Earthsprout Guide to Gluten Free Whole Grains

Posted by: on feb 1, 2015 | 2 850 Comments

Earthsprout Guide to Groovy Gluten Free Whole Grains
Although all with a slightly healthy twist (thanks, mum!) the meals of my early childhood were full of classics such as spaghetti, meatballs, hash pans, mashed root vegetables, bread etc. No weirdness or things out of the ordinary (with the exceptions of homemade unsweetened granola and replacing butter for mashed avocado since forever). But then something changed (ahem, Jamie Oliver & Mat Tina) and things were taken to the next level. Food became something we talked about, enjoyed experimenting with and influences were picked up from all over. Not me though, oh no, that was all my sister, mother and grandmother. I very clearly remember how upset I got when we started eating brown rice instead of stripped-from-all-nutrients sticky’n glorious white ’Jasmin rice’. Fast forward some years and I’m the one sharing loudly about cool veggies, medicinal herbs & spices, whole grains, luscious legume varieties and all things oh-so delicious that also happens to be oh-so darn good for you (and the planet!). I’m the one sneaking in a Jamie Oliver episode on a rainy tuesday evening and reading books on nutrition as if they were some juicy novel (or one of the Harry Potter books for that matter..)

I’m thinking it’s time to get down and dirty with whole grains today. Are you ready to meet new lovers, explore their genius moves and awesome flavors. Oh yeah, whole grains just got sexy. Ps. Brace yourself for a long + informative post filled with the goodness of GF grains.

GUIDE to Gluten Free Grains @

Fun & Fabulous Facts

-Under the (mason jar) covers with Gluten Free Whole Grains

Why Whole Grains? Our body needs carbohydrates and eating whole grains is a beautiful way to treat your body to those important minerals, vitamins, protein, antioxidants and fibers. There’s plenty of Vitamin E in whole grains, a vitamin that happily protects our cells. Another outrageously awesome thing about whole grains is their level of B vitamins. Vitamin B makes us feel calm since it relaxes the nervous system (and feeds our skin that luminous glow). Some of these whole grains below are even complete sources of protein meaning they contains all essential amino acids. Told you whole grains were groovy!  Even though I don’t have whole grains at every meal I do feel very balanced and grounded after eating them. But that’s me and we’re all so very different. How much you need is different and depends on gender, lifestyle, level of activity, age or what you wish to nurture / sustain. You may not be prone to feel awesome by eating whole grains and you may thrive by getting your complex carbs by enjoying other sources of it like veggies, root veggies, greens, beans or other. One major reason as to why I’m loving whole grains is the fiber content. Whole unprocessed fiber leads to our body breaking down the food slowly thus providing sustained energy for a long time and a gentle blood-sugar rise. Fiber is also what feeds all our friends in the intestines. A well-fed bacterial flora = strong and resilient immune system = healthy happy you!

One of the reason to why we feel nicely full (and full for a long time) after eating whole grains and that our blood sugar doesn’t spike in an instant is because of it’s shape. The compact shape of whole grains makes it difficult for the enzymes in our digestive system to break down the natural starch to glucose (blood sugar). In other words, with whole grains this process is more time consuming for those little fellas and that is good news for us! This naturally means that starch is easier to digest for the enzymes if the source of it have been finely ground. What does this mean? Easy! Think noodles, bread (both ”whole grain flour” and white flour), pasta, pancakes, waffles ..and the list goes on. Even healthy flours made from for example pure buckwheat, teff or brown rice will give a pretty quick rise in blood sugar and not very long lasting energy since there are no whole bits for the digestive enzymes to slowly nibble on. This however in no way indicates that these healthy flour are actually unhealthy. They still contain much more nutrients then an all-white, overly processed wheat flour that’s been sitting on that grocery store shelf (and then yours!) forever.

A Note on Gluten. I’m not saying that ancient whole grains that do include gluten (farro/spelt, kamut, rye, barley et.c) are bad for you. I’m all for the Real stuff. It’s just that the over-consumption of processed and refined foods that do have gluten in them are wrecking havoc in so many bodies all over, causing many imbalances. If this is you then including whole grains that do have gluten in them could be unwise, at least until quitting the processed gluten-laden treats. After that it’s a whole other story! In many cases the gluten sensitivities are not even because of the actual protein gluten, more often it’s the one to many quick blood sugar spikes, lack of nutrients, fiber or any actual life sustaining qualities. With store-bought GF cheerios/doughnuts/pancakes/noodles/cookies/crackers you are not winning the health-lottery (check out any seemingly wholesome or natural brand at your nearest Whole Foods) just because they are gluten free. In these processed foods you’ll likely find some or many of the following things: hard to pronounce binders, sweeteners, low quality fats & salts, chemical colorants and E-numbers to enhance flavor and prolong shelf-life. Sorry but ’Gluten-Free is not an equivalent -or even a short cut- to healthy living.

