To oat or not to oat? Are oats a safe gluten free whole grain? Well, that depends. Pure oats are gluten free, but the risk for cross contamination is high. The only 100% gluten free oats are those marked gluten free, so the average Quaker variety in your grocery store most likely contains gluten. This is because oats are grown in fields side by side wheat and processed in the same plants as wheat. Some batches of oats may have very little cross contamination, but some may have a decent amount of gluten. When purchasing oats, look for gluten free on the label, or find them in the gluten free section of your grocery store.
Oats are considered a cereal whole grain. They are certainly not new on the scene, as they have been a staple food for our Scottish ancestors for centuries. Certified gluten free oats are quite nutritious, as 1 cup packs in 16 grams of protein, 10 grams of fiber, 7 grams of poly and mono unsaturated fats and iron, magnesium, zinc, copper, and manganese. The American Heart Association is oats’ biggest cheerleader because of its high amount soluble fiber and its ability to lower cholesterol naturally. The fiber in oats also serves as a nice prebiotic, as it increases healthy gut bacteria and the short chain fatty acids they produce.
The only potential downfall of oats is that like other grains, oats contain phytic acid, which will bind to and prohibit other valuable nutrients like zinc from absorbing into our bodies. Soaking and then rinsing oats for several hours or overnight lowers the amount of phytic acid. I soak all my grains and highly recommend it, as I find I digest whole grains much better after a good soaking. The other potential problem with oats is the protein called avenin. Although it is different from the gluten protein, it is in the same general category, so a handful of gluten sensitive people cannot tolerate oats either. My advice would be to try oats before crossing it off your list of healthy whole grains. If you experience any of the same symptoms as you did with gluten, you will know it isn’t the grain for you.
Oats can be bought as steel cut oats, rolled oats, or instant. They are all from the same grain but are just prepared differently. Steel cut oats are the whole oat chopped into pieces. Rolled oats are steamed and rolled out flat and are probably the most popular form of oats. Instant oats have been steamed, rolled out, and also precooked.
Granola is just one way to enjoy your oats. I love this version because it is seasonal and so fragrant – filling my whole house with that festive scent while baking. Enjoy your granola served over plain Greek yogurt, soaked in almond or coconut milk, or just by itself as a snack.
- 3 cups gluten free rolled oats
- ½ cup chopped pecans
- ½ cup chopped walnuts
- ½ cup slivered almonds
- ½ cup sunflower seeds
- ½ cup pumpkin seeds
- 1 tablespoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ginger
- ½ teaspoon nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon cloves
- ¾ teaspoon sea salt
- ⅓ cup honey
- ⅓ cup maple syrup
- 2 tablespoons blackstrap molasses
- ½ cup cooked pureed pumpkin
- ¼ cup applesauce
- 2 tablespoons raw coconut oil
- ½ cup fruit juice sweetened dried cranberries
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
- In a large bowl, stir together oats, pecans, walnuts, almonds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, and salt.
- Add honey, maple syrup, molasses, pumpkin, applesauce, and coconut oil.
- Spread out on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes.
- Remove from oven, stir, and bake for 20 more minutes.
- Remove from oven, stir, and test for desired crunchiness. Return to oven for up to 10 – 15 more minutes if you like a crunchier granola.
- Remove from oven, and stir in cranberries.
Growing up, my family loved grits (a food made from coarsely ground corn boiled in water) served with eggs for breakfast. Fresh grilled corn on the cob in the summer was also a treat. But it wasn’t until I cut gluten out of my diet that I began to really explore the uses of corn as an alternative to gluten containing grains. I was surprised to learn that corn has many health benefits and can even help with weight loss.
