For people with celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity, following a strict gluten-free diet is crucial for their health and well-being. Because of this, it can be hard to find a cereal grain appropriate for celiac patients, which is why quinoa has been gaining popularity.
Chenopodium quinoa wild, simply known as quinoa, is not actually a type of grain, nor is it related to gluten grains; rather, it is the seed of a plant that is closely related to spinach, not wheat. Its origin can be traced back to South America, where it is primarily grown in the Andes mountain range.
According to Health Canal, it is considered a superfood. In this article, we will explore in-depth whether quinoa is gluten-free, its nutritional value, and how to incorporate it into a gluten-free diet. So, keep reading to discover everything you need to know about eating quinoa on a gluten-free diet.
Is Quinoa Gluten-Free?
Gluten is a protein found in certain cereals like wheat and other grains, such as barley and rye, with gliadin and glutenin being the two primary forms. Gluten functions as an adhesive within food, aiding in its structural integrity. It becomes sticky and stretchy when combined with water, providing bread dough with the necessary elasticity to rise and bake properly.
This protein triggers an immune reaction in people with these gluten sensitivities and veal disease conditions; thus, they need to look for alternatives that won't harm their health. Quinoa is one of the main choices, as it is a naturally gluten-free “grain” that is becoming increasingly popular due to its nutritional benefits.
Health Benefits of Gluten-Free Quinoa
Nutritionally Dense Whole Grains
Quinoa is a nutritionally dense whole grain that is rich in protein, fiber, B vitamins, vitamin E, and minerals such as iron, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium. It contains all of the nine essential amino acids humans need and is considered a complete protein source, making it one of the few plant foods that can substitute many other foods.
In fact, there are 250 varieties of this pseudo-grain, and cooked quinoa contains more fiber and protein than many other gluten-free grains, such as white rice. For those who eating gluten is not an option, they can safely consume quinoa and its derivatives, such as quinoa flour and quinoa flakes, as long as they are labeled as certified gluten-free.
Lower Risk Factors
Consuming quinoa may lower the risk factors associated with chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and certain cancers. It also contains antioxidants such as quercetin and kaempferol that help prevent oxidative damage to cells and protect against chronic disease. Additionally, due to its high fiber content, consuming quinoa may promote digestive health, help manage blood sugar levels, and aid in weight loss.
A study published in The American Journal of Gastroenterology investigated the effects of quinoa on celiac patients and found that it is well-tolerated and can lead to improvements in their health. The study involved 19 subjects who were diagnosed with celiac disease and followed a gluten-free diet for six weeks.
The researchers monitored the participants' blood work and gastrointestinal parameters as they consumed 50 grams of quinoa daily. They concluded that quinoa reduced mildly their cholesterol levels, including improved histological and serological parameters.
Best Ways To Enjoy Gluten-Free Quinoa
The ancient grain, quinoa, is a versatile and nutritious grain that can be used in a variety of ways. One of the best ways to enjoy gluten-free quinoa is to cook it as a side dish. Simply rinse the quinoa, add it to boiling water (or chicken stock), and let it simmer until tender. For flavor, you can add herbs, spices, or vegetables to the water.
For those who love pasta, quinoa pasta is a great alternative to wheat-based pasta. It has a similar texture and taste but without the gluten. You can find quinoa pasta at most grocery stores or health food stores. Raw quinoa can also be used in a variety of ways, such as in salads or as a crunchy topping for yogurt or smoothie bowls. Just be sure to rinse the quinoa thoroughly before using it to remove any bitter taste.
You can also use it as a substitute for rice and gluten-containing grains in dishes such as stir-fries or burrito bowls. Lastly, you can use quinoa flour as a gluten-free alternative to wheat flour in baking. Quinoa flour can be used in a variety of recipes, such as bread, cakes, and cookies. It has a nutty flavor and adds a nutritional boost to baked goods.
The Bottom Line
Quinoa is a great gluten-free alternative and can be safely consumed by people with celiac disease or gluten intolerance. However, it is still considered a "high-risk" ingredient due to its potential cross-contact with certain cereal grains like wheat, barley, and rye during growth and harvesting.
This can trigger the immune response in individuals with celiac disease, rendering the supposedly gluten-free grain unsafe for consumption. To avoid cross-contact, it is best to purchase quinoa that is labeled gluten-free, or with a certified gluten-free label and to avoid buying from bulk bins at grocery stores where cross-contamination can easily occur.
To further reduce the risk of cross-contact, it's advisable to rinse quinoa thoroughly before cooking. However, despite the potential risks, incorporating quinoa as part of a balanced diet can still provide numerous health benefits as it is a rich source of amino acids, plant-based nutrients, and antioxidants that support the immune system. For those who need to avoid gluten, quinoa is a great alternative as long as proper precautions are taken when buying and preparing it. It is readily available at your local grocery store and easy to prepare.
Favorite Gluten Free Quinoa Recipes