How To Make it Work. All that said (phew!), I’d love to introduce you to some whole grains that happens to be gluten free but mostly they are just effing gorgeous (I mean look at these shapes and colors), very nutrient-dense and SO delicious. This is a little peek into a world of goodness that’ll hopefully have you reaching for something a bit sexier then that plain ol’ noodle or not-so-hot jasmine rice next time you’re cooking. If you are more often than not too tired up cook up a storm on a weekday night (like me!) I have solution for that as well. Batch cook!

Batch Cook. Take 2 hours out of your Sunday to cook 2 batches whole grains, 1 batch beans, 1 batch lentils (all of which you’ve soaked at least overnight), 1 dressing, maybe a sauce, a dip and some raw energy bars. Fill those glass containers, refrigerate and all of a sudden you have the base for sensational meals Monday – Friday! Once hunger strikes simply cut up some veggies and either make a quick stir fry OR keep them fresh, add leafy greens, sprouts, the cooked grains, beans/lentils and toss with a dressing. You can add cooked or pre-soaked grains and lentils to soups or stews too. For a breakfast treat re-heat some grains with plant milk/water, vanilla, cinnamon, coconut oil & some berries. The possibilities, combinations and variations are endless. Snack-attack? Dip sticks of apple/carrot/jicama/rutabaga in a sweet or savory healthy vegan dip or bite into a raw treat. Life just got ah-mazing and so simple. A note on storing. Your dips, sauces, bars and dressings will most likely last the whole week ahead (there are of course exceptions depending on what ingredients you’re using.) Your grains and lentils will see you through meals Sunday evening to Thursday evening and most often the beans too. However beans will be most fresh Sunday – Wednesday so plan accordingly or freeze what you won’t be using this week. 

Earthsprout Guide to Groovy Gluten Free Whole Grains
Gluten Free & Groovy Whole Grains

Millet. If I’d dub one of these super grains my favorite it would probably be millet. This is a rich grain that I love to cook to creamy perfection for a sweet or savory bowl or light and fluffy for a salad situation. The taste is slightly nutty and crazy delicious. Millet is an alkalizing grain, incredibly rich in iron, B vitamins and amino acids (protein).

Quinoa. All hail quinoa, right? This grain has become quite the superstar and for good reasons. Quinoa is native to the Andes and was revered by the Inca as the mother grain. It’s nutritional profile is amazing with it’s 16 percent protein (it’s a complete protein too), more calcium than cows milk, contains lots of iron, phosphorous, B vitamins and vitamin E. Quinoa comes in white (soft and fluffy once cooked) or black and red (chewier and more ’crisp’ once cooked).

Amaranth. Out of the many super grains I’ve grown, amaranth is my favorite crop to grow and it’s leaves are edible too! The sensational looks of amaranth are outstanding and it’s tiny seeds almost impossible to harvest. 1 cup cooked amaranth provides over half of your daily protein needs, is higher in calcium then milk (cup for cup) and packs incredible amounts of minerals and vitamins. Amaranth was the sacred grain of the Aztecs and highly revered for it’s energizing properties.

Buckwheat. Although the name might be confusing this is indeed a gluten free little seed packed with protein (also a complete protein this one!). Buckwheat is quite a superhero lowering blood pressure, increasing circulation in hands and feet and it’s calcium content is impressive. Up to 100% more then other grains. Buckwheat has the longest transit time in the gut and is therefore the most filling and blood-sugar stabilizing grain of them all.

Kaniwa. Kaniwa is just like Amaranth extremely tiny and just like red or black quinoa a little crunchier when cooked. Kaniwa is rather the newcomer on the health food scene but it’s been around for ages and is definitely one of the ancient grains. The iron-content in kaniwa is four times higher then Quinoa and my go-to when I want to increase my iron-intake (all the time). Kaniwa also happens to be a complete protein so get cookin’.

Polenta. I was kind of late to the polenta-party thinking it was just some boring mush of corn grits but oh how wrong I was. Purchasing non GMO, organic, preferably heirloom polenta is very important and both your body and the planet will thank you. Polenta is fun to play with and can be turned into creamy deliciousness as well as oven baked bites. Polenta is rich in caroteinoids that supports healthy communication between cells. Really important. Caroteinoids are fat-soluble so drizzle some virgin oil over your serving!

