Wheat Belly-safe flours

Organic natural sesame seeds on white wood table
Organic natural sesame seeds on white wood table
So you kiss all things wheat goodbye. And you’ve come to learn that gluten-free foods made with replacement flours like cornstarch, tapioca starch, potato starch, and rice starch are also very destructive, since they make visceral fat grow, send blood sugar through the roof, and cause hypertension and heart disease. (If these gluten-free people persist in pushing gluten-free foods, I’m going to have to write a new book: “Gluten-Free . . . Fat, and Diabetic“! Hmmmmm. Not such a bad idea . . . )

But perhaps you’d sure like a few muffins or cookies once in a while . . . without paying a health price.

What “flours”–non-wheat and without gluten-free junk carbohydrates–are truly safe and provide reasonable baking characteristics? Here’s my list, the flours I use in my recipes:

Almond meal–Also called just “ground almonds,” the meal ground from whole almonds is versatile and yields a great texture, though heavier than wheat-based flour. Shop around, as prices vary widely. I am in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and I can pay anywhere from $3 to $18.99 per pound from local grocery stores.

Almond flour–Though the terminology is a bit confusing, almond flour usually refers to flour ground from blanched almonds that may or may not have had the excess oil pressed from it. This yields a fine flour but minus much of the fiber and perhaps the oil. It is also more costly. I therefore reserve the use of almond flour for when a lighter texture is required, e.g., layer cake.

Ground pecans–A coarser flour than that from almonds, ground pecans can be used in place of almond meal or flour. However, I find it best for pie crusts. Anyone allergic to almonds may find ground pecans useful.

Ground walnuts–Similar to ground pecans, ground walnuts are coarser and best used as pie crust or in recipes in which a coarse texture is desired. As with ground pecans, ground walnuts may be useful for almond-allergic individuals.

Coconut flour–The flour ground from coconut meat has a wonderful taste and scent (surprisingly not coconutty, for those of you who do not like coconut). However, it yields an exceptionally dense and hygroscopic (water-absorbing) product. It is so water-absorbent that it can even become lodged in the throat if used as the sole flour. I therefore prefer to use it–for both texture and safety–as a secondary flour to modify the taste and texture of a primary flour, such as almond meal. Typically, I use 8-12 parts almond meal to 1 part coconut flour, e.g., 2 1/2 cups almond meal + 1/4 cup coconut flour.

Ground golden flaxseed–It’s the golden flaxseed you want, not the more common brown, when you desire a flour replacement. The golden yields a finer texture. Used by itself, the ground golden flaxseed tends to be too crumbly, so it is best used as a secondary flour along with almond meal or other nut meal.

Pumpkin seed meal–Easy to grind, pumpkin seed meal is dense. I’ve not played around with it enough to know just how well it performs, but I’ll bet it yields a great brownie, perhaps combined 50:50 with almond meal.

Sesame seed meal–Sesame seeds yield a surprisingly light flour. I’ve been making sesame seed crackers with ground sesame meal, whole sesame seeds, mustard powder, onion powder, garlic powder, and cayenne pepper to dip in hummus–wonderful!

Sunflower seed meal–Like pumpkin seed meal, sunflower seed meal is something I have not yet had much opportunity to experiment with. But I suspect it will yield another oil-rich and dense flour replacement.

Garbanzo bean flour–This almost didn’t make the list due to higher carbohydrate content. However, this is among the lowest of the various bean flours available. Yeah, sure, there’s the phytate anti-nutrient issue with garbanzo beans, but if consumed occasionally as a flour I don’t believe there is a real issue. Like coconut flour, I find garbanzo bean flour useful as a “lightening” flour to make nut flours a bit lighter and less dense.

Chia seed meal–I made brownies with chia seed meal the other night, cut 50:50 with almond meal, but it yielded too heavy a texture. It also soaked up the stevia sweetener, increasing need 3-fold. It may prove useful in future recipes, but so far I’ve not quite figured out how to use this linolenic acid-rich flour.

