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!