Whole Oats. OH Oats! Contrary to common belief oats does not contain gluten, however, they are often handled in environments that also handle wheat, barley and spelt so gluten intolerant peeps – look for certified gluten free oats. Nutrition-wise oats have an incredible fiber content, keeping our gut flora healthy and our bellies full. Oats are amazing at lowering cholesterol levels and tastes plain awesome too. I’m the biggest fan. Ever.

Brown Rice. A staple in many kitchens and widely used in macrobiotic and auyurvedic cooking as a calming, filling and easy to digest food. Brown rice is very rich in B vitamins but have quite a low amount of protein compared to the grains listed above. Always (as with everything else) opt for the unprocessed whole brown rice as opposed to it’s refined cousins like white (bran removed) or scarified (bran partially removed). The real and non tampered with brown rice is much higher in nutrients and stays fresh for much longer too.

Wild Rice. Wild rice a wildly cool ”grain” (it’s actually a grass) and I love enjoying it’s nutty slightly vanilla scented taste as/in/on breakfast bowls or in semi-warm salads with grilled veggies. When buying wild rice look for wild rice that’s truly wild meaning it’s been carefully grown and harvested by hand. The other kind will be much less expensive but also loaded with pesticides, herbicides and other nasties. Wild rice is rich in Zinc, a mineral we get less and less of each year due to our broken agriculture system. Zinc supports healthy skin, hormones and fertility.

Black Rice. Also known as ’Forbidden Rice’ (intriguing, eh?) was once thought of as the finest grains in China and only grown for the emperors consumption. Black rice is much more glutinous and creamy than regular brown rice and I adore it’s stickiness on cold mornings with stewed fruits and superfoods. Filled with the antioxidant Anthocyanin (hence the dark color) and a wide range of minerals that work wonders energizing and strengthening our body. Black rice also has twice the amount of fiber than brown rice.

Teff. An ancient Ethiopian staple, this tiny gluten free grain was virtually unknown in other parts of the world before this century. Mostly used milled as a rich and nutty flour when making the traditional fermented Injera flatbread but also incredible when puffed in a dry skillet and soaked in plant-based milk and spices. Teff is very rich in calcium and also packs quite a punch when it comes to other minerals like iron, zinc and copper – all very important parts of a healthy body & life.

Sorghum. This beauty of a grain has a round shape, smaller then a pea but larger then bee pollen. Sorghum is mostly used as animal feed but increasing in popularity due to the plea for gluten-free staples. Nutrition-wise Sorghum is slightly similar to corn although much higher in protein. Sorghum can take growing conditions that are too hot and dry for corn which is why, before traveling to America and Europe it was a staple in Africa and Asia for hundreds of centuries.

Earthsprout Guide to Groovy Gluten Free Whole Grains

Soaking, Sprouting, Cooking

When cooking grains you want to soak them for at least 12 hours, however 1 hour is of course better then nothing. If you need to soak your grains for a longer time simply change soaking water and refrigerate for no more than additionally 12 hours. The soaking will give you a raised nutritional value and optimum absorption of nutrients. Pre-soaked grains also have the advantage of being much easier on the digestive system, cooking time is reduced by half or even more and honestly, they tastes plain better. When soaking grains you want to cover them in lukewarm water (1 inch above whatever you are soaking) and a splash of something acidic such as lemon juice, apple cider vinegar or 1/4-ish tsp baking soda. Once soaked, rinse thoroughly to remove enzyme inhibitors and dust or dirt and either let them sprout for 1-3 days (not possible with polenta) or cook. If you choose to cook your grains then do so in new water (plain or with yummy additions). Additions I regularly cook grains with (not all at once!) are: Kombu algae, fresh herbs, whole spices, some good quality salt, ghee/virgin olive oil/ virgin coconut oil, slices of lemon ..and the list goes on. Bring to a boil then simmer over medium heat until done. Discard of any leftover cooking water or save to soups/stews/broths like a true waste-free living superstar. Cooking time depends on what you’re cooking and how long you’ve soaked it for. My advise is to stick around the kitchen and check in on the covered pot now and then to be sure you’re not left with a mushy mash but rather a glorious batch of perfectly cooked super grains. Now go devour that edible gold!

Earthsprout Guide to Groovy Gluten Free Whole Grains

Which is Your favorite whole grain and in what super cool (or back-to-basics delish) way do You prepare it? Let us know in the comments below and expand this post!

Now, visit your nearest bulk section and dive into the vibrant, sexy and gorgeous world of ancient and awesome whole grains! Share your finds with the #earthsprout hashtag too!


Ready to rock your life & body? Sign up here... it's free!
+ the Greenylicious manifesto - The highway to feel ecstatic - wrooom