White flour is a pantry staple in most kitchens, necessary for everything
from sauces to pancakes to homemade cookies. But while white flour can
be a key ingredient in delicious dishes, its nutritional profile isn't
"White flour is not an optimal choice for a healthy diet," says
Megan Wroe, MS, RD, CLE, a pediatric dietitian at the St. Joseph Health
Center for Health Promotion. "White flour is made from wheat stripped of fiber and some of the
protein and nutrients during processing. Plus, white flour is converted
into sugar in the body, and too much blood sugar can cause insulin spikes
and weight gain. It can also raise triglyceride levels, and high amounts
of triglycerides can lead to hardening of the artery walls, which raises
the risk of heart disease and stroke."
Fortunately, when it comes to finding a replacement for white flour, today's
consumers have a variety of choices on supermarket shelves. These alternative
flours come from several sources, including nuts, legumes and whole wheat
that includes more of the grain than its refined counterpart. Here are
some of Wroe's recommendations:
Chickpea: Because it's made from beans (aka garbanzo beans), chickpea flour
is high in fiber and protein, with 10 grams and 21 grams, respectively,
per 1 cup serving (that's compared to 3.4 grams of fiber and 13 grams
of protein in white flour). "It's gluten free, and is ideal for
sauces and savory baked items such as bread or crackers," Wroe says.
Coconut: Another gluten-free option, coconut flour has become popular over the
past few years as part of the craze for all things coconut. In this case,
coconut flour delivers fiber as well as a low carb count--something that
can't be said for most flours. "Use it in baked goods such as
muffins or biscuits, in pancakes or as part of a coating for poultry or
fish for cooking," Wroe says. Chickpea flour can often replace white
flour entirely in certain recipes and does well as a thickener for soups
and sauces as well. As an added bonus, it also tends to be the least expensive
gluten free flour in the supermarket!
Oat: Just like a bowl of oatmeal is good for your health, so is oat flour--the
grain provides some protein, is low in fat and is packed with good-for-you
soluble fiber. "It can be added to any baked good; pancakes and bread
are other naturals for oat flour," Wroe says. If you can’t
find oat flour at the store, make your own by simply pulsing rolled oats
in your food processor for a few minutes. If you can’t find oat
flour at the store, make your own by simply pulsing rolled oats in your
food processor for a few minutes.
Almond: Aka almond meal, this gluten-free option is both high in protein and
low in carbohydrates (24 grams of each per 1 cup; the latter is especially
impressive considering that the same amount of white flour has 95 grams
of carbs). "This is a great flour for anyone with a sweet tooth who
wants some alternative flour choices," Wroe says. "Cakes, piecrusts
and muffins can all be enhanced with a subtle nutty flavor, as can cookies--perhaps
the most well-known example are French macarons." Almond flour does
not act as similar to white flour as other alternatives, however, so be
cautious with how much you substitute in a recipe.
Whole wheat/white whole wheat: All parts of the wheat berries are milled for these flours. (The "white"
in white whole wheat refers to the color of the wheat used; regular whole-wheat
flour is made from red wheat.) "These are all-purpose types of flours,
but because they are very thick with a grainier texture they stand up
well in sturdy breads and rolls, pizza crusts, scones and muffins,"
Brown rice: This flour is nutrient rich, with a lot of iron, vitamin B, magnesium
and potassium, among others. "Try it in breads, crackers, sauces
and homemade pasta; many stores sell brown rice noodles, as well,"
Wroe says. Rice flour lends a light, spongy texture to baked goods, so
it’s a fun excuse to try new recipes, such as Japanese mocha cakes!
Quinoa & Sorghum: Both of these gluten free grains have similar carbohydrate contents to
white flour, but their higher protein and soluble fiber properties make
them good choices for a lower glycemic load. Swap out the full amount
of white flour for either of these alternatives in baked goods, or try
them in more savory dishes, such as pizza crusts or breaded fish and chicken.
Anyone trying an alternative flour for the first time should keep a couple
of things in mind, Wroe says. "First, some of these flours can tend
to spoil more quickly than white flour, because of their oil content.
Either store the flour bag in the refrigerator or only buy a little at
a time. Generally, alternative flours stored in the refrigerator can last
up to four months."
It can also be tricky for novices to bake with alternative flours at first.
"Many of these flours have a different texture and flavor profile
than white flour, which can alter the end result of a recipe that traditionally
calls for white flour," Wroe says. Some of these flours, such as
whole-wheat, absorb more liquid than white flour, and some of the gluten-free
options may need a stabilizer such as xanthan gum to keep doughs and batters
holding together and not separating.
Wroe suggests starting small when incorporating alternative flour into
a recipe that doesn't call for it. "For instance, mix a little
oat flour with the white flour; when flours are combined like this, the
alternative flour should generally make up no more than 25 percent of
the total flour used. Another option, of course, is to find a recipe designed
to use an alternative flour--that's an easier task than ever, thanks
to the growing use of these flours and the wealth of recipes available
on the Internet." For an example, see the box below.
To speak with a registered dietitian to learn more about what diet and
programs may be right for you call the St. Joseph Health Center for Health
Promotion at (714) 618-9500!
Gluten-Free Banana Oat Pancakes
- 3 small bananas, mashed (that's 9.5 ounces or a scant 1¼ cup
- 2 tablespoons coconut oil or butter, melted
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice (about 1 small lemon, juiced)
- 1 teaspoon honey or maple syrup
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup oat flour*
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- In a small mixing bowl, stir together the mashed bananas, coconut oil (or
butter), lemon juice and honey (or maple syrup).
- Beat in the eggs. (If your coconut oil goes back to its solid state like
mine did at this point, just warm the mixture for short 20 second bursts
in the microwave, stirring between each, until it is melted again.)
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the oat flour, baking soda, salt and spices.
- Form a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the wet ingredients.
With a big spoon, stir just until the dry ingredients are thoroughly moistened.
Do not overmix!
- Let the batter sit for 10 minutes. You may want to thin out the batter
a bit with a touch of milk or water.
- Heat a heavy cast iron skillet/non-stick pan over medium-low heat, or heat
an electric griddle to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly oil the surface
with coconut oil, butter or cooking spray. (If you're using a non-stick
electric griddle, you might not need any oil at all.)
- Once the surface of the pan is hot enough that a drop of water sizzles
on it, pour ¼ cup of batter onto the pan. Let the pancake cook
for about 3 minutes, until bubbles begin to form around the edges of the cake.
- Once the underside of the pancake is lightly golden, flip it with a spatula
and cook for another 90 seconds or so, until golden brown on both sides.
You may need to adjust the heat up or down at this point.
- Serve the pancakes immediately or keep warm in a 200 degree Fahrenheit oven.
Courtesy of CookieandKate.com