Healthy Alternatives to White Flour
For years, white flour has been a staple in households across the World. From breads, pastas, pizzas and pastry – it is everywhere. White flour is refined to the point that it is stripped off all fiber, vitamins and minerals – it provides empty calories. Foods high in white flour have a high glycemic index and cause sudden spikes in blood sugar levels. Regular consumption of white flour is thus linked to overeating, insulin resistance and other modifiable diseases. Luckily, recent and ongoing advancements in Nutrition make it possible for us to enjoy the ease and taste of staple foods without the use of white flour. I don’t remember the last time I consumed white flour! In this article, I will guide you through a few major healthy alternatives to white flour.
Made purely of almonds, Almond flour is fit for paleo and gluten free cooking. A ¼ cup serving is 150 calories, contains 6 grams of carbs and 3 grams of fiber. With just 3 grams net carbs per serving, it is a great option for low carb diets. Almonds are a great source of Vitamin E which promotes healthy glowing skin and prevents inflammation.
Tigernut is a holy grail for people with nut allergies. Though its name suggests otherwise, Tigernut is a root vegetable and not a nut. A 1/4th cup serving provides a whooping 10 grams of fiber and 7 grams of heart healthy oleic acid and monounsaturated fats which benefit against bad low density lipoproteins (LDL) and cholesterol.
Coconut is a superfood we all are grateful for and you can reap its benefits in flour form too! Coconut flour is low carb and provides 10 grams fiber, 6 grams of protein and 20% of your daily iron needs. Moreover, it packs medium chain triglycerides (MCTs) which are known to protect against heart disease. I love baking with coconut flour as it has a mildly sweet taste.
Did you know that Buckwheat is actually gluten free? Buckwheat cooks and bakes very closely to flour and has a rich, nutty flavour. With 13 grams of protein and 10 grams of fiber per 1/4th cup serving, it is a powerhouse of nutrients. However, since Buckwheat is comparatively higher in calories and carbohydrates, I usually mix it with another low carb flour for an ideal blend.
A serving of gluten free oat flour contains 112 calories, 4 grams of protein and 2.5 grams of dietary fiber. Though oat flour is a significant source of carbohydrates, it contains very high quality complex carbs that help stabilize blood sugar levels and keep you full for longer. A pro tip I swear by is to add a spoon of Oat bran to boost the fiber content of the flour mix.
Cassava flour is a lesser known gluten free alternative made from fibrous Cassava root. It is non-allergenic (gluten, grain and nut free) and low in calories with just 120 calories per 1/4th cup serving. Moreover, Cassava flour meets 71% of your daily vitamin C and 40% of your daily manganese requirements.
Typically, you will find two forms of spelt flour on shelves – whole and refined. Whole spelt is the healthier choice as it is a great source of fiber. It is important to know that spelt flour is not gluten free and cannot be used by people intolerant to gluten. An advantage of spelt over other flours is that per 1/4th cup provides just 1 gram of fat. It also covers 8% of your daily iron needs which facilitates red blood cell turnover.
Tapioca flour is a starchy white flour that wonderfully binds gluten free recipes thus improving the texture of baked goods. I use it to thicken my sauces too. It is a great option for weight loss as 1/4th cup contains only 93 calories. Tapioca flour is best used complementary to a mix of other flours as by itself it is not that nutritious – it contains no protein and fiber.
Similar to Tapioca flour, Arrowroot is paleo friendly, gluten free and grain free. It is great for binding soups and thickening sauces as an alternative to corn flour. Arrowroot provides a whooping 338 µg or 84% of daily required levels of folate which facilitates DNA synthesis and cell division.