Gluten is a plant protein found in grains such as wheat, barley and rye. Some people are intolerant to gluten because it can trigger an allergic-like reaction within the intestines. Natural brown rice is gluten-free, although some prepared mixes contain wheat products or are contaminated by other grains. Making your own brown rice at home is the best way to ensure a gluten-free meal.
All forms of rice are gluten-free in their natural state, and this includes white, brown, basmati or even exotic black varieties. Brown rice is different from white rice because it contains the whole grain. The milling process only removes the inedible husk of the kernel and leaves behind the bran. Brown rice is more nutritious in terms of fiber, B vitamins and some minerals compared to polished or “sticky” white rice. Brown rice is a healthy replacement for wheat, barley or rye grains if you are sensitive to gluten.
Plain brown rice cooked in water is safe and gluten-free, but prepared rice mixes often contain gluten because it acts as a thickening agent and an additional source of protein. Sometimes gluten is also found in flavored brown rice in the form of malt, which is made from barley grain. Most wild rice blends are gluten-free, but some brands contain barley grains, so read the labels carefully if gluten causes intestinal symptoms after you eat it.
Gluten is a protein that’s not very well digested by some people. Foreign protein that’s not broken down into amino acids triggers an inflammatory reaction in your intestines. Whether consumption of gluten causes celiac disease is often debated back among nutritionists and doctors, but gluten does worsen the symptoms of celiac disease. Common symptoms of celiac disease include abdominal pain, bloating, gas and diarrhea. Gluten may also be related to other autoimmune conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis.
People with severe gluten intolerance are sensitive to even the slightest contamination, so restaurant dining can be a risky venture. Contamination takes place when brown rice is cooked with grains, vegetables or spices that contain some thickening agents. Reusing hot water from pasta to cook brown rice may be enough to trigger a negative gluten reaction. Limit the amount of times you eat at restaurants and cook more meals at home where you can control the ingredients and methods of preparation. You can also grind brown rice into flour and use it to make bread, pasta and milk substitutes.
- Contemporary Nutrition: Functional Approach; Gordon M. Wardlaw et al.
- Encyclopedia of Human Nutrition; Benjamin Caballero et al.
- Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine; A. Fauci et al.
Sirah Dubois is currently a PhD student in food science after having completed her master's degree in nutrition at the University of Alberta. She has worked in private practice as a dietitian in Edmonton, Canada and her nutrition-related articles have appeared in The Edmonton Journal newspaper.