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Arthritis Today

5 Grains for a Gluten-Free Diet

Get to know these nutritious alternatives that may help reduce RA symptoms.

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People with celiac disease or even a mild sensitivity to gluten – a protein naturally found in wheat, barley, and rye – have needed to find tasty alternatives when it comes to cooking and baking. These substitutes may also help people with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) since studies are showing that eliminating gluten can also help RA symptoms.

Like celiac disease, RA is an autoimmune disorder. “Avoiding foods that can cause an autoimmune response could help decrease inflammation,” says Felice Kosakavich, MS, RD, chief clinical dietician for Cassena Care, a short-term nursing and rehab facility with locations in and around New York City.

It’s may not be easy or cheap to banish gluten completely from your diet, but here are some great options:

Buckwheat: Small and triangular, buckwheat grains aren’t actually related to wheat, but like wheat, they’re widely used in foods around the world – from Japanese soba noodles to French crêpes. In America, roasted buckwheat is most popular. It often goes by the name kasha, and has an earthy, smoky flavor that is great for stuffing and side dishes.

Try it! Mix with sautéed mushrooms and a drizzle of olive oil.

Corn: In its dried, ground form, it’s called cornmeal, and can be used to make cornbread. Feeling adventurous – try making or a rich, naturally creamy side dish. For instant gratification (traditional polenta usually takes more than 30 minutes to cook, and involves plenty of stirring), look for plastic-wrapped tubes of pre-cooked polenta.

Try it! Slice rounds ½” thick, pan-fry in olive oil, and top with sautéed spinach and crumbled feta cheese.

Millet: The small, yellow seeds are packed with B vitamins and have a slightly sweet, almost corn-like flavor. They’re as simple to cook as rice, and can be made into either sweet or savory preparations

Try it! Prepare millet as you would oatmeal, topped with a bit of milk and honey.

Quinoa: Known as “the mother grain” in South America for centuries, nutrition-packed quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah) takes 10 to 15 minutes to cook – which means that in the time you’d normally spend making couscous, you can prepare a side dish with much more protein, fiber and iron.

Try it! Pile quinoa with black beans, salsa, avocado, shredded romaine and corn.

Sorghum: Made from a grass, sorghum flour has a relatively neutral taste and a pale color, making it a good choice for baked goods. Because gluten is what makes cakes and breads hold together when they’re baked, most recipes with sorghum flour call for the addition of xanthan gum, which acts as a binder.

Try it! For cookies and cakes, add ½ tsp. xanthan gum and 1½ tsp. cornstarch per cup of sorghum flour.

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