Corn is considered a whole grain that does not contain any gluten and is certainly not new on the scene of whole grains. Corn meal has been a staple food in North and South America for centuries, as it was the most important cultivated plant in ancient America. Corn meal is made from grinding dried corn kernels into fine, medium or coarse particles. It can be yellow, blue or white, depending on the type of corn used, and it is a favorite because it of its sweet flavor. Common uses for corn are many – tortillas, tamales, corn chips, popcorn, corn muffins, polenta, grits…
My first impression of corn is that is is an empty food – a filler food – packed with calories but coming up short in the nutrient category. But corn meal actually contains a long list of nutrients: niacin, thiamine, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, folate and vitamins B-6, E and K. It contains 18 amino acids and valuable minerals such as iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, copper, manganese and selenium. Especially important to those trying to lose weight is milled yellow corn, like corn meal, grits and corn flour products, because it is rich in antioxidants called carotenoids such as lutein and zeaxanthin. Carotenoids belong to a group of antioxidants known as anthocyanins, which according to a study done in Japan, have a strong affect against the function of fat cells and help in the prevention of metabolic syndrome or insulin resistance.
Corn meal is also high in dietary fiber which is important for colon health, lowers cholesterol, regulates blood sugar, and helps with weight loss. Fiber helps with weight loss because we feel satisfied and full for longer periods of time after eating it, which prevents us from overeating and unnecessary munching. Also, foods high in fiber are less energy dense, so we are filled up on fewer calories. One cup of whole grain corn meal contains about 10 grams of dietary fiber. Recent research has also shown that fiber from corn encourages the growth of friendly bacteria in our large intestine which boosts our immune system and helps lower our risk of colon cancer.
So add corn meal to your list of gluten free grains as a healthy whole grain alternative, and enjoy its robust, sweet flavor while also taking advantage of its nutrients, fiber, and benefit for weight loss. This sweet potato green chili cornbread disappeared quickly in my house when I served it with my pumpkin and pear soup last week.
- 1 cup Gluten Free Classic Brown Rice Flour Blend from Authentic Foods
- 1 cup corn meal
- ½ teaspoon xanthan gum
- 3½ teaspoons baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt
- ¼ cup agave nectar or honey
- ¼ cup raw coconut oil
- 1 cup cooked sweet potato
- ½ cup almond or coconut milk
- 4 ounce can chopped green chilis
- 1 egg
- ¼ teaspoon vanilla
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
- Grease an 8 inch square baking pan.
- In a small bowl, mix together gluten free brown rice flour, corn meal, xanthan gum, baking powder, and sea salt.
- In a large bowl, mix together agave nectar, coconut oil, sweet potato, milk, green chilis, egg, and vanilla.
- Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and mix well.
- Pour batter into baking dish.
- Bake for 25 minutes.
Beets are another delicious root vegetable in season through fall and winter. When roasted, they lend a hearty texture and sweet flavor to salads and side dishes. Beets are one of those foods that I grew up dreading being served. Brussels sprouts and black eyed peas fell into that same category. Surprisingly, these have become some of my favorite foods in the last several years. At the beginning of each week, I steam or roast a bunch of beets to have on hand to add to meals throughout the week.
Beets belong to the chenopod family along with chard and quinoa because of their red and yellow pigments and their unique antioxidant phytonutrient content. Their bright red color comes from the betalain pigment that has an unusual antioxidant make up that make them both pretty and quite healthy. 5 reasons to add beets to your family’s menu this week:
- They’re good for your eyes and your nervous system.
- They reduce inflammation in your body.
- They promote detoxification in your liver.
- They slow cancer tumor growth.
- They contain a fiber blend that is good for your colon and your heart.
- 1 bunch of beets
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons orange white balsamic vinegar (plain balsamic is fine too)
- 2 teaspoons honey
- 2 tablespoons thyme
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- 2 cups cooked quinoa
- 1 bunch green onions, thinly sliced
- 2 oranges, cut in cubes
- ¼ cup chopped pecans
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
- Peel skin off of beets and cut into small cubes.
- In a small bowl, stir together olive oil, balsamic vinegar, honey, thyme, and sea salt to make the dressing.
- Toss beets in 2 tablespoons of the dressing, and lay out in a single layer on a parchment lined baking sheet.
- Roast for 30 minutes and let cool.
- Combine quinoa, oranges, green onions, pecans, and beets in a medium bowl.
- Drizzle remaining dressing over quinoa salad and gently toss.
