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Gluten-free? Not all ancient grains are your friends, here’s our guide


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Photo: Stocksy/Harald Walker

If you’re new to living a life sans gluten, chances are you’re still experimenting with different grains and doing some in-the-moment Googling while you’re at the grocery store. Gluten, that sneaky protein found primarily in wheat products, can pop up in unexpected places, including several ancient grains you might not expect. Among them: barley, bulgur, and farro.

While millet, quinoa, teff, buckwheat, sorghum, and rice are all gluten-free, farro doesn’t fall into the same camp. Farro is hulled wheat, and wheat (drumroll) has gluten. It’s got a slightly nutty flavor and is kind of chewy, so it pairs well with pretty much every protein and veggie mix, and you can use it similar to other grains such as quinoa and rice. (BTW farro and spelt are essentially the same thing, so if you’re avoiding gluten, anything with either label is a no-go.)

If you aren’t gluten-free, farro actually could make a great addition to your diet; it’s actually more nutrient-dense than rice and one serving has six grams of protein, five grams of fiber, and it’s also a good source of vitamin B, magnesium, and zinc.

If you’re living a gluten-free life, however, there are other ways to get these nutrients (millet also has six grams of protein per serving while quinoa has four grams of protein and three grams of fiber), but unless you’ve got a gluten intolerance, there’s no need to nix the nutrient-rich grain from your diet if you don’t have to.

The takeaway: Farro is a great grain—if you’re cool with gluten. If you’re GF, you’re better off with quinoa, teff, buckwheat, and sorghum, all of which are full of nutrients, can be prepared similarly, and won’t backfire and give you any digestive probs.

Speaking of living a gluten-free life, here are common mistakes even healthy GF eaters make. And check out this ultimate gluten-free flour guide.

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