Cooking and Baking with Delicious Rice and Wheat Alternatives

August 14, 2019

"Some researchers believe gluten sensitivity may exist in as many as 50% of us!"

Some researchers believe that as much as half the population may have some level of gluten sensitivity or intolerance. For these people, consuming wheat can show up as digestive symptoms like bloating or gas, and non-digestive symptoms like aching joints, brain fog, and eczema-like rashes on the skin. The other popular grain in the US, white rice, is unhealthy for us too. It’s very high on the glycemic index, causing blood sugar spikes that can lead to weight gain and more.

Today’s live show with Dr. Nancy Lin, PhD, covers the top wheat and rice alternatives for cooking and baking. She’ll explain the health benefits of each, and explain how to cook and bake with them, providing some great recipes along the way. 

Video Highlights

  • 00:56: Celiac Disease and Gluten Sensitivity
  • 07:00: What about Rice?
  • 10:52: Facts About Wheat
  • 14:30: Wheat and Rice Alternatives
  • 15:02: Cauliflower
  • 27:40: Baking Without Wheat
  • 34:14: Quinoa
  • 36:40: Millet
  • 39:34: Buckwheat
  • 41:01: Amaranth
  • 42:11: Sorghum
  • 44:11: The Grain that is NOT Gluten-Free
  • 46:12: Wrap-Up

Celiac Disease and Gluten Sensitivity

Did you know that 1 in every 133 people have celiac disease? Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease affected by eating gluten, the protein found in wheat. When a person who has celiac disease ingests gluten, the white blood cells are called into action and attack the lining of the small intestine. This can trigger a range of symptoms from bloating to diarrhea to fatigue and headaches. Eating gluten if you have celiac can also prohibit vital nutrients from being absorbed into the body, and that can lead to even more serious health issues like malnutrition or osteoporosis.

It is also believed that many more people have gluten sensitivity unrelated to celiac disease. Some researchers in the field even believe gluten sensitivity may exist in as many as 50% of us! And gluten sensitivity comes with its set of symptoms, which can range from digestive in nature like bloating, to aching joints, brain fog, eczema-like rashes on the skin and more. Plus gluten is very  inflammatory. 

That’s why today’s episode is going to be all about Wheat and Rice Alternatives you can use in your cooking and baking. Many people struggle with the whole grain part of healthy diet once they know wheat and white rice are off the menu. So today, we’re going to give you a rundown of great favorite whole grain alternatives.

We’re also going to tell you about one specific wheat alternative that actually isn’t wheat-free, regardless of what a doctor or what nutritionists may have told you — you will want to avoid this so-called “wheat alternative”, especially if you have Celiacs — keep reading to find out what it is!

What About Rice?

Now you might be wondering why we’re talking about rice alternatives instead of just wheat, since brown rice is on Dr. Nancy’s list of anti-inflammatory foods that she recommends you do eat. Brown rice is a healthy whole grain option because it contains vitamins and minerals that white rice does not. Additionally, brown rice has all 3 components of what a whole grain should have. This includes:

  • Bran — this is a grain’s outer shell and contains fiber and antioxidants.
  • Germ — this is where most of the good stuff resides, because the germ is the part of the grain that supplies nutrients to a new plant. It contains things like carbs, proteins, fats, vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients.
  • Endosperm — this is the largest part of the grain and contains proteins and carbs. 

White rice contains none of those things found in a whole grain. It’s overly processed, and lacks the nutritional value you might find in a lot of the other alternatives we’re going to talk about. 

Plus, alongside wheat products like white bread, white rice has a higher Glycemic Index (GI). In a nutshell, the GI scale measures the rate at which your body converts carbs into sugar. Foods with a high GI can lead to obesity, heart disease, and perhaps most notably, type 2 diabetes

Facts About Wheat

Did you know wheat is the third largest crop produced in the U.S.? Last year, 755 million tons of wheat was produced around the world. That is an incredible amount of wheat, don’t you think? 

Unfortunately, as we already discussed, wheat can lead to a number of health issues, digestion related and otherwise:

  • Wheat can be extremely inflammatory, which can lead to joint pain and can contribute to arthritis. 
  • Wheat also contains something called phytates which encourage the body not to absorb vitamins and minerals already present in your body. 
  • Wheat can cause Leaky Gut Syndrome. Similar to non-celiac gluten sensitivity, Leaky Gut Syndrome is just what it sounds like — food and other toxins are leaking into the bloodstream and intestines. This is another inflammatory response to consuming wheat, and causes the wall of the intestine to become damaged from the excess inflammation. 

Alright, let’s do a deep dive into alternatives you can swap for recipes that call for wheat or rice. 

Wheat and Rice Alternatives

Cauliflower

The most popular wheat alternative right now is cauliflower. Amazing, right? In fact, this one is a great rice alternative, as well, so you get a two-for-one!