- Serve immediately or chill before serving.
Try these delicious pancakes made with high fiber almond flour, oats, and flax seeds. Check out these 5 reasons to eat a diet high in fiber:
- Promotes weight loss: Since fiber takes longer than refined carbohydrates to digest, you feel full longer and eat less. Also, foods rich in fiber, particularly fruits and vegetables, are usually lower in calories but packed with nutrients.
- Good for your heart: It lowers LDL (“bad”) cholesterol.
- Deters Type 2 diabetes: A high-fiber diet promotes healthy blood sugar and insulin levels because it slows down the absorption of sugar into your blood.
- Combats cancer: Fiber benefits the digestive system because it acts like a broom, whisking toxins through the body while foods high in fiber, such as fruits and vegetables, are also high in antioxidants and potent in fighting cancer.
- Improves your diet: A healthier, high-fiber diet means more nutrient-dense foods, so it results in more energy, brain health, beautiful skin and hair and a reduced risk of many chronic diseases.
- 1½ cups unsweetened almond or coconut milk
- ¾ cup almond flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon Himalayan sea salt
- ¼ cup ground flax seeds
- ¾ cup gluten free rolled oats
- ¼ cup pecans
- 1 dropper vanilla creme liquid stevia
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil, warmed to a liquid
- ¼ cup fresh or frozen blueberries
- Coconut oil for cooking
- Combine almond milk, almond flour, baking powder, baking soda, sea salt, flax seeds, oats, pecans, stevia, and oil in a Vitamix or other blender, and blend until smooth.
- Fold in blueberries, and let sit for 10 minutes.
- Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat, and pour batter into the skillet.
- Cook pancakes until bubbles form, and then flip pancakes to cook the other side.
- Remove pancakes from the skillet, and repeat the process until all batter is cooked, adding more oil to the skillet as needed.
- Serve with maple butter and maple syrup if desired.
While visiting my parents in Santa Fe this week, I am reminded of my recent girls’ trip here during which we enjoyed a delicious quinoa nut burger at an interesting little eclectic place called Cowgirls. The people-watching was almost as good as the nut burger, and we thoroughly enjoyed both. This is my attempt at the quinoa nut burger, and I have to say it is so yummy. I hope you enjoy!
- 1 cup steamed sweet potato
- 1 cup quinoa, cooked according to package directions
- 1 cup nuts (I used ⅓ of each: almonds, pecans, sunflower seeds)
- 1 organic egg
- 1 tablespoon tamari or Bragg’s Liquid Aminos
- 1 tablespoon Bragg’s Organic Sprinkle (or your favorite spice mix)
- 3 tablespoons sesame, grapeseed, or coconut oil
- Optional: romaine leaves, tomato slices, onion slices, and avocado slices
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Grind nuts in Vitamix or food processor.
- In a medium bowl, mash together sweet potato, quinoa, ground nuts, egg, tamari, and spice mix.
- Chill for at least 30 minutes to make patties easier to form.
- Heat the oil in a large skillet.
- Form patties with your hands.
- Place the patties in the heated skillet, and brown on both sides.
- Place browned patties on a parchment lined baking sheet, and bake for 15 – 20 minutes.
- Garnish with lettuce, tomato, onion, and avocado slices.
- 1¾ cups dried quinoa pasta or brown rice pasta
- 1½ cups fresh blackberries (or strawberries or raspberries)
- 3 ounces small fresh mozzarella cheese balls, halved
- large handful of fresh basil leaves (shred if large)
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 tablespoons raspberry or blackberry balsamic vinegar
- ¼ teaspoon Himalayan sea salt (to taste)
- black pepper to taste
- optional: diced cooked or grilled organic chicken
- Cook pasta according to the package directions. Drain the pasta and rinse well with cold water and drain again.
- In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, raspberry balsamic vinegar, salt, and pepper.
- In a large bowl toss together pasta, strawberries, cheese, and basil.
- Pour the dressing over the pasta salad and toss again.
- Can add diced cooked or grilled chicken breast.
- Refrigerate until time to serve.