts rather than any tests. Both patients survived but with significant residual weakness at the time these case reports came out, but that is not uncommon for Guillain-Barre Syndrome patients. The road to recovery may sometimes be long, but many patients can make a full recovery with time.

Though the reported cases of Guillain-Barre Syndrome so far all have severe symptoms, this is not uncommon in a pandemic situation where the less sick patients may stay home and not present for medical care for fear of being exposed to the virus. This, plus the limited COVID-19 testing capability across the U.S., may skew our current detection of Guillain-Barre Syndrome cases toward the sicker patients who have to go to a hospital. In general, the majority of Guillain-Barre Syndrome patients do recover, given enough time. We do not yet know whether this is true for COVID-19-related cases at this stage of the pandemic. We and colleagues around the world are working around the clock to find answers to these critical questions.

Sherry H-Y. Chou is an Associate Professor of Critical Care Medicine, Neurology, and Neurosurgery, University of Pittsburgh.

Aarti Sarwal is an Associate Professor, Neurology, Wake Forest University.

Neha S. Dangayach is an Assistant Professor of Neurology and Neurosurgery, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

Disclosure statement: Sherry H-Y. Chou receives funding from The University of Pittsburgh Clinical Translational Science Institute (CTSI), the National Institute of Health, and the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine Dean's Faculty Advancement Award. Sherry H-Y. Chou is a member of Board of Directors for the Neurocritical Care Society. Neha S. Dangayach receives funding from the Bee Foundation, the Friedman Brain Institute, the Neurocritical Care Society, InCHIP-UConn Center for mHealth and Social Media Seed Grant. She is faculty for emcrit.org and for AiSinai. Aarti Sarwal does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

Reposted with permission from The Conversation.


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Unity Task Forces formed by presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders unveiled sweeping party platform recommendations Wednesday that—while falling short of progressive ambitions in a number of areas, from climate to healthcare—were applauded as important steps toward a bold and just policy agenda that matches the severity of the moment.

"We've moved the needle a lot, especially on environmental justice and upping Biden's ambition," said Sunrise Movement co-founder and executive director Varshini Prakash, a member of the Biden-Sanders Climate Task Force. "But there's still more work to do to push Democrats to act at the scale of the climate crisis."

The climate panel—co-chaired by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and former Secretary of State John Kerry—recommended that the Democratic Party commit to "eliminating carbon pollution from power plants by 2035," massively expanding investments in clean energy sources, and "achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions for all new buildings by 2030."

In a series of tweets Wednesday night, Ocasio-Cortez—the lead sponsor of the House Green New Deal resolution—noted that the Climate Task Force "shaved 15 years off Biden's previous target for 100% clean energy."

"Of course, like in any collaborative effort, there are areas of negotiation and compromise," said the New York Democrat. "But I do believe that the Climate Task Force effort meaningfully and substantively improved Biden's positions."

 

The 110 pages of policy recommendations from the six eight-person Unity Task Forces on education, the economy, criminal justice, immigration, climate change, and healthcare are aimed at shaping negotiations over the 2020 Democratic platform at the party's convention next month.

Sanders said that while the "end result isn't what I or my supporters would've written alone, the task forces have created a good policy blueprint that will move this country in a much-needed progressive direction and substantially improve the lives of working families throughout our country."

"I look forward to working with Vice President Biden to help him win this campaign," the Vermont senator added, "and to move this country forward toward economic, racial, social, and environmental justice."

Biden, for his part, applauded the task forces "for helping build a bold, transformative platform for our party and for our country."

"I am deeply grateful to Bernie Sanders for working with us to unite our party and deliver real, lasting change for generations to come," said the former vice president.

On the life-or-death matter of reforming America's dysfunctional private health insurance system—a subject on which Sanders and Biden clashed repeatedly throughout the Democratic primary process—the Unity Task Force affirmed healthcare as "a right" but did not embrace Medicare for All, the signature policy plank of the Vermont senator's presidential bid.

Instead, the panel recommended building on the Affordable Care Act by establishing a public option, investing in community health centers, and lowering prescription drug costs by allowing the federal government to negotiate prices. The task force also endorsed making all Covid-19 testing, treatments, and potential vaccines free and expanding Medicaid for the duration of the pandemic.

"It has always been a crisis that tens of millions of Americans have no or inadequate health insurance—but in a pandemic, it's potentially catastrophic for public health," the task force wrote.

Dr. Abdul El-Sayed, a former Michigan gubernatorial candidate and Sanders-appointed member of the Healthcare Task Force, said that despite major disagreements, the panel "came to recommendations that will yield one of the most progressive Democratic campaign platforms in history—though we have further yet to go."

 

Observers and advocacy groups also applauded the Unity Task Forces for recommending the creation of a postal banking system, endorsing a ban on for-profit charter schools, ending the use of private prisons, and imposing a 100-day moratorium on deportations "while conducting a full-scale study on current practices to develop recommendations for transforming enforcement policies and practices at ICE and CBP."

Marisa Franco, director of immigrant rights group Mijente, said in a statement that "going into these task force negotiations, we knew we were going to have to push Biden past his comfort zone, both to reconcile with past offenses and to carve a new path forward."

"That is exactly what we did, unapologetically," said Franco, a member of the Immigration Task Force. "For years, Mijente, along with the broader immigrant rights movement, has fought to reshape the narrative around immigration towards racial justice and to focus these very demands. We expect Biden and the Democratic Party to implement them in their entirety."

"There is no going back," Franco added. "Not an inch, not a step. We must only move forward from here."

Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.

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