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Written by Alison Mooradian   
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Friday, 05 January 2018

White Flour Alternatives

Flour – the building block for so many delicious foods. Pasta, cupcakes, bread, you name it! However, is conventional flour—typically referred to as white flour—a healthy option, and are there healthier alternatives?

Conventional/White Flour

Conventional flour, also known as white flour, is what we think of when we think of flour: snow-white and usually made from wheat berry. However, when I looked into how white flour is made, I found that there are far more variations than I had thought. All-purpose white flour can be unbleached, meaning it has been naturally bleached, or bleached, meaning it has been bleached with chemicals. A few of the toxic chemicals used to bleach flour include chlorine dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, potassium bromate, and azodicarbonamide. The use of azodicarbonamide in food is banned in the European Union and Australia.1

White Flour i

In addition to bleaching, much of the white flour found in supermarkets has been bromated. This means it has been treated with potassium bromate to make dough rise more reliably. In theory, the potassium bromate is supposed to disappear as the dough bakes. However, if any is left behind, it can have harmful effects due to it being a possible carcinogen. Bromate has been banned in the United Kingdom and Canada since 1994.2

Lastly, white flour lacks nutrition. Wheat berry, also known as wheat kernels, have three parts: the bran, the germ, and the endosperm. Unfortunately, through the process of creating white flour, the nutritious bran and germ are removed, leaving only the endosperm.3

If you are buying white flour, make sure to read the ingredient label and find unbleached and unbromated flour. Also avoid flour that has the word “enriched” on the label.4>

Healthy Alternatives

Luckily, there are many healthy alternatives to buying white flour!

Almond Flour: Almond flour is made from ground up almonds. It has a sweet flavor and rich texture that can mimic all-purpose white flour. It is also high in fat and protein.5

Coconut Flour iii
Coconut Flour: Coconut flour is made from ground up coconut. Although it produces fluffy baked goods, it can be confusing for people to work with because it soaks up a great deal of moisture. Compared to white flour, you need much less coconut flour in proportion to wet ingredients. While it works well for cake and muffin recipes, it can’t produce crunchy baked goods the way that almond flour can.6

Almond and coconut flour are two of the most popular alternatives to white flour. However, while great options, almond and coconut flour are not the best options for everyone. For instance, those with nut allergies cannot eat almond flour. Some also have trouble digesting these two types of flour. For some people, the type of protein found in almond flour is difficult for them to digest. Almonds are also high in omega-6 fatty acids but not omega-3 fatty acids, which means they can be a source of inflammation for some people. For others, the high amount of fiber found in coconut flour will not be beneficial for them if they have a gut infection. Some people also find the flavor of coconut flour to be overpowering. In these cases, there are other, lesser-known options.7

Cassava Flour: Cassava flour is made from the cassava root, a tropical plant, and is grain-free and nut-free. It also behaves very similarly to all-purpose white flour in many recipes. This type of flour is a good source of carbohydrates and contains resistant starch, which is good for our gut bacteria. However, this type of flour should only be used occasionally so as not to overdo the starch.8

Plantain Flour: Plantain flour contains fiber, potassium, magnesium, iron, and vitamins C, B6, and A. It is also a good source of carbohydrates and resistant starch like cassava flour. It is a dense flour and may need extra moisture in a recipe.9

Cricket Flour: Flour made from crickets is rich in protein, vitamin B12, and essential amino acids. However, if you are allergic to shellfish, you may not be able to eat cricket flour because crickets are crustaceans.10 Cricket flour is a new product that has great potential as a sustainable and healthy food option. For more on where to locate cricket flour products, you can visit the Bitty Food website.11

Cricket Flour iii

Which type of flour is healthiest?
Any of these alternatives will most likely be healthier options than baking with conventional white flour. However, at the end of the day, you want to make sure you are eating a well-balanced diet that uses a wide variety of quality foods. For instance, if you are only eating muffins made with coconut flour, you will not be receiving all of the nutrients your body needs to be healthy. There are of course always more alternatives to white flour if you find creative recipes, so get out there and experiment!

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Last Updated ( Thursday, 04 January 2018 )