Cauliflower is a great anti-inflammatory cruciferous vegetable loaded with antioxidants, fiber, B vitamins, and choline, which is great for cognitive function and memory. Cauliflower can be used for:

  • Tortillas
  • Hummus 
  • Mashed “potatoes”
  • Rice 
  • Pizza crust

Making cauliflower rice is fantastically easy because you can find pre-made cauliflower rice in the produce and/or the frozen food aisle of your grocery store. From there, you simply cook it according to the directions on the package and flavor it to your liking. Here are a few great combos:

  • Cilantro, scallions, and lime juice
  • Garlic, lemon juice, and slivered almonds
  • Coconut aminos, garlic, ginger, and sesame oil
  • Garlic, parsley, lemon juice, and red pepper flakes
  • Or keep it simple — salt, pepper, and maybe a little olive oil or ghee

If you don’t want to buy the premade kind, it’s quick and easy to make your own cauliflower rice. Just one warning, don’t leave cauliflower too long in your fridge. 

All you need is 1 head of cauliflower and a food processor. First you want to cut off as much of the cauliflower stem as possible so all you’re left with is the florets. Then, all you have to do is place the florets in the food processor and pulse until the cauliflower has a fairly fine consistency. You want it to resemble couscous, which is slightly smaller than rice. 

You can add the rice to soups, salads, or use it in any recipe that calls for rice. In that case, you would follow the recipe’s directions according to how you should prepare the rice. If you’re not following a recipe, an easy way to cook up your newly made cauliflower rice is to sauté it in a skillet with some olive or avocado oil for about 3 to 5 minutes until it is cooked thoroughly. 

Cauliflower Bagels

Who doesn’t love bagels? Whether they’re smeared with cream cheese or loaded with butter that pools in every nook and cranny, bagels are a great breakfast treat. But they’re also made with wheat — lots and lots of wheat. Not to mention, cream cheese and butter come with their own set of issues… they’re inflammatory too, full of saturated fat, and high in calories. 

But never fear, Dr Nancy has a solution. Try her wheat bagel substitute! 

Cauliflower can be used in this everything bagel recipe, along with non-wheat flours.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 3 cups of riced cauliflower (approximately 1 head)
  • 2 tablespoons almond flour
  • 1 tablespoon coconut flour
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt

For the everything seasoning, you’ll need:

  • ½ teaspoon poppy seeds
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
  • 1 teaspoon dried minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon dried minced onion
  • ½ teaspoon coarse sea salt

To make, preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. 

Place the riced cauliflower, eggs, almond flour, coconut flour, garlic powder, and fine sea salt in a bowl and mix until well combined. 

In a separate bowl, combine the “everything” topping ingredients. Some grocery stores sell everything bagel mix in the spice aisle as an FYI. 

Roll the cauliflower mixture into even sized balls and place on the baking sheet, spacing them evenly. Sprinkle with the “everything” topping and give the tops a gentle press. 

Bake for 30 minutes and enjoy!

There are also recipes available that use cauliflower in chocolate cake, breadsticks, and a vegetarian option for buffalo wings, so feel free to get creative! 

Baking Without Wheat

Ok let’s talk baking now. If you’re someone who likes to bake, this is where giving up gluten can seem the most daunting. So many recipes call for white or wheat flour! It’s nice to see, however, that there is a big desire out there to eat healthy, and recipes using flour alternatives like almond flour, cassava flour, and coconut flour are cropping up more and more. Let’s get you more familiar with these flour alternatives.

  • Almond flour is extremely versatile and can be used as 1:1 substitute for all-purpose white flour in most recipes, including cakes, brownies, and cookies. Plus, almond is packed with protein, which cannot be said for wheat flour. 
  • Cassava flour is a wonderful alternative because it’s not only gluten free, but it’s grain free and nut free, too. Cassava is a plant native to Asia and South America. You may be familiar with the root, which is called yuca. Tapioca, a starch often used as a binding agent in baking recipes, comes from the cassava root. Cassava flour is great because it doesn’t have as strong a flavor as almond or coconut flour might have. Like almond flour, you can use a 1:1 substitution ratio when using in baked goods like breads, cakes, crepes, or tortillas. 
  • Coconut flour is another great alternative in baked goods. You can use coconut flour in pancakes, cookies, muffins, and layer cakes. Coconut flour is high in fiber, making it a great substitute that aids in digestion. When substituting coconut flour for all-purpose flour, only use ¼ cup for every 1 cup of white flour. You’ll also need to use 1 egg per every ¼ cup of coconut flour to help bind your recipe and ¼ cup of liquid because coconut flour tends to absorb a lot of liquids. 