There are indeed many other flours and meals you can purchase or grind yourself, but I’ve crossed those off the list for a variety of reasons, such as the unacceptably high carbohydrate content of chestnut flour, teff flour, amaranth flour, and sorghum flour. If you play around with the sunflower seed, pumpkin seed, or chia seed flours and find a useful application, please come and let us know what you did.

And don’t sweat the linoleic acid/omega-6 content of these flours. After all, our diets should be rich in vegetables, fish, poultry, beef, pork, avocados, olives and olive oil, while the foods we prepare from these flours are simply additions to a diet of real foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, monounsaturates and saturated fats. Have your three egg omelet, for instance, with olive oil, Romano cheese, spinach, and mushrooms, followed by a couple of chocolate chip cookies. You’ll come out just fine!

Like This Post? Sign Up For Updates — It’s FREE!

Plus receive my latest collection of recipes, Wheatbelly Hearty Entrees!

Comments & Feedback...

  1. Natalie

    My son has a nut allergy, what other flour can i replace the nut flour with?? I really want to try this lifestyle change, but everything seems to be made with almond flour. Is the recipes in the book possible to do without the “nut” portion??

    • Boundless

      > arrowroot
      No. That stuff is 88% net carbs.
      Dr. D. normally recommends coconut flour as an alternative to it.

    • Boundless

      > … if I can have lupin flour or not?

      It’s going to be your call, I suspect.

      I see that celiacs use the flour, so it almost certainly doesn’t contain gluten.

      The net carbs for modest servings (100 grams or less) appears to be acceptable.

      The real issue might be whether this is an adequately safe human food:
      ‘Potential harms
      Lupins contain significant amounts of certain secondary compounds like isoflavones and toxic alkaloids, e.g. lupinine and sparteine. On 22 December 2006, the European Commission submitted directive 2006/142/EC, which amends the EU foodstuff allergen list to include “lupin and products thereof”.

      Both sweet and bitter lupins in feed can cause livestock poisoning. Lupin poisoning is a nervous syndrome caused by alkaloids in bitter lupins, similar to neurolathyrism. Mycotoxic lupinosis is a disease caused by lupin material that is infected with the fungus Diaporthe toxica;[14] the fungus produces mycotoxins called phomopsins, which cause liver damage. Poisonous lupin seeds cause annually the loss of many cattle and sheep on western American Ranges.[15]

      People with peanut allergy should generally avoid lupins. In one study[16] 44% of people with peanut allergy had a positive allergy test for lupin allergy and 7 of 8 who had a positive test and were fed lupin as part of a study reacted to this food.’
      As one user on a celiac forum put it:
      “I don’t eat anything that can kill my animals.”

      • Nancy M.

        Lupins have to be processed by soaking before eating. They’ve been used in Italian cooking for some time (Lupini beans).

        I’ve been doing a bit of baking with it and I like it! It has almost no impact on my blood sugar as it has fewer usable carbs than almond flour even, and it has great baking properties. I make a “bowl muffin” with lupin flour, cinnamon, sweetener that is really awesome.

        There is a warning that if you’re allergic to peanuts then you shouldn’t eat lupin beans, or flour.

  2. Linda

    Can anyone tell me about plantain flour? I know it’s gluten free, but what about the net carbs? Thanks.

    • Boundless

      > Can anyone tell me about plantain flour?

      I would avoid it. Flours made from carbs spike blood sugar more acutely than the whole foods they are made from, due to the exponentially higher surface area.

      > I know it’s gluten free, but what about the net carbs?

      The data I found in a quick search was contradictory, but the net carbs were high no matter whose number I used. The non-fiber carbs may also be disproportionately fructose. Plaintains are more aggressive carbs than bananas, according to the data on nutritiondata.self.com.

  3. jennifer beatty

    I ordered the cookbook in april and still have not received it. I REALLY am looking forward to using it. Please help.

    • Dr. Davis

      Sorry, Jennifer: I just write the books!

