Gluten Free Whole Grains
Most people find whole grains are a delicious way to improve their health, and they enjoy the pleasures of choosing among all the different whole grains. However, the millions of people who can't properly digest gluten must choose their grains carefully.
(Check out this great video from Cook's Illustrated to learn more about gluten. Even though the video uses refined flour, the information would be similar with whole wheat bread flour vs whole wheat pastry flour.)
Celiac Disease, gluten intolerance, and wheat Allergies
Gluten is a protein in wheat (all kinds, including spelt, Kamut® khorasan, einkorn and farro/emmer), barley, rye and triticale (a rye/wheat hybrid) that is hard for some people to digest.
This group includes the estimated 1-2% of the population with celiac disease – an autoimmune form of gluten intolerance – who must eat a gluten-free diet for life. Other people may not have celiac disease, but may be allergic to wheat (about 0.2-0.4% of people) or may have what's termed non-celiac gluten intolerance (a group some experts estimate at from 1% to 6% of the population). There's no reason for the rest of us to go gluten-free, no matter what fear-mongering books like Wheat Belly and Grain Brain may say.
Check out some of our blogs, that touch on why more people are developing celiac and gluten intolerance -- and what we may be able to do about it while separating fact from fiction:
Celiac Disease Increases Fourfold (July 2009)
Research Sheds Light on Gluten Issues (January 2012)
Minneapolis Whole Grains Summit 2012 Report (May 2012)
Whole Grains and Healthy Brains (Grain Brain comments) (September 2013)
What's Up With Wheat and Gluten? (October 2013)
Wheat - Don't Shoot the Messenger (October 2013)
Which Grains are Gluten-Free?
It's important to note that gluten-intolerant people CAN eat whole grains. In fact, as you'll see from the list below, a large number of gluten-free grain choices are available. Most grains are gluten-free! The grains on the right are gluten-free whole grains, when they are consumed with all of their bran, germ, and endosperm.
|Grains with Gluten||Gluten FREE Grains|
|Wheat, including varieties like spelt, kamut, farro and durum; and products like bulgur, semolina||Amaranth|
|Triticale||Job's Tears (or Hato Mugi)|
|Montina (Indian rice grass)|
|Oats** see below||Oats** see below|
**Oats are inherently gluten-free, but are frequently contaminated with wheat during growing or processing. Several companies (Bob's Red Mill, Cream Hill Estates, GF Harvest (formerly Gluten Free Oats), and Avena Foods (Only Oats) are currently among those that offer pure, uncontaminated oats. Ask your physician if these oats are acceptable for you. Click here for a discussion on oats in the gluten-free diet or visit Health Canada's website for an extensive technical review on the safety of oats in the GF diet.
Gluten free grains pair with Other Healthy Substitutes
Many creative recipes have been developed for gluten-intolerant people, using the gluten-free grains above along with foods like nuts, arrowroot, beans, chestnuts, mesquite, potato, soy, and tapioca, all of which are gluten-free. Some of these ingredients make deliciously healthy breakfast cereals and side dishes, while others are ground into flours for flavorful baked goods such as pizza, desserts, and breads.
For a quick and easy reference on cooking gluten free grains, click here (144K PDF)
For gluten-free baking tips, visit The Savory Palate.
For more information on foods that are acceptable for the gluten-free diet, see the Quick Start Diet Guide at Gluten.net. It was jointly developed by the Gluten Intolerance Group of North America (GIG®) and the Celiac Disease Foundation.
Where to Buy Gluten-Free Ingredients and foods
Hundreds if not thousands of companies world-wide provide a huge array of gluten-free foods and ingredients; many can be found at natural food stores. Some grocery stores carry gluten-free goods. Gluten-free items are available through mail-order at many places including
Many products from the companies above are also available in your local stores.
Hidden Sources of Gluten
Gluten hides in many unsuspecting places such as candy, sauces, and malt flavoring. Other ingredients appear suspicious, but may be safe. To learn more, visit Gluten Free Living. If in doubt about a particular food, ask the manufacturer about the ingredients and the standards they use to assure your safety.
What Does the Label Say?
Reading labels is very important. In the U.S., the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act mandates that labels on foods manufactured after January, 2006, will list the word “wheat” to indicate the presence of wheat. But the label doesn’t have to list other gluten-containing grains such as barley, rye, spelt, kamut, or triticale.
In mid-2013, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) released long-awaited standards for what food companies can label as "gluten-free." These standards define gluten-free as containing fewer than 20 parts per million (ppm) of gluten -- a level consistent with standards in other countries.
Gluten Free Blogs
Suggested Cookbooks and Books
These days, there are a great many wonderful gluten-free cookbooks to guide those who want to eat gluten-free deliciously. Take a look at some of these:
The Complete Gluten-Free Whole Grains Cookbook by Judith Finlayson (Robert Rose, 2013)
125 Gluten-Free Vegetarian Recipes by Carol Fenster (Avery/Penguin Group, 2011)
100 Best Gluten-Free Recipes by Carol Fenster (Wiley, 2010)
1,000 Gluten-Free Recipes by Carol Fenster, PhD (Wiley, 2008)
American Dietetic Association Easy Gluten-Free by Tricia Thompson, MS, RD and Marlisa Brown, MS, RD, (Wiley 2010)
Best Gluten-Free Family Cookbook by Donna Washburn and Heather Butt (Robert Rose, 2005)
Complete Gluten-Free Cookbook by Donna Washburn and Heather Butt (Robert Rose, 2007)
Cooking Free by Carol Fenster, PhD (Avery/Penguin Group, 2005)
Food Allergy Survival Guide by Vesanto Melina, MS, RD, Jo Stepaniak, MSEd,
Dina Aronson, MS, RD (Healthy Living Publications, 2004)
Gluten-Free 101 by Carol Fenster, PhD (Savory Palate, 2006)
Gluten-Free Diet: A Comprehensive Resource Guide by Shelley Case, RD (Case Nutrition Consulting Inc., Expanded Edition, 2010)
Gluten-Free Friends by Nancy Patin Falini, RD (Savory Palate, 2003) – book for kids
Gluten-Free Makeovers by Beth Hillson (Da Capo Lifelong Books, 2011)
Gluten-Free Quick & Easy by Carol Fenster, PhD (Avery/Penguin Group, 2007)
The Wheat-Free Cook by Jacqueline Mallorca (William Morrow, 2007)
Wheat-Free Recipes & Menus by Carol Fenster, PhD (Avery/Penguin Group, 2004)
For Additional Information
For additional information, see the web sites of these organizations and Celiac Disease Centers in the U.S.:
The Whole Grains Council thanks Carol Fenster, Ph.D. and Shelley Case, RD for contributing most of the content on this page. Carol is President/Founder of Savory Palate, Inc. and author of Gluten-Free 101: Easy, Basic Dishes without Wheat and several other books. Shelley Case, RD, of Gluten-Free Diet is a leading international nutrition expert on celiac disease.