So you’ve kissed 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.
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 updated 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 $4 to $18.99 per pound from local grocery stores.
Almond flour–Almond flour 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 slightly more costly. I, therefore, reserve the use of almond flour for when a lighter texture is required, e.g., layer cake. As with almond meal, shop around for best prices, as prices vary widely. (Costco has proven an excellent and low-cost source.)
Ground pecans–Yielding a coarser meal than that from almonds, ground pecans can be used in place of almond meal or flour. I find pecan meal 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. I therefore prefer to use it as a secondary flour to modify the taste and texture of a primary flour, such as almond meal. A typical mixture would be 3 1/2 cups almond meal/flour + 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 and does not share the “off” flavor and scent of brown flaxseed. 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.
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! Buy sesame seeds from the bulk section, not from the spice aisle–much less expensive.
Sunflower seed meal–Sunflower seed meal yields an oil-rich and dense end-result, useful when density is desired such as in cookies. Also, avoid use of baking soda or baking powder when using sunflower seed meal, else you will obtain a green chlorophyll color.
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. You also obtain some prebiotic fibers with garbanzo bean flour.
Lupin flour–Flour ground from legume is very low-carb with one gram net carb per 1/4-cup flour. Like garbanzo bean flour, lupin flour also provides prebiotic fibers.
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, amaranth flour, and buckwheat flour. For instance, 1/4-cup of buckwheat flour yields 20 grams net carbs–too many.
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!