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Wheat Free, Gluten Free and Grains

Wheat free and gluten free diets are becoming more and more popular due to the digestive and health problems that we are facing as a nation now!

Stress is becoming a major leader in health concerns making dehydration and digestive problems rife. This is why so many people are looking more and more towards eating wheat and gluten free diets & especially making their own gluten free bread at home with bread machines.

Grains are the most commonly consumed foods world wide and wheat, rice and corn are three of the largest crops cultivated by humans. They have all been used for many years and evidence can track back to over 10,000 years. However, particularly with wheat, the breeding modifications that have taken place to increase yield and reliability of crops has changed the plant quite significantly from the wildness of its early days.

Wheat is unfortunately the most common used grain in the English diet and the one we know best is bread. All types of bread have several standard items added in their preparation, yeast, salt and fat. There can be 0.5g of salt in one slice of bread and the added fat used is normally lard or a veg oil with little or no nutritional benefit. Most bread is also unprotected from the addition of chemical additives!

White bread – the bran and germ part of the wheat grain contain the most nutrients and unfortunately when the milling process occurs the grain is separated into 3 fractions; white flour, bran and germ…the white flour part holding very little in the way of nutrients, except starch and some protein. It is then that the marketing campaigns win the public over with their advertising of how much goodness is added…where they have to add it by law for it to even reach the minimum nutrient requirement. And, the added nutrients are more than likely to be the cheaper variety in the least available form to be taken up by the body…all in all not a decent source of goodness!

Brown bread – white bread coloured with caramel or malt, usually low concentrations of bran or germ added back in.

Granary – some whole grains added but the bulk is white or wheat meal flour with malt used for flavour and colour.

Wheat meal – wholemeal and white flour mixed, 2:1 ratio with 85% flour used.

Hovis & Vitbe types – often white flour fortified with germ.

Bran – white or wholemeal flour with varying proportions of added germ and bran.

Wholemeal bread – e.g. Allison with 'nowt taken out" so should be 100% whole-wheat.

Other wheat products include: Pastry, cakes and biscuits. All have a high fat and sugar content. Additives are usually added for flavour and stability and most have a high salt content.

Pasta, provided it is wholemeal, made of wheat and or buckwheat does not have the same processing as bread. Often pasta is made from durum high protein wheat.


Gluten can be found in wheat, oats, barley and rye (exceptions are wheatgrass and sprouted wheat). A mixture of 2 insoluble proteins present in the glutenous grains, gliadins and glutenins, produces gluten when the flour is kneaded with water. It is the elastic properties of gluten that make bread production possible. However, the gliadin component of this mixture seems to be where the gluten intolerance lies.

Coeliac disease

Coeliac disease is the medical condition for gluten allergy and people with this are advised to avoid all glutenous cereals. Even if one is not actually diagnosed as a coeliac, large numbers of people do suffer from some aversion to wheat ranging from the extreme violent reactions of the celiac to changes in behaviour.

Problems really kick in when wheat and gluten become the main diet, wheat cereal for breakfast, sandwich for lunch and then pasta for dinner? Ring any bells. We need variety and in some cases just cutting back on wheat can make a huge difference. Wheat sensitive people can often take oats, barley and rye; gluten free ones also include corn, millet, quinoa, rice and buckwheat.

Rice is the second most highly consumed grain in the world. We have many different varieties;

Sweet rice – more gelatinous and used more in desserts such as rice pudding.

Long grain – more favoured by Americans as when it's cooked it remains as separate grains.

Short grain – preferred by the Chinese as it tends to clump together easier to eat with chopsticks.

Wild rice – in fact not a rice but a different grain altogether containing more protein, b vits, iron and phosphorus than average rice but less of the others!

Use of rice and rice flour is growing more and as people are finding it an attractive alternative to wheat mainly because it rarely has an allergic reaction. Rice is a low fat, low calorie, low sodium, low cholesterol and high fibre food. The flour can be used in breads and other bakery foods.

Rice does not contain as much protein as wheat, only 10%, but it is good quality and easily usable and whole grain rice can be considered as one of our broad based, nutrient rich foods.


Before the corn grains mature, maize can be harvested as sweet corn. Once matured it can be used to make tortillas, polenta, popcorn, cornflakes and corn flour and a major thickener used for custard. Maize flour can be more easily digested mainly due to the way its processed (soaked in lime to remove hard shell), turned into tortillas or tacos (eaten with beans which rounds up the protein content perfectly…very Latin and South American). Rich in vitamins and minerals, fresh corn especially vit C also including folic acid, b's, mag, potassium, zinc and selenium and its 10-20% protein. Corn oil is very rich in vitamin E.

Rye is similar to wheat and for that reason is fermented as alcohol. Rye contains relatively little gluten and is used in bread, a much denser bread that wheat (less gluten). Rye flour is used for crisp breads such as ryvita.

Records date back to 6000BC which show the use of barley by humans. However, it is mainly used for animal feed and malting for beer or fermenting for whisky. Its gluten level is even lower than rye so it's not popular for bread. Excellent for soups and when you're feeling fluey drink that water after cooking for a broth.

Favoured by the Scottish (as they grow well there), used for porridge (excellent for the bowels) a good all round dietary fibre also known for oatcakes and oatmeal. When cooking oatmeal the gluten can be almost all removed.

Grown mainly is Africa used for the production of beer rather than eaten directly even though the flour can be made into porridge.

Similar to sorghum millet exists as small round grains which can be ground into flour and made into porridge like food. Probably recognised as a bird food it is a non glutenous grain and is the most alkaline and least congesting. 15% protein, hi fibre lots of iron, lag and pot. It is a very warming grain and good in the winter.

A new grain native to Central America. Cooked in a main or side dish, used in soups, puddings and flour for baking. Rinse before cooking as it has soap like coating. Cooks quickly (20mins) hi in protein, iron and calcium, lots of b's and min's.

Gluten free grain, a thistle plant that produces fragrant flowers. Buckwheat does not have the bran and germ that characterize grains, but its flavour, consistency and nutrient content are so much like those of the grains that it is essentially treated like one. Traditionally used in Russia and western Europe as the mashed and cooked buckwheat dish called kasha. It can be mixed with other grains and the flour good for pancakes and baked foods. 15-20% protein, good fibre, b's, lots of potassium, iron, calcium, manganese and phosphorus.

Place the grains in a bowl and cover with water, swirl thoroughly and pour off debris and stray grains, catch the rest in a colander. If the water is very dirty, repeat. Quinoa and millet need to be washed more thoroughly.
Brown rice - 1 cup to 2 cups cold water and a pinch salt (optional). Boil and then turn low and cook for 50-60 mins (you will need to make your own adjustments; I tend to cook for less time especially if it's soaked first)
Barley – same amount of water as rice, takes longer 60-70 mins.
Quinoa – 1 cup to 2 water (pinch salt optional), boil and simmer for 15 mins.
Millet – dry roast the grain first in the pot (let it pop) about 5-10mins) then add 2 cups of water per cup millet (salt?), boil and simmer 30-40 mins, fluff with a fork before serving.
Buckwheat – 2 cups of water to the boil add 1 cup buckwheat, lower flame and simmer 15-20 mins.