Quinoa 

This is next up on my list of rice and wheat alternatives. Quinoa makes a wonderful substitution for any recipe that calls for rice. It’s high in protein and fiber and contains large quantities of the body’s essential nine essential amino acids. Quinoa is also high in antioxidants, vitamins E and B, iron, magnesium, and potassium. If you’ve got some sort of gluten sensitivity or intolerance, quinoa is the grain for you. As a bonus, quinoa comes in flour form and can be used as a substitute in cookies and breads. Typically, quinoa flour is a 1:1 substitute for all-purpose flour. Quinoa does have a slight nutty flavor to it, so keep that in mind when using it as a flour substitute over almond, coconut, or cassava. 

Millet

Like the other alternatives on this list, millet is high in protein and fiber, and loaded with iron, calcium, and magnesium. Millet can be used in cooking as well as in baked goods, but it may be better suited for savory dishes. Stick with using almond or coconut flour for your baked goods. Try using millet in biscuits — they’re super savory and super easy to make. Dr. Nancy likes to call these millet cakes because they’re not quite as fluffy as biscuits, but they’re delicious all the same. 

For this recipe, Dr. Nancy uses vegan buttermilk, which is 1 tablespoon lemon juice mixed with 1 cup almond milk. Make this first so it has time to “curdle” a little. 

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 2 cups millet flour
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 6 tbsp ghee
  • ¾ cup vegan buttermilk
  • 2 eggs

Preheat your oven to 425°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a bowl, combine the millet flour, baking powder, and salt. Then, either using your fingers or two forks, fold in the ghee and combine until the mixture looks like sand or the butter is the size of peas. Stir in the vegan buttermilk and eggs. 

Drop the batter in rounded spoonfuls onto the baking sheet until you have about 12 biscuits. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes until they’re slightly browned around the edges. Transfer them immediately to a wire rack once done. 

Buckwheat

Buckwheat is part of the rhubarb family! Don’t let the name fool you — even though it’s called buckwheat, it doesn’t contain a trace of wheat or gluten. Buckwheat does contain mostly carbs, but it’s still low on the GI scale. It also contains iron, manganese, which helps regulate metabolism, and copper, which benefits heart health. Buckwheat has a slightly nutty taste and hearty flavor, which is why it’s used in a lot of winter soups and stews. Ever have buckwheat pancakes? They’re delicious and gluten free!

Amaranth

Like quinoa, millet, and buckwheat, Amaranth is what’s called an ancient grain, meaning it’s been around for thousands of years and has still maintained its original composition — it hasn’t been enhanced or genetically modified. As a matter of fact, did you know uses of amaranth trace back 8,000 years? It’s a superfood and another wheat alternative that’s high in fiber, protein, manganese, antioxidants, and iron. Amaranth is great for lowering cholesterol and reducing inflammation so give it a try in cereal, porridge, soups, and even salads. 

Sorghum 

This is last on our list of rice and wheat alternatives. This is another one that is great in salads, cereals, and soups, and is high in iron, fiber, potassium, and zinc, which is great for boosting immunity. Did you know sorghum can be popped? It’s true! In addition to being a rice and wheat alternative, sorghum can be a popcorn alternative, too! Simply put, ¼ cup of sorghum in a pot with a tight-fitting lid over medium-high heat. Shake the pot often, with the lid still on, until the sorghum starts to pop. When about ⅔ of the grains have popped, pour out the popped grains, returning the unpopped grains to the pot so they have an opportunity to pop. When there is about 10 seconds in between pops, remove from heat, add your favorite seasonings, and serve!

The Grain that is NOT Gluten-Free

Okay, now for the one grain that, despite what you might hear from doctors and nutritionists, is not gluten-free, even though people say it is. That grain is called Spelt. Spelt is, in fact, a form of wheat. Like other forms of wheat, spelt contains the gluten protein, and therefore, isn't safe for those of us who have celiac disease or all the non-celiac gluten-sensitive people out there, which may be most of us.

The idea that spelt, spelt flour, and baked goods made with spelt are safe on the gluten-free diet is one of the oldest gluten-free urban myths. But this myth is one that persists despite the best efforts of the gluten-free community. 

Spelt doesn't contain quite as much gluten as modern wheat, and it's actually a slightly different type of gluten. Nonetheless, if you have issues with gluten-containing foods, you'll want to avoid spelt, or you'll risk getting sick – so skip the spelt!

Wrap-Up

We covered a lot of ground today. We gave you a list of fantastic rice and wheat alternatives to try that are all high in protein, fiber, iron, and magnesium, to name a few. Some great alternatives include:

  • Cauliflower
  • Quinoa
  • Buckwheat
  • Amaranth
  • Millet
  • Cassava
  • Almond flour

Integrating these alternatives into your cooking is a great way to reduce inflammation, as well as reduce your chances of developing type 2 diabetes. They’re also great substitutes if you’ve got a gluten sensitivity, celiac disease, or Leaky Gut Syndrome, because they’re all gluten-free, very versatile, and super tasty in cookies, breads, soups, stews, salads, and even pancakes. 

Feel free to share any fun recipes you’ve tried with any of the alternatives we discussed. See you next time!

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