Wheat Belly-safe flours

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!

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243 Responses to Wheat Belly-safe flours

  1. Diane says:

    Thank you for the “Wheat Belly safe flours” list.
    I am wondering if Kamut flour is another a lot of people cannot eat nuts..

  2. Barbara says:

    Hi Dr. Davis,
    Should we worry about oxidization of the almond meal/flour once it is heated up due to high Omega 3, Omega 6 content?
    Thank you.

    • Dr. Davis says:

      Worry about it? I don’t think so, Barbara.

      We have to choose our battles. And I believe that this battle is not that important.

      The oxidation of polyunsaturates and the development of glycation/lipoxidation products does occur, but is likely kept to a low level. You may notice that cooking temps tend to rarely exceed 350 degrees F. This is to minimize these reactions.

  3. Anthony says:

    Dr. Davis. How do you feel about Cassava Flour made from the cassava root. It seems to have a good consistency, and a from what I read has a GI of 46, and It looks like a good fiber source.

    • Dr. Davis says:

      Awful, Anthony.

      This is one of the common components of “gluten-free” foods that generate extravagant blood sugar phenomena.

  4. Mait M. says:

    Hello,

    What is Your take on whole unheated hemp seeds and hemp oil cake flour (the flour is obtained as end product in cold press procedure of grinned whole hemp seed mass to extract hemp oil). Hemp seed contain all 21 amino acid (inc all essential amino acid) in proportion of 23% in whole hemp seeds and 32% in hemp flour. Plus great amounts of Omega 3,6,9 fatty acids and greater still Omega 6 and 3 are in 1:3 ratio in whole hemp seed.

    All in all seem to be very nutritious food source. Am I missing some hidden dangers here. I am asking it because I read Your excellent book but I did not find any references to unhealthiness or healthiness of oil hemp seeds.

    With Best Regards
    Mait M.

    • Dr. Davis says:

      I don’t know of any, Mait.

      Though I have to admit this is one product I have not yet had a chance to eat/bake/cook with.

      Please let me know what you learn, should you choose to play around with it.

  5. Sharon says:

    This post was really helpful – just starting my wheat free life and I find myself getting sucked into thinking Glutten free and wheat free are synonymous. I know they aren’t (read the book) but it’s like the early low carb world – when all the “franken foods” were so popular that you just bought into it. They actually made low carbing as ineffective as regular food pyramid eating in my opinion. Well – I digress.. all these “sexy” cookbooks of glutten free foods out there are hypnotic – this post was a great way for me to get back on the right path knowing what flours are acceptable to use in baking and cooking. Thanks!

  6. Mikyla says:

    What about gluten free all purpose four?? And xanthan gum???

    • Dr. Davis says:

      Awful. And useful.

      Read the discussions here, Mikyla, and you will see that we do not use gluten-free junk carbohydrate ingredients like cornstarch, rice starch, potato starch, and tapioca starch, the ingredients in gluten-free all purpose flours.

  7. Linda says:

    Amen!!!

  8. Michael says:

    I just started the wheat free and have lost 18lbs in 3 weeks. I have irregular heart problems and border line diabetes. Been trying to lose weight without really any success, take it off and put it back on my whole life. I came across Julian Bakery Bread that is carb free. I don’t know if you have heard of it before, the first ingredient is Oat flour. Is it ok use as a bread. It is really dense and only 59 calories per slice. Another item that I use are the Quest Bars, they are really low in net carb effect from 1-4 net carbs per bar. Are these acceptable or not in the wheat free diet? Thanks Mike

    • Dr. Davis says:

      Quest bars, yes.

      The Julian bakery bread: no. However, they have come out with a new Paleo bread that is better, at least in carbohydrate consequences.

  9. Tracy says:

    Hi I found a product called Lupin Flour at my local supermarket the other day. I was wondering if you have used this and if you recommend it. Thanks.

    • Vinx says:

      Hi, I am also very interested in Lupin flour . I have been using it and find it is great ,it’s the only alternative to wheat flour that I have found my children will eat . But i would like to know if it is a healthy alternative , Thanks

  10. Laura Keltz says:

    Help! Our family has several members severely allergic to peanuts. Consequently, we must also avoid all tree nuts (because of cross contamination and likelihood of reaction to tree nuts, which is common in peanut allergic people). Do you have ideas on: 1. How to get enough fiber into our diet, and 2. Sources for how to bake with alternative, non-nut flours?

