If you're looking to avoid gluten or simply want to add some variety to your plate, add quinoa to your cart. Quinoa is a naturally gluten-free seed (yes, it's technically a seed) that's safe for those with gluten intolerance or sensitivity, according to the Celiac Disease Foundation.
However, not all products or quinoa blends are necessarily free of gluten, so you should check for gluten-free labels on your quinoa packaging. Likewise, at a restaurant, you'll want to verify your quinoa is prepared separately from gluten-containing ingredients such as wheat, rye or barley.
Why You Should Include Quinoa in a Gluten-Free Diet
When it comes to the many marvelous types of grains, knowing which varieties do and don't contain gluten requires some memorization. Alongside gluten-free buckwheat (yes, buckwheat is gluten-free even though the word 'wheat' is within its name), quinoa is another you can add to the gluten-free list.
Quinoa is high in fiber, iron and magnesium, according to the Whole Grains Council. You'll get about 3 grams of fiber total, which is about 12 percent of your daily recommended value, per 1/4 cup of uncooked quinoa.
Quinoa is also one of the only plant-based sources of complete protein, meaning it contains all nine essential amino acids that your body can't produce on its own. You'll get about 6 total grams of complete protein per serving.
If you haven't eaten quinoa before and have a gluten intolerance or sensitivity, introduce it into your diet gradually, recommends Joanna Foley, RD. "Quinoa should be well tolerated by most people with gluten sensitivity, yet should be introduced gradually and in small portions to allow the body to become familiar," she says. "Always pay close attention to symptoms, since it is possible to develop sensitivities to many foods."
Verifying Your Quinoa Is Gluten-Free
In its natural form, quinoa is gluten-free. However, quinoa can be exposed to gluten-containing ingredients either during preparation or during manufacturing, according to the Celiac Disease Foundation. So, if you're at a restaurant, you'll want to verify that your quinoa is prepared on separate surfaces and with separate utensils.
When buying packaged quinoa, check the container to make sure it's safe from cross-contamination. If your package is labeled gluten-free, that means it contains less than 20 parts per million (ppm) of gluten, making it generally safe for consumption, according to the FDA.
In some cases, your quinoa may even have a Certified Gluten-Free seal on the package. In that case, the product has been tested by the Gluten-Free Certification Organization (GFCO), which looks for even more stringent standards. Any foods certified by the GFCO contain less than 10 ppm of gluten, according to GFCO.
You'll also want to verify that your quinoa only contains quinoa. Some packaged quinoa is blended with other grains, which may not be gluten-free. Also, avoid buying your quinoa from bulk bins at the grocery store, recommends the Celiac Disease Foundation. These containers make cross-contamination more likely.
Start with these gluten-free products from trusted brands and get cooking.
Better Body Foods Organic Quinoa
With no preservatives or additives, Better Body Foods' organic quinoa is gluten-free, making it safe for most people with gluten-sensitivity to consume.
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $16.03
Paul's Finest Precooked Quinoa
Paul's Finest quinoa is precooked and can be prepared in just about 10 minutes. You can also rest assured that this variety is gluten-free, containing only cooked quinoa on the ingredient label.
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $4.19
Anthony's Organic White Quinoa
Anthony's organic quinoa is verified gluten-free, confirming the product complies with the FDA's standards for gluten-free labeling.
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $14.89
How to Prepare Quinoa
Before cooking quinoa, you'll want to rinse it to help remove the natural coating (saponin) that can cause it to taste bitter or soapy. To cook it, you'll need about 2 cups of liquid to 1 cup of dried quinoa, according to the Whole Grains Council. When it's cooked, quinoa is typically a little firmer than rice and a little more versatile, making a great warm or cold addition to salads, grain bowls and even yogurt parfaits.
Try This Gluten-Free Quinoa Recipe
This quinoa porridge makes the perfect breakfast dish, with 63 grams of carbs, 18 grams of fat and 17 grams of protein. Plus, it only takes about 22 minutes to prepare.
Unlike most breakfast recipes (which are usually low in protein), this porridge is sure to keep you satiated throughout your morning. Not to mention, this dish serves up 8 grams of fiber, which makes up about 32 percent of your daily needs.
Get the Quinoa Porridge recipe and nutrition info here.