Looking to stick to your nutrition plan without the sacrifice of losing all your favorite recipes? Typical all-purpose white flour is high in gluten and contains neither the germ (the sprouting part) nor the bran (the outer coating) of wheat. 95% of the nutrients in all-purpose flour are enriched (nutrients were re-added after being removed in processing). It is a source of several B vitamins and iron. Though the added vitamins may make this seem like a good option, refined grains can act like sugar in the body, leading to weight gain and inflammation.
Alternative flours are a viable option for creating some of your favorite dishes without breaking your macros. That said, some of these flours may be better suited for some recipes then others. Whole wheat flour is like all-purpose flour’s higher fiber cousin. That said, the presence of bran inhibits gluten development, which means denser bakes. You may want to start by replacing half of the flour in your bread, scone, and muffin recipes with whole wheat flour. Using finely ground whole wheat pastry flour is a better option for cookies and cupcakes.
✓ Oat Flour
Don’t have time to go shopping? You might be able to use something you already have in the cabinet. You can buy oat flour but if you have oats hanging out in your pantry, grind them into a powder in your blender for the same result. One 1/4 cups of oats will yield 1 cup oat flour. This also tends to be sweeter than whole wheat flour. Being gluten free may result in crumbly bakes if more liquid ingredients are not added.
✓ Durum Wheat
Maybe you’re looking forward to some Italian dishes. Semolina may be a key ingredient. Durum wheat is the hardest variety of wheat. Due to this semolina flour is digested slowly. It also contains trace minerals like zinc and magnesium which are key players for bone and nervous system health. This is rarely used to make bread but you can also use it like cornmeal and dust it onto surfaces to prevent sticking.
✓ Spelt Flour
The final grain based flour on our chart is spelt flour. Spelt is known as an ancient grain as it was one of the first crops in recorded history. It does contain some gluten, but seems to be better tolerated than most wheat flours. It is thought to aid circulation, boost the immune system, promote strong bones, and aid digestion. It is important to make sure there is no moisture in the package, and to store it in a dark, cool place. Whole spelt flour is the healthier alternative to white spelt. It is important to avoid over kneading because of its fragile structure. Spelt flour can be used in replacement of traditional flour in any recipe in a smaller quantity due to its increased water solubility. This may also be a good alternative to whole wheat flour due to its light texture.
If you are looking to reduce carbohydrates in your diet, you may be seeking some non-grain alternatives. Coconut flour, peanut flour, and almond flour are some such options.
✓ Coconut Flour
It is a gluten free flour that absorbs a lot of liquid. Extra eggs are typically added to bind the ingredients and prevent crumbling. This flour is low in fat, while still containing all the protein, fiber and nutrients you would expect from peanuts.
✓ Peanut Flour
This is sold in light and dark roasts with the darker roasts being more “peanut buttery.”
✓ Almond Flour
The higher fat content in almond flour can result in a more cake-y texture. If you are using this in your old recipes, you’ll want to remove a tablespoon of oil for every 1/4 cup. Again, you may need more eggs to compensate for the gluten free mixture. This flour also contains manganese and vitamin E, as well as monounsaturated fats. Though almond flour seems like a wonderful low carb option to bake with, there is some controversy around its use. For example, one cup of almond flour is about the same as eating 90 almonds. Therefore, you may be consuming more polyunsaturated fats than your body needs as 20% of the fat in almonds is polyunsaturated. This would normally not be a big deal, except for the fact that the typical American diet is high in this type of fat. Unbalanced consumption of polyunsaturated fats and monounsaturated fats could lead to an inflammatory response in the body as well as encouraging estrogen dominance in the body.
Moderate Carbohydrate Alternatives
That leaves us with chickpea flour and banana flour. These are both moderate carbohydrate alternative flours. Indian and Middle Eastern dishes have been utilizing chickpea flour for ages, but it is now gaining popularity as a gluten free, high protein, high iron and high fiber option. It has a mild flavor, making it very versatile for both sweet and savory dishes. Some less obvious dishes you can make using chickpea flour include, chickpea tofu, chewy cookies, and chickpea fettuccine.
In contrast to chickpea flour, banana flour is just now gaining popularity in cooking. As a result, you may find it difficult to find in your local grocery store and may need to order it online. This gluten free high potassium flour is a prebiotic known as resistant starch. Resistant starch promotes growth of good bacteria in the gut. Surprisingly, this has a bran like taste rather than a banana like taste. When utilized as a flour substitute, 25% less should be utilized.
Take Home Message
You shouldn’t have to sacrifice your favorite foods in regardless of what type of diet you are following. With so many different options available for flours, there are great tasting and healthy recipes to fit your macros. Check out the PDF below for more information on the alternative flour types discussed here.