Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Millet, Brown Rice, And Quinoa
Excellent Gluten-Free Alternatives To Wheat
But How Do They Compare Nutritionally?

Millet, rice and quinoa are wonderful alternatives
for those avoiding wheat. Which one is best?

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Gluten Free Eating
Many people today avoid wheat and other grains that contain gluten. About 1% of Americans have celiac disease and many more suffer from non-celiac gluten sensitivity. For these people, eating even the slightest amount of gluten can have severe consequences. Others may give up gluten temporarily during a cleanse or food-elimation diet just to see if they feel better. Luckily, there are other wonderful grains (and seeds) available to choose from, making gluten-free eating easier than it's ever been. Here are three easy-to-find alternatives and how they stack up nutritionally.

Millet is a grass seed, grown mostly in Asia and Africa. Although it is a staple in these countries and has been grown for 10,000 years in East Asia, it has not been a significant crop in the U.S. In fact, the type of millet grown in the U.S. is sold mostly as bird seed. 

But lately, millet has been popping up on more and more menus as well as food blogs, perhaps driven by the demand for gluten-free cuisine. I must admit, I had never cooked with it before last week so I was excited to try it. 

The first way I prepared it was as a whole-grain side dish. It has a delicious, nutty flavor.

To prepare, mix one cup of dry millet with 2 1/2 cups of water or broth in a 2-quart saucepan with a pinch of salt and a teaspoon of Earth Balance buttery spread. Many of the recipes I've seen use only 2 cups of water but I found that to be too dry.

Bring to a boil on high heat. Reduce the heat and cook, covered, at a low simmer until all liquid has been absorbed, about 15 to 20 minutes.

Remove from the heat and let rest, covered, for another 10 minutes. Fluff up with a fork and it's ready to serve. 


Fluff up the cooked millet with a fork and serve.

One cup of dry millet yields about 3 1/2 cups of cooked millet.

I used some of the cooked millet in a delicious kale bowl that I will blog later this week. But I had a bunch left over. So the next morning, I put the leftover millet in a small saucepan with almond milk, cinnamon, raisins, vanilla, and some sweetener and cooked it until it turned into a wonderful porridge. With these seasonings, it had the taste and texture of rice pudding and made a delicious breakfast.
If you want to make this from scratch, and not from leftovers, try this:

Creamy Millet 
[makes 2 servings]

1/2 cup millet
1 1/2 cups water
1 cup almond milk plus some for topping
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons raisins
1/2 teaspoon Earth Balance buttery spread
Sweetener to taste (optional)
2 teaspoons cold pressed flax oil 

Combine millet, water, 1 cup of almond milk, vanilla, salt, cinnamon, raisins, and Earth Balance in a 2-quart saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer undisturbed for 20 minutes. After that, start stirring occasionally and cook, covered, until it reaches the desired porridge-like consistency, another 10 minutes. Add additional milk if it gets too dry or cook uncovered if it is too wet. 

Stir in some sweetener to taste (a packet of stevia or xylitol) if desired.

Divide into two bowls. Top each bowl with a touch of almond milk and a teaspoon of flax oil and serve. 

Creamy millet breakfast porridge

Nutrition in Millet
1 cup of cooked millet has 207 calories

1.7 g total fat
0.3 g saturated, 0.3 monosaturated, and 0.9 polyunsaturated
48.7 mg omega-3 fatty acids, 835 mg omega-6 fatty acids
0 mg cholesterol

41.2 g total carbs
2.3 g dietary fiber
0.2 g sugar

6.1 g protein 
Not a complete protein - low in lysine

Source of B vitamins - thiamin and niacin
Source of manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, and copper

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Rice is the go-to grain for most people on a gluten-free diet. It's cheap, easy to find, and most of us have eaten it all of our lives. I love the nutty flavor of brown rice and feel much better about eating the more wholesome version of this grain. I must confess, however, I have a weakness for white jasmine or basmati when I'm in a hurry or I'm craving a lighter and creamier texture. 

Brown rice

Nutrition in Brown Rice
1 cup of cooked, long grain brown rice has 216 calories

1.8 g total fat
0.4 g saturated, 0.6 g monosaturated, and 0.6 g polyunsaturated 
27.3 mg omega-3 and 603 mg omega-6 fatty acids
0 mg cholesterol

44.8 g total carbs
3.5 g dietary fiber
0.7 g sugar

5 g protein 
Not a complete protein - low in lysine but not as low as millet

Source of B vitamins - niacin, B6, and thiamin
Source of manganese, selenium, magnesium, and phosphorus

Nutrition in White Rice
1 cup of long grain, enriched, white rice has 205 calories

0.4 g total fat
0.1 g saturated fat, 0.1 monosaturated fat, and 0.1 g polyunsaturated fat
20.5 mg omega-3 and 98 mg omega-6 fatty acids
0 mg cholesterol

44.5 g total carbs
0.6 g dietary fiber (compared to 3.5 g in brown rice)
0.1 g sugar 

4.2 g protein (compared to 5 g in brown rice)
Not a complete protein - low in lysine but not as low as millet

Brown rice sushi

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QUINOA  (Pronounced, "keen-wah")
Quinoa is a cereal grain (it's actually a seed) native to South American, that has become extremely popular in U.S. cuisine. It is pretty easy to find and prepare. It comes in white, black, red, or a combination rainbow. 


If you buy "pre-rinsed" quinoa, you can skip the rinsing step. But if you don't, it's important to place the quinoa in a small mesh strainer and rinse under cold water for a few minutes to remove the soapy tasting saponins on the outer coating. 

Stir a cup of rinsed quinoa into 2 cups of salted, boiling water or broth. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer until all the water is absorbed, about 18 to 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and let rest, covered, for 10 minutes and serve.

1 cup of dry quinoa yields about 3 cups cooked quinoa.

Quinoa - A Nutritional Superstar
Quinoa has some advantages over rice and millet. It contains more protein and the protein is "complete protein" with the proper balance of all essential amino acids. It also contains the most dietary fiber. 

Nutrition in Quinoa
1 cup of cooked quinoa has 222 calories.

3.6 g total fat
0.4 g saturated fat, 0.9 g monosaturated fat, and 2 g polyunsaturated fat
183 mg omega-3 and 1771 mg omega-6 fatty acids
0 mg cholesterol

39.4 g total carbs
5.2 g dietary fiber
0 g sugar

8.1 g protein complete protein

Source of B vitamins - folate, thiamin, riboflavin, and B6
Source of manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, copper, iron, and zinc

Quinoa makes a great stuffing

Although quinoa comes out ahead in certain categories, it's always good to mix it up and eat different grains to get the maximum nutritional benefits. 

For more recipes and nutritional information, download my eBook, Health Begins in the Kitchen, available on Amazon and iTunes

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