      Have you contacted the retailer you ordered from?

  4. Ken

    Interested in trying this. One question. I eat a bowle of oatmeal every morning. Does oatmeal have the same problem?

  5. Lauretta Gomez

    Can I grind my own almonds with a miller that I have on my nutribullet ? Is there anything more to making flour than just the grinding process?

  6. Di

    hi, I understand the reasons you exclude Tapioca starch from “safe” flours (like almond flour, etc)… but I’m wondering about Tapioca Flour.. it’s sold in Asian markets and is also used heavily in Brazil. Is this an acceptable “flour” to use or is it the same as tapioca starch?

  7. Pam

    I am springing into the wonderful world of growing fodder for my pasture animals and I’m seeing primarily wheat and barley used. I definitely want to avoid wheat, but what about barley? I’m also thinking of Teff or Amaranth since the carbs would actually be good for many of my animals. I also want to avoid GMO stuff and I know barley can fall into that cateogory.

    Any teff or amranth farmers out there?

  8. quiddity

    I use the chia powder as my main egg substitute by first mixing it with water (1/4 cup chia sprouted powder with 1 cup of water and let stand five minutes) and it works well. I make biscotti with it. I also use it with almond milk or coconut milk, 1/4 avocado and some berries or coffee, pure cream (I am allergic to the protein-not the cream) and stevia in the Vita Mix for a very creamy shake or a little thicker for a faux yogurt-almost ice cream consistency. It is a great thickener. You can use the seeds, but the Vita Mix is definitely required to make it creamy.

  9. Susan

    I purchased a loaf of bread at a health store. It has oat flour in it. They said it doesn’t contain gluten?? After reading your answers I suppose I should give it to someone because I want to stick to “wheat belly” diet.
    Should I avoid oat bread?

    • Dr. Davis

      Yes, it’s awful.

      Oats do not have the full range of problems that wheat products have, but they still skyrocket blood sugar.

  10. Rina

    I found a gluten free pasta recipe that is simple to make and already includes almond flour in it. Unfortunately, it requires arrowroot flour and tapioca flour which I know are a big no. I read on this blog that you said the best substitute for arrowroot is coconut flour but what would be a good substitute for the tapioca flour based on taste, texture and consistency? Would it even work?

    I know you suggested using shirataki noodles but my parents refuse to buy or use them. I would love to be able to keep a wheat belly approved pasta in my diet (if eaten sparingly) as it is already hard enough trying to adjust to being wheat, gluten, sugar and dairy free when the majority of my large family is unsupportive.

  11. Hello everyone! I’m a total newbee, just read the book four days ago and started immediately. Concept is not foreign to me as I have avoided grains for a while but with regular sliips.
    My question:
    What is your experience with Chestnut flour? Is it safe to use when mixed with almond flour?

    Thank you!

    • > What is your experience with Chestnut flour?

      None, but just looking at the data for whole chestnuts, I would minimize use of the flour. It has five times the net carbs of almond, and twice the sugars. As a flour, it is likely to be substantially more provocative to blood sugar.

    • > What about garbanzo bean flour?

      Chickpea flour (besan) is a legume product, which would inherently make it a WB “limited” item, but being a flour, is more hazardous because that dramatically amplifies the blood sugar effects.

      It’s high glycemic. One cup is nearly your entire day’s net carb limit.

    • Barbara in New Jersey

      Check paleo and primal web sites for substitute flours and recipes. Coconut, garbanzo bean, ground golden flax seed and chia are some that are useable. Pecan and cashew flour is also suitable. This is a common problem. There are many web sites with non-almond flour recipes.

    • Barbara in New Jersey

      Carbs are much to high for anything but a condiment sized portion. Same for chestnut, amaranth and sorghum flour.

  12. Kristine

    Many of the recipes that I want to try in the 30 minute or less Cookbook use coconut flour including the All Purpose Baking Mix. I am allergic to coconut. Is there a substitute that matches coconut flour’s properties that I can use in place of it?
    Thank you.