Savor the Flavor of the Mediterranean Diet

Great (whole) grains

Being gluten free doesn’t mean all grains are off limits. In fact, most whole grains are gluten free, notes Toups, including amaranth, buckwheat, corn, millet, sorghum, teff and wild rice. These whole grains not only provide variety in the diet, but also they offer important health benefits. “Research repeatedly demonstrates that people who eat more whole grains tend to have a lower risk of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes, in addition to better weight management and longer lives,” states Toups. Additional studies about the health benefits of whole grains can be found at the Whole Grains Council website.

Identifying gluten-free whole grains at the store can be confusing. “Many gluten-free grain products are made with multiple grain ingredients, making it difficult to quantify the amount of whole grains without the Whole Grain Stamp,” notes Toups. The Whole Grains Council developed the stamp to help identify whole-grain choices on store shelves. Products can display one of three versions of the stamp, depending on the amount of whole grains (see below).


What do the Whole Grain Stamps mean?

100% Stamp: All the grain in the product is whole. There must be a full serving (equivalent to 16 grams) of whole grains to qualify for the stamp.

50% stamp: At least half of the grain in the product must be whole. There must be a minimum of a half serving (at least 8 grams) of whole grains to qualify for the stamp. The
50% stamp was introduced in January 2017. Products began displaying it in the summer of 2017, so it’s possible there are still items on store shelves without the updated stamp.

Basic stamp: Contains at least a half serving (8 grams) of whole grains; product may also have refined grains.


Incorporating whole grains

Whole grains can add a lot of variety to the diet, but if you are new to them, you might want to take it slow at first. Toups advises starting out simple: swap brown rice for white or whole-grain gluten-free bread for white gluten-free bread. Once you’ve made those changes, consider expanding to quinoa. “Quinoa cooks up in 15 minutes, faster than rice or baked potatoes, and you can substitute it for rice in any recipe, from pilaf to stir-fry,” says Toups. “Quinoa keeps its texture when chilled, which makes it perfect as a base for grain-based salads.”

Millet offers a soft, fluffy texture, making it an excellent substitute for gluten-containing bulgur, advises Toups. She recommends using it in pilaf or anywhere else you might use rice. Sorghum has a chewier texture but will work well in stews or as a base for grain salads. Whatever grain you choose, experts recommend ensuring that it is specifically labeled gluten free, even if it is a naturally gluten-free grain, to avoid potential cross-contamination with gluten. Purchasing whole grains from bulk bins is also not recommend due to cross-contamination concerns.

If you need convenience, you can either prepare grains ahead and freeze them. Also consider buying preprepared frozen grains that you can heat and eat. “To make mealtime run more smoothly, consider cooking a larger amount at the beginning of the week and refrigerating them,” says Toups. “There are even some companies selling cooked whole grains, such as brown rice or quinoa, in the freezer aisle, that you simply have to scoop out and microwave.”

Click below for advice on choosing the best olive oil, introducing the diet to your kids and taking Mediterranean meals on the road.

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