You Can Have Your Cake And Eat It Too, But It May Be Healthier With a Flour Alternative
By Joy Stephenson-Laws, J.D., Founder
I remember when for the most part ‘milk was just milk.’ What I mean by this is most people simply drank cow’s milk. Now, there are so many different types of milk that are readily available to us, including:
And the same goes for ‘good old white flour.’ There are now many white flour alternatives such as almond flour, spelt flour, oat flour, millet flour, rice flour, coconut flour, buckwheat flour, chickpea flour, amaranth flour, potato flour, quinoa flour, whole wheat flour and more. Let’s just say you have some options!
Well, to put it simply: white flour may not be good for optimal health. White floor is refined which means that it is processed. It is made from wheat grains, however, the bran and germ are removed (the parts of the grain that contain fiber, B vitamins, antioxidants, minerals and other nutrients). Usually called “all purpose four,” white flour may also be bleached. You can get unbleached flour and white flour that is enriched with nutrients (the package may read “enriched all purpose flour’), but it is always best to eat foods in their most natural form. Processing something and then adding the nutrients back in is not the same as eating an unprocessed food.
White flour is often one of the main ingredients in those store-bought processed foods that we are all encouraged to stay away from or only consume in very low amounts on special occasions. Some examples of these white flour foods include white bread and crackers, white pasta and cakes and other sweets such as donuts, cookies and pies.
If you are someone who needs to follow a gluten-free diet, white flour, whole wheat flour and wheat flour (the bran and germ are removed unlike whole wheat flour) may not be the flour choices for you. The good news is that there are plenty of gluten-free flour alternatives (more on that soon).
Because it lacks fiber, white flour may not be optimal for gut health. It’s hard to digest and may lead to weight gain if consumed regularly. In addition to this, white flour is especially not good for prediabetics and diabetics. Foods with white flour tend to be high glycemic index foods which may cause drastic fluctuations in blood sugar levels.
“In recent years, the pantry staple used for baking and making pasta has become a dietary public enemy, giving way to healthier nut and seed flours, such as almond, chickpea and even banana,” according to this recent Medical Xpress report that discusses refined flour substitutes.
“But figuring out how and when to replace white flour can feel overwhelming since flours are not necessarily interchangeable and can change the taste and texture of any given recipe.Moderation is key!
You cannot just use different flours interchangeably and expect the same results. Honestly, you would most likely come out with a batch of cookies or a cake that doesn’t taste right if the recipe uses white flour.
In the Medical Xpress report mentioned earlier, Mary Ellen Camire, a professor of food science and human nutrition at the University of Maine in Orono, gave some advice on how to navigate this flour conundrum.
She suggests not to completely avoid white or all purpose flour.
“While refined grains contain less fiber and can spike blood sugar levels, which is stored as body fat, they can still be consumed in moderation. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend eating three servings of whole grains a day and less than three servings of refined grains, all-purpose flour or white rice,” according to the report.
There are many gluten-free bloggers who bake or food bloggers who prefer to use flour alternatives. They offer their recipes and guidance for free! Almond flour, for example, is simply finely ground almonds. Check out this recipe for almond flour chocolate chip cookies.
(Store almond flour in the refrigerator to extend its shelf life).
It may take some time for your tastebuds to adjust. So many of us are conditioned to eat white flour after consuming it for years (often since childhood). But I don’t think it will take years for you to actually prefer these flour alternatives.
Brown rice flour is also a good gluten-free flour that is nice for baking cookies and cupcakes, according to the Medical Xpress report.
“Buckwheat flour, which is made from ground buckwheat and is a good source of fiber and protein, has become popular because it is used to make traditional Japanese soba noodles and pancakes,” the report states.
“Coconut flour, made from dried and ground up coconuts, is packed with fiber and healthy fats and is a suitable option for those with nut allergies.”
There really is something for everyone. The key is to select a flour that you think would best fit your health and dietary needs, get it approved by your doctor or a competent healthcare professional and explore different ways to use it. Maybe try a new recipe each week. Before you know it, you won’t even miss using white flour.
If quinoa flour (also gluten-free) is something that interests you and sounds good to you, check out this extensive guide on how to use quinoa flour for baking and cooking.
Finding healthier alternatives to some of our favorite, go-to processed food items is a great way to be proactive about our health but still have our cake and eat it too!
Enjoy your healthy life!
Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical advice. Please consult with your doctor or another competent healthcare practitioner to get specific medical advice for your situation.
The pH professional health care team includes recognized experts from a variety of health care and related disciplines, including physicians, attorneys, nutritionists, nurses and certified fitness instructors. This team also includes the members of the pH Medical Advisory Board, which constantly monitors all pH programs, products and services. To learn more about the pH Medical Advisory Board, click here.