The Top 5 Grain Replacements

From Dr. Josh Axe, DNM, DC, CNS

If you’ve been following the Paleo, gluten-free, GAPS, or ketogenic diet craze, you know that many people are shunning grains these days. And under the right circumstances, this simple act can provide a significant health boost, as many people have trouble digesting grains (especially those that aren’t sprouted) and find that eliminating them can help easy tummy troubles like Crohn’s Disease and irritable bowel syndrome, while also helping to heal leaky gut.

And the good news is that there are plenty of grain replacements that taste great while also providing nutrient and antioxidant benefits. By replacing your inflammatory grains with these grain-free flours, seeds and starchy vegetables, you can also replace bloating, digestive problems, fatigue, and discomfort with increased energy, weight loss, and overall improved health.

Coconut flour

Coconut flour may be my all-time favorite grain replacement because it’s high in fiber, protein, and healthy fats, making it a perfect ketogenic diet food, or ideal addition to any low-carb, grain-free lifestyle. Coconut flour also offers an immense amount of health benefits, including boosting metabolism, maintaining healthy blood sugar levels, and improving digestion.

Baking with coconut flour can be tricky because coconut flour is extremely absorbent—meaning it’s not a one-to-one sub for regular wheat flour. In general, ¼ cup coconut flour is needed to replace one cup of wheat or all-purpose flour. You’ll also have to increase the liquids or eggs in your recipe to keep your final product moist. Looking for a good coconut flour recipe to get started with? Try my Chocolate-Caramel Coconut Flour Brownies.

Root vegetables

Root vegetables make a viable alternative to grains because they are a natural source of complex carbohydrates, antioxidants, and other vital nutrients. In general, they also tend to be lower in calories, have a lower glycemic index load, and cause less digestive or inflammatory issues than many grains. Eating root vegetables can also help you feel fuller, longer because of their high fiber content, and the surplus of vitamins A and C they contain can help you lose weight, maintain healthy skin and eyes, lower cholesterol, and improve heart health.

Roasted sweet potatoes are the perfect side dish for any meal, from burgers to grilled fish. You can also use a spiralizer to turn sweet potatoes, parsnips, and carrots into delicious and grain-free noodles.

Buckwheat

Contrary to its name, buckwheat actually contains no gluten or wheat. It’s actually a seed that provides so many nutritional and antioxidant benefits, it’s one of my favorite unsung superfoods. Buckwheat contains B vitamins and minerals such as manganese, magnesium, zinc, iron, and folate. It also helps lower cholesterol and blood pressure levels, improve digestion, and may even help fight diseases.

Buckwheat can replace grains in a number of different ways. Raw buckwheat groats (the hulled buckwheat grains, dried and unprocessed) can be added to salads or chilis, while creamy, cooked buckwheat is perfect for porridges or oatmeals. Buckwheat can also be used in baking, and if you can find traditional, Japanese Soba noodles that are wheat-free, buckwheat is also a great pasta replacement.

Cauliflower

Cauliflower is the darling of the health food world right now — and for good reason. This versatile veggies can be used in variety of ways to help you enjoy your favorite foods with a grain-fee spin. As an added bonus, when opting for cauliflower over grains you provide your body with vitamins C and K, which help preserve eye health, balance hormones, aid in weight loss, and fight inflammation.

Cauliflower makes a great pizza crust alternative, allowing you to load up on your favorite toppings without the guilt. And if you’re looking for a rice replacement for your favorite stir fries, simply pulse raw cauliflower florets in a food processor until it looks like grains of rice, then microwave or sauté until tender. Short on time? Many grocery stores have started carrying this paleo-approved rice alternative in the produce aisle or freezer section.

Cassava flour

Gluten- and grain-free bakers love cassava flour for it’s easy-to-use texture and mild taste. Cassava flour is also one of the only flours that works as a 1:1 substitution for wheat and all-purpose flours. And it’s great for you.

One cup of raw cassava provides 71 percent of your daily recommended value of vitamin C. For that reason, cassava flour may help fight free radical damage, boost immunity, and promote healthy skin and collagen formation. Although cassava flour provides little other nutrients, it allows you to enjoy baked goods that are low in calories, fat, and sugar—and at a reasonable price. For that reason alone, cassava flour definitely makes my list of favorite grain replacements.

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