Gluten-Free Trend Doesn’t Have to be Less Nutritious, Higher in Carbohydrates Says the USCP

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Sorghum and sorghum flour provide a healthy gluten-free, whole grain option

With the U.S. market for gluten-free foods reaching $2.6 billion in 2010, according to Packaged Facts, this trend in which people reduce or eliminate their consumption of wheat, barley and rye has gone mainstream, says the USCP.

Whether suffering from celiac disease, which involves an autoimmune reaction to the gluten in wheat, or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, or just by choice, consumer interest in gluten-free foods is expected to continue and exceed $5 billion by 2015.

That said, the popularity of gluten-free has caused some to question the healthfulness of gluten-free foods and products. This includes claims that some gluten-free products substitute wheat flour with ingredients unusually high in carbohydrates, like potato, rice or corn starch, thus leading to a spike in blood sugar and ultimately weight gain. But that doesn’t have to be the case.
Sorghum’s Many Health Benefits

Enter sorghum, a lesser known cereal grain that is not only a gluten-free alternative for those suffering from celiac disease, but also a healthy whole grain option.

“Sorghum’s light color, pleasing texture and taste similar to wheat make it perfect for use in gluten-free baking,” said gluten-free expert and cookbook author Carol Fenster. “Plus, it is a healthier option when baking goodies for your loved ones since it has twice as much fiber and a third more protein than some other flours typically used in gluten-free baking.”

As a whole grain, sorghum is packed with nutrition. Rich in fiber, sorghum contains higher levels of antioxidants than most other grains, fruits and vegetables. Research has shown that antioxidants and polyphenolics found in foods are believed to offer many health benefits, including helping to lower the risk of cancer, diabetes, heart disease and some neurological diseases.

Sorghum also provides iron, calcium, potassium, protein, as well as polycosinol, which research has shown to lower serum cholesterol and may improve heart health.

And contrary to the perception of a blood sugar spike with some grains, research has shown that sorghum offers slow digestibility and a lower glycemic index. Foods with a lower glycemic index are believed to increase satiety which means people feel fuller longer, which can assist with weight management.

How to Bake/Cook With Sorghum
In substituting sorghum flour for wheat flour in baking, a combination of flours is often used. Premixed, all-purpose gluten-free flour blends are available in stores and online – or you can mix your own. Following is a sorghum blend often used by Fenster:

Sorghum Blend
1½ cups sorghum flour
1½ cups potato starch or cornstarch
1 cup tapioca flour
Makes 4 cups
Source: Carol Fenster, 1,000 Gluten-Free Recipes, Wiley, 2008 (Reprinted with Permission)

Because sorghum does not contain gluten, a “binder” such as xanthan gum or guar gum, must be added when baking to create a successful product. Add ½ teaspoon xanthan or guar gum per cup of sorghum flour for cookies and cakes or 1 teaspoon per cup of flour for breads.

Whole grain sorghum makes for a tasty rice-pilaf style dish or as a topper on salads or tabouleh. Simply soak in water overnight and drain. Then add 3 cups water or broth for every cup of sorghum in a pan, bring it to a boil and simmer for 40-45 minutes or until tender.

Where to Purchase Sorghum & Sorghum Flour
Sorghum flour often can be found in the healthy/whole foods section of the grocery store. It also is available online through companies such as Twin Valley Mills (, Authentic Foods (, and Bob’s Red Mill ( Whole grain sorghum also is available via Shiloh Farms ( or The Gluten-Free Mall (

For more information about sorghum and sorghum recipes, visit For additional recipes, check out one of Carol Fenster’s cookbooks or visit her website at

The United Sorghum Checkoff Program was established in 2008 under the authority of the Commodity Promotion, Research and Information Act of 1996. Funding for the checkoff is derived from value-based assessments on all grain sorghum and forage sorghum produced in the U.S., as well as from a similar assessment on imported grain sorghum. A 13-member producer board of directors administers the national checkoff program, subject to USDA approval.

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Julie Balmer
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