Flour is one of the essential ingredients for making many products. However, some types of flour are healthier than others. For example, white and all-purpose flours are less healthy as they are refined to remove the bran and germ from the wheat, which stores most of its fiber and nutrients. For this reason, many people are looking for healthier alternatives to white flour. Some popular flours lately are not made from grains, but from nuts or seeds. Some of them and their nutritional values:
1. Coconut flour
Coconut flour is a grain and gluten-free flour made by grinding the dried coconut meat into a soft, fine powder. It is more calorie-dense than traditional grain-based flours and is a good source of protein, fat, fiber and minerals such as iron and potassium.
Unlike cereal flours, coconut flour contains a significant amount of fat. This fat is primarily saturated and largely composed of medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), which can reduce inflammation and support healthy metabolism. Although controversial, the saturated fat from coconut likely affects and may even benefit your health differently than fast food, fried foods, and processed meats. Coconut flour is also rich in antioxidants and appears to have antimicrobial properties.
A 1/2 cup (64 grams) serving provides:
Protein: 8.5 grams
Fat: 13 grams
Carbs: 34 grams
Fiber: 25 grams
Iron: 22% of the Daily Value (DV)
Potassium: 18% of the DV
Coconut flour has a slightly sweet flavor suitable for muffins, cookies, breads and other baked goods. It tends to have a gritty texture and absorb a lot of liquid, which can dry out some baked goods. Therefore, it works best in dishes that use eggs to retain moisture and structure, such as muffins.
When using coconut flour instead of wheat flour, use about 1/4 of what the recipe calls for, then replace the remaining 3/4 with another type of flour. Additionally, add 1 egg per 1/4 cup (32 grams) of coconut flour in baked goods, as it needs more liquid than other flours.
2. Almond flour
Almond flour is made by grinding blanched almonds into a fine powder. It is naturally gluten-free as it contains no grains. Almond flour is a good source of magnesium, omega-3 unsaturated fats, plant protein and vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant. Remember that almonds, like other nuts and seeds, are high in calories.
The nutrients in this flour offer several benefits, including improved insulin resistance, as well as lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and blood pressure. Almonds may also protect brain health, as vitamin E may reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s.
A 1/2 cup (56 grams) serving of almond flour:
Protein: 12 grams
Fat: 30 grams
Carbs: 12 grams
Fiber: 4 grams
Calcium: 5% of the DV
Iron: 6% of DV
Potassium: 8% of the DV
Magnesium: 65% of the DV
Vitamin E: 100% of the DV
Almond flour has a nutty flavor and is easy to use. In most recipes, you can use almond flour in equal parts instead of wheat flour. It is very useful in baked goods such as pancakes, cookies, doughnuts and biscuits, as well as some savory dishes such as homemade pasta and meatballs.
3. Quinoa flour
Quinoa flour is made by grinding quinoa to make a fine powder. This gluten-free pseudo-cereal is commonly considered a whole grain; this means it is not processed and refined leaving its original nutrients intact.
In particular, it is a good source of protein, fiber, iron and unsaturated fat. It also has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects that may benefit digestive health, inhibit tumor growth, and reduce overall disease risk.
A 1/2 cup (56 grams) serving of quinoa flour:
Protein: 8 grams
Fat: 2 grams
Carbs: 38 grams
Fiber: 6 grams
Iron: 33% of DV
Potassium: 4% of the DV
Quinoa flour gives baked goods a moist, soft texture. Replace with half the amount of wheat flour in most recipes. Some people find this flour bitter, but you can reduce the aftertaste by frying it in a dry skillet over medium heat for 5-10 minutes and stirring gently before adding it to your recipe. Quinoa flour can be a very good choice for pancakes, cakes, pizza and pies. You can also use it to thicken soups and sauces.
4. Buckwheat flour
Buckwheat flour is made from ground buckwheat, a plant known for its grain-like seeds. Despite its name, buckwheat has nothing to do with wheat and is therefore gluten-free. Buckwheat flour is a good source of fiber, protein and micronutrients such as manganese, magnesium, copper, iron and phosphorus. Research shows that this flour can reduce blood sugar and improve biomarkers of heart health in people with diabetes. It may also have anticancer, anti-inflammatory, and prebiotic properties. Prebiotics are a type of fiber that feeds the beneficial bacteria in your gut and supports digestive health.
A 1/2 cup (60 grams) serving of buckwheat flour:
Protein: 4 grams
Fat: 2 grams
Carbs: 44 grams
Fiber: 6 grams
Iron: 17% of DV
Manganese: 34% of DV
Magnesium: 33% of the DV
Copper: 73% of DV
Phosphorus: 17% of DV
For best results, buckwheat flour should be used with other whole grain flours, which make up 25-50% of the total flour in a recipe.
5. Whole wheat flour
Wheat flour is found in most baked goods you can find in bakeries and supermarkets. However, whole wheat and white flour are very different. The whole wheat version is made by grinding whole wheat grains into a powder, while white flour removes the most nutrient-rich parts – the bran and germ. For this reason, whole wheat flour is widely considered healthier. It is a good source of protein, fiber and various vitamins and minerals. Because it contains gluten, it is not suitable for people with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity.
1/2 cup (60 grams) serving of 100% whole wheat flour:
Protein: 8 grams
Fat: 0 grams
Carbs: 42 grams
Fiber: 8 grams
Iron: 11% of DV
Potassium: 5% of the DV
Whole wheat flour can be used in equal amounts as white or all-purpose flour in any recipe.