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Why Eating Ancient Whole Grains Is A Gluten-Free Solution

Whether you have a gluten-free diet or not, these grains can make a huge different in any athlete's diet.

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gluten-free runner
If you are spending time trying to find out if you have food intolerances, this is for you. Especially those of you who have an inkling that you may be gluten intolerant.
Jill Motew, founder of Zemas Madhouse Foods, has gone through this intolerance personally (as has her family) and the solution for them has been ancient whole grains. She created the line of baking mixes to meet the food demands of her five kids, four of whom are elite athletes. We talked to her about how to recognize a wheat or grain intolerance, why ancient whole grains are a great solution and even have a recipe so you can try it out for yourself.

What are some allergens in grains that people may encounter that they may not know about?
There are many ways people may start to notice an intolerance to wheat or grains that contain gluten. For two of my kids, it was intense rashes/hives all over their bodies with swelling. When the dermatologist couldn’t find anything that would have caused this reaction, I put them on an elimination diet. I removed dairy and gluten from their diets, one at a time, for a 30-day trial. After determining that gluten was the culprit, they have now been rash free for more than 10 years.

When I eat gluten, I experience headaches, bloating and stomach cramps—sometimes for up to three days. If you experience similar symptoms, I suggest talking to your doctor. A simple blood test will show if you have Celiac Disease, which can be the cause of these issues. If you do not test positive for Celiac, I always recommend an elimination diet. Eliminate one food group at a time for a full 30 days—then reintroduce it back into your diet to see if the negative symptoms return.

Allergen-free grains are readily available in most grocery stores. However, purchasing gluten-free, ancient whole grains and trying to re-create your favorite recipes from scratch can be time intensive and expensive. I know from experience that there will be more fails than successes. The best way to incorporate ancient whole grains into your diet is with mixes like Zemas Madhouse Foods, or by following a few knowledgeable bloggers that have a similar eating philosophy and journey as you.

How does using ancient whole grains improve someone’s diet?
Ancient whole grains are more wholesome than regular grains. Ancient whole grains, whether you are eating them for a gluten-free diet or not, contain vitamins, minerals, healthy fats, fiber and protein, which are lacking in common white, starchy flours. By eating grains like teff flour, quinoa flour, millet flour, sorghum flour and buckwheat flour like those found in my Zemas baking mixes, you are filling yourself with real grains that provide nutritious value while filling you up. They are also naturally gluten free so are safe for gluten-free diets and those with Celiac Disease. It’s important to keep in mind that white grains like rice flour, potato starch and corn starch contain less nutritious value. So even if you’re not gluten-free, eating ancient whole grains is the best option for your diet.

What should people know when cooking with ancient whole grains?
Baking with ancient whole grain flours produces a heartier, yet soft, cell structure for the finished product.

Regular flours with gluten contain a particular protein that creates the elasticity we all love in freshly baked breads. Gluten-free, ancient whole grains do not contain that same protein, so it’s important to find the right balance of other ingredients to achieve a similar chewiness. Achieving the perfect balance for each recipe can be very difficult and is what creates the most failures for home bakers with little or no experience in baking with gluten-free flours.

Try It Yourself: Peanut Butter Brownies
Made with Zemas Black Bean Brownie Mix

Note From Jill: After a long run or tough workout, a healthy, protein-packed peanut butter brownie is one of my favorite treats. The additional protein and healthy fats in this recipe make it perfect for pre- and post-workout. The black beans and peanut butter (of course, you can use any nut or seed butter) provide amazing muscle building and repairing nutrients, big flavor and moisture for the brownie. They freeze great so it’s easy to make a big batch and save the rest for later.


  • Zemas Gluten-Free Black Bean Brownie mix
  • ½ c. black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 10 oz. water
  • 1 T. pure vanilla extract + ½ t. pure vanilla extract
  • 6 T. butter, melted (regular or dairy-free)
  • 2 T. oil of choice (grapeseed, olive, coconut)
  • ½ c. powder sugar
  • ¾ c. smooth peanut butter or chunky
  • ¼ t. salt
  • ½ t. pure vanilla extract
  • ½ c. peanuts, crushed (unless using crunchy peanut butter)


  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray mini-muffin pans with non-stick cooking spray.
  • In a blender combine the black beans, water and 1 T. vanilla.
  • Blend well and then pour into the dry mix, mix well.
  • In a mixing bowl combine butter, oil, powder sugar, peanut butter, salt, ½ t. vanilla and peanuts, blending well for filling.
  • Pour batter into prepared muffin pan, ½ full. Drop about 1-2 teaspoons of peanut butter filling into each muffin cup and swirl with a toothpick.
  • Bake for about 12-14 minutes. Let cool before serving.