By Rachel Begun, MS, RD
I am often asked which ingredients I believe are essential to eating gluten-free healthfully and happily. While there are many I recommend, here are three that top my list right now, for their flavor, good nutrition and contribution to making a variety of gluten-free foods.
The healthful foods I would recommend to anyone—fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy, lean cuts of meat and poultry, fish, beans, nuts and seeds—are all naturally gluten free (provided no ingredients have been added). Whole grains are obviously the exception to that rule, but now gluten-free whole grains are much more accessible than they used to be.
I particularly like quinoa because it is a nutrition powerhouse, loaded with fiber, vitamins, minerals and protein, cooks quickly and is quite versatile. Quinoa can easily replace gluten-containing grains in many recipes and is delicious as a morning breakfast cereal.
Gluten-free baking is more complex than replacing wheat flour with a one-to-one substitute. It requires a combination of grain or nut flour and a starch. The combinations are many, and it takes trial and error in the kitchen to come up with a gluten-free baking blend that works. To boot, there are a variety of gluten-free baking flours to choose from, some more nutrient-dense than others.
Almond flour is my go-to flour of choice, for both health and taste. I love the nutty-sweet flavor and moisture that it lends to gluten-free recipes, which can often be dry and crumbly. Almond flour is also rich in fiber and heart-healthy fats and contains protein. Together, fiber, protein and fat provide satiety, or a feeling of fullness, to baked goods and other recipes using almond flour.
As a dietitian, I love beans for their nutrition. They are a plant-based protein source that also contains fiber and other nutrients that can be lacking in the average gluten-free diet. But their functionality goes far beyond the whole bean, making them an extremely versatile food. Beans are the foundation of many delicious dips, soups, stews and chilis. There are endless combinations of beans and grains to compose salads. They can also replace meat to make “burgers” and tacos.
One of my favorite ways to use beans, though, is in the form of their purees and flours, which add bulk and texture to soups and stews and provide delightful characteristics and nutrition to gluten-free baked goods.
I’d love to hear from you, though! What are your favorite gluten-free ingredients and questions about how to use them and their nutrition profile? Your responses will provide valuable insight into the ingredients of interest to you and spark ideas for future blog post topics.
Rachel Begun, MS, RD is a food and nutrition communicator. She provides education, communications and consulting services to health organizations and the food industry. She also educates the public via speaking opportunities, online activities and writing for publications, including her own blog, The Gluten Free RD. You can connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest via her website at www.rachelbegun.com.