In the last decade, we have become increasing aware of a condition called ‘gluten sensitivity.’ An organization called the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA) has helped in spreading the word to the general public. Many consumers were unaware of this condition until they themselves, or someone they love, went through the arduous process of diagnosis.
Now, many consumers have found that a gluten-free diet is either essential to their health, or at least beneficial. According to the NFCA an estimated 3 million Americans have celiac disease, but this number is very likely much higher since a true diagnosis is still rare. Even without a diagnosis of celiac disease, it is estimated that over 20 million people are gluten sensitive to some degree.
But, let’s back up a little and start with a basic question; exactly what is gluten?
Gluten is the protein that forms the ‘glue’ which holds together foods such as bread, pasta, cakes, and cookies, and is most often found in wheat, barley, and rye. However, gluten is also found in surprising places such as salad dressings, mayonnaise, soy sauce, and some candies. Think about any foods which need to be emulsified, or held together, and you quite likely could find gluten. As you can see, for those who are sensitive or allergic to gluten, there are many foods to avoid.
Here is where we find hope. Yes, there is a grain that is gluten-free and the least allergic of all grains. It is a grain that is easy to cook, versatile enough to use in many recipes, is high in dietary fiber, nutrient dense, fat free, and packed with delicious goodness. That grain is rice.
Brown rice and enriched white rice can be an essential food in every pantry – even, and especially, for those with gluten sensitivity. Instead of feeling denied, people who need to avoid gluten can feast on a variety of dishes, both savory and sweet, made with rice and rice products. However, do be aware that when you buy rice products, check the label. If the product doesn’t say ‘gluten-free’ then the manufacturer has added ingredients for binding or flavoring that may contain gluten.
With that said, buying plain brown or white rice is always a good choice. There is no need to buy prepackaged rice dishes when it’s so easy to cook up a batch of rice and store it in the refrigerator or freezer for a quick gluten-free meal. Now you can grab cooked rice cold out of the refrigerator and toss it together with a mixture of vegetables for a fresh salad. Or stuff some green or red bell peppers with a rice mixture and enjoy a hot meal. You can even create a sweet and creamy rice pudding with fruit and berries for a late night snack or dessert.
Gluten-free living doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice that oh-so-yummy-full-tummy feeling when a meal truly satisfies. That lovely feeling of satisfaction comes from the complex carbs that whole grains provide. Thankfully for those sensitive to gluten, and for all of us, rice provides those ‘good carbs’ that we need, all bundled into a delicious, nutritious, gluten-free superfood!
Whether you have been diagnosed with celiac disease or you suspect you are gluten sensitive, try adding gluten-free rice to your diet. You’ll not only enjoy a new, wide range of rice dishes, but all the nutritious goodness that goes along with them!