Grains are the seeds or fruit of plants in the grass family. Like a fruit, a grain has three parts, the germ or seed, the skin or bran, and the nutrient part of the package, the endosperm, used to feed the seed or germ (like the flesh of a peach, or the yolk of an egg), until it forms roots with which it can begin to draw its own nutrients from the soil. In their full form (whole) they contain the best nutrition for us.
The bran is fibrous and contains most of the B vitamins.
The germ is comprised of unsaturated fat, protein, minerals and vitamin E as well as some B.
The endosperm is carbohydrate containing amino acids or protein as well as B vitamins.
The whole grain contains other beneficial ingredients described as phytonutrients made up of things like lignans, phytoestrogens and phenolic compounds.
Processing whole grains removes the bran, and therefore, all the fiber and most of the B vitamins. Delicate phytonutrient content is lost. Very often much of the germ is removed, or the heat (involved in the grinding that it takes to remove the bran) destroys the nutrient content of the germ. Vitamins like E are easily destroyed by heat.
What you are left with is a carbohydrate fairly low in nutrition and lacking in fiber. Unfortunately for the Gluten Free individual, many of the breads, mixes or cereals available to us tend to be comprised of a lot of cornstarch, potato starch, tapioca starch and/or white rice flour, all of which are lacking in significant nutritional value.
Nutrient Content of Gluten-Free Whole Grains
Grain Fiber Calcium Iron Magnesium Zinc Thiamine Riboflavin Niacin Folate
(1 cup raw) (g) (mg) (mg) (mg) (mg) (mg) (mg) (mg) (mcg)
Amaranth 18 298 14.8 519 6.2 0.16 0.41 2.5 96
Buckwheat 17 31 3.7 393 4.1 0.17 0.72 11.9 51
Millet 17 16 6.0 228 3.4 0.84 0.58 9.4 170
Oats 16.5 54 7.4 276 6.2 1.19 0.22 1.50 87
Rice, brown 6.5 63 3.4 272 3.8 0.79 0.08 8.19 38
Quinoa 10 102 15.7 357 5.6 0.34 0.67 5.0 83
Sorghum 12 54 8.5 n/a n/a 0.46 0.27 5.6 38
Teff* 11 331 12 342 8.8 0.70 0.20 2.7 135
Wild rice 9.9 34 3.1 283 9.5 0.18 0.42 10.8 152
Compare to Wheat:
Durum n/a 65 6.7 276 8.0 0.80 0.23 12.9 83
All data, unless otherwise noted, obtained from USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference at
*Data obtained from Gluten-Free Diet: A Comprehensive Resource Guide by Shelley Case
So adding whole grains to existing recipes, sprouted in salads, or creating new dishes using whole grains is very important.
I obtained a lot of information from the following site: October 2006 – Pagano, A., Whole Grains and the Gluten-Free Diet, Practical Gastroenterology 2006:XXX(10): 66