    • Dr. Davis says:

      Have you tried coconut flour, garbanzo bean flour, as well as ground pumpkin, sunflower, and sesame seeds, Laura?

      They will change the behavior of your baked products, and adjustments in liquid ingredients and baking times will be required. But it means you will be able to enjoy cookies, muffins, and brownies again safely!

  11. Betty says:

    What about buckwheat groats and grinding them into a “flour”?

    • Dr. Davis says:

      See the many comments about excessive carbohydrate exposure, Betty. That is the potential problem with buckwheat.

  12. Lucy B. says:

    I am wondering about arrowroot starch. Is this ok to use in baking?

  13. Darlene says:

    Dr Davis,
    What about quinoa flour? Is is too high in carbs? I bought some this week to try, but will take it back if it’s on the “no” list!

    • Dr. Davis says:

      Most of us can tolerate up to about 15 grams “net” carbs per meal. There are 17 grams in a 1/2 cup cooked quinoa.

  14. Logan says:

    Say Dr. D, doctors like Dr. Mercola, among others, say that any grain is bad for us and produce weight gain, are you in agreement with that school of thought or is wheat so much worse than all the rest that they pale in comparison to it? Would taking a tablespoon of coconut or olive oil when eating those other grains. to slow down digestion, be of any benefit in ameliorating any spike in blood sugar from the carbohydrate? I notice practically none are in your list above, and that you say nothing at all about rice flour.
    thanks, Logan

    • Anne says:

      Excellent question….for me, it’s a matter of damage control. My mom is literally horrified that we’ve given up wheat…we usually go for Sunday dinner, but she’s refusing to acknowledge our new way of eating…tonight’s menu? Crackers and dip, white dinner rolls, sweet potato with brown sugar, hash browns, and a pasta casserole – and cake and ice cream for dessert. There was a big salad on the table, so that’s what I had with a small helping of the sweet potato…

      Is there anything one can do to quell the effects of wheat / carbs?

    • Dr. Davis says:

      I agree that ALL grains are bad, though wheat stands apart as bad in any quantity. Non-wheat grains like buckwheat, wild rice, and quinoa are not nearly as bad, but are not part of an ideal human diet.

      The business about adding proteins or oils to subdue the blood sugar is only a little bit true. Blood sugar and other carbohydrate phenomena are still quite powerfully triggered. This is the flawed logic typically used by the dietary community.

  15. Amanda says:

    Dr. Davis – Thank you so much for your book, and this blog! I’m not finished reading it yet, but I’m soaking it all in! I started reading your book recently while I was participating in a Daniel Fast – lucky for me, because I couldn’t have yeast, I did without wheat. So I passed the withdrawal phase without really thinking about it :)

    Do you have a suggestion on a good bread recipe that’s not made with crap “glutten free” alternatives that could be used to make french toast? I don’t have much experience with almond flour yet, but I made some amazing biscuits this morning. It seemed that regular almond flour bread may be too flakey to hold up to make french toast? If not exactly french toast, do you have any recipe alternatives that may be similar? Thank you!

    • Dr. Davis says:

      The easiest solution is to follow the recipe for the Focaccia flatbread from this blog but leave out the herbs (rosemary, oregano, onion, garlic), the sundried tomatoes, and olives. You will be left with a bland bread that can be used for French toast. You might consider adding a bit of cinnamon to the batter.

      The new Wheat Belly Cookbook will have two different recipes for a loaf bread, also, useful for this purpose.

  16. Jenni says:

    What about whole grain oat meal? Good or Bad?

  17. Mary says:

    Thanks for your book. Saved my life I suspect! I’m still wondering about lupin flour as it’s readily available here in Australia and is easier to bake with that coconut flour. Is it okay? Thanks

    • Dr. Davis says:

      To my understanding, lupin is a grain.

      Second after wheat elimination is elimination of grains, or at least keep them to an absolute minimum.

      Humans are not meant to consume grains.

  18. S. M. says:

    Am I right that rice flour is a no-no? I have been using it.

  19. S. M. says:

    Can I use rice flour?

  20. Amber says:

    Okay…this may be a dumb question as I haven’t read your book, but, what is your opinion of using the ancient strains of the wheat and corn grains? Or are they still around? From reading online most people say that the wheat of today is nothing like the ancient grains. So does that mean that the ancient grains could be healthy for us?

    • Dr. Davis says:

      They are less harmful, but not necessarily healthy or entirely benign.

      This is a topic I will be discussing near-future. So stay tuned.