If you're one of the millions of people in the United States who are gluten intolerant, a gluten-free diet can change your life. If you have celiac disease, which affects 1 percent of the U.S. population, the dietary switch would halt the damage your immune system does to your small intestine in response to gluten. And if you have non-celiac gluten sensitivity, getting off the wheat protein could stop the affects of chronic inflammation – including diarrhea, fatigue, and joint pain – you may be experiencing.
A gluten-free diet isn't for everyone, but if you do have a sensitivity, you still need to watch what you eat. "A healthy gluten-free diet and a healthy 'regular' diet don't have to look all that different," says Tricia Thompson, author of The Gluten-Free Nutrition Guide. Both need to be high in whole foods and low in processed and packaged foods, she says. Here are some healthy gluten-free grains and other foods that you should load up on – whether you're going gluten free or not.
Another rice alternative, quinoa is loved by many for its ability to take on the flavor of whatever the tiny seeds are cooked with. "It's a rich source of fiber, iron thiamin, and folate – all things that may be lacking if someone is eating refined gluten-free food," says Thompson.
As with wild rice, you can cook quinoa like Asian rice (in a rice cooker, even) and substituted in any situation you'd usually use rice. "The one thing you do have to make sure is that you buy it pre-washed," because unwashed quinoa contains a bitter-tasting chemical called saponin.
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