In the journey of becoming a healthier individual, people will correctly quit eating certain foods. It is a wise decision to give up sugar and refined flours as a part of a healthy nutritional lifestyle.
But, do we actually know why these are good decisions?
Have you really thought this through?
Have you considered what to use as healthy alternatives?
At David’s Way to Health and Fitness, we have advocated from the beginning that people quit consuming sugar, and foods that contain added sugars, and simple carbohydrates in general. Table sugar and high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) are the two main types of added sugar in the Western diet. Sugar is 50% glucose and 50% fructose, while high fructose corn syrup is about 45% glucose and 55% fructose. One of the reasons that added sugars are harmful is that they can increase inflammation, which can lead to diseases such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, cancer, metabolic syndrome, obesity and more. Sugar is as harmful within our body as it is delicious to the palate, yet most people will not give it up and will therefore eventually suffer the consequences of consuming too much of this white crystalline goodness over the years. Sugar is known to trigger the same receptors in the brain as cocaine, and it is processed by the body in an almost identical manner as alcohol. Your feeling of addiction to sugar and simple carbs is a real thing, it is not a figment of your imagination.
Why give up refined flour?
In the case of refined wheat flour you are getting too many grams of carbohydrates and an abundance of empty calories that provide your body with very minimal nutrition. These carbs then contribute to an increase of blood sugar and insulin. If you consume too much on a daily basis, then your hormonal response is always going to be out of balance the same as if you were eating actual sugar. When you consume refined white flour, all of the nutrients and fiber have been removed, it is just another refined, simple carbohydrate. is linked to drastically increased risk of many diseases, including obesity, heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Almost every nutrition expert agrees that refined carbs should be limited if not entirely eliminated.
Because many people do not want to give up baked goods entirely when they set off on a mission to discover good health, many people become interested in replacing white flour with more wholesome options for baking and cooking. And there are indeed a few healthy alternatives you can turn to such as:
Coconut flour is a grain- and gluten-free flour made by grinding dried coconut meat into a soft, fine powder.It’s more calorie-dense than traditional grain-based flours and a good source of protein, fat, fiber, and minerals like iron and potassium. Unlike grain flours, coconut flour contains a substantial amount of fat. This fat is primarily saturated and largely comprised of medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), which may reduce inflammation and support healthy metabolism. Although it’s controversial, saturated fat from coconut likely affects your health differently than fast food, fried foods, and processed meats — and may even offer benefits. Coconut flour is also rich in antioxidants and appears to have antimicrobial properties.
A 1/2-cup (64-gram) serving provides:
- Calories: 210
- Protein: 8.5 grams
- Fat: 13 grams
- Carbs: 34 grams
- Fiber: 25 grams
- Iron: 22% of the Daily Value (DV)
- Potassium: 18% of the DV
Coconut flour has a mildly sweet flavor that lends itself to cakes, cookies, breads, and other baked goods. It tends to have a gritty texture and absorb a lot of liquid, which may dry out some baked goods. Thus, it works best in dishes that use eggs to maintain moisture and structure, such as muffins. When substituting coconut flour for wheat flour, use about 1/4 of what the recipe calls for, then replace the remaining 3/4 with another type of flour. Additionally, because it needs more liquid than other flours, add 1 egg per 1/4 cup (32 grams) of coconut flour in baked goods. (1)
Almond flour is made by grinding blanched almonds into a fine powder. As it doesn’t contain grains, it’s naturally gluten-free. Note that almond flour is different than almond meal, which is a coarser ingredient made by grinding almonds with their skins still intact. Almond flour is a good source of magnesium, omega-3 unsaturated fats, plant protein, and vitamin E — a powerful antioxidant. Keep in mind that almonds, like other nuts and seeds, are high in calories.
The nutrients in this flour offer several benefits, such as improved insulin resistance, as well as lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and blood pressure. Almonds may also protect brain health, as vitamin E may reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s.
A 1/2-cup (56-gram) serving of almond flour offers :
- Calories: 340
- Protein: 12 grams
- Fat: 30 grams
- Carbs: 12 grams
- Fiber: 4 grams
- Calcium: 5% of the DV
- Iron: 6% of the DV
- Potassium: 8% of the DV
- Magnesium: 65% of the DV
- Vitamin E: 100% of the DV
Almond flour has a nutty flavor and is easy to use. In most recipes, you can simply substitute almond flour for wheat flour at an equal ratio. It works well in baked goods like pancakes, cookies, scones, and biscuits, plus certain savory foods like homemade pasta and meatballs. (1)
Quinoa flour is made by grinding quinoa to make a fine powder. This gluten-free pseudocereal is widely considered a whole grain, which means that it hasn’t been processed and refined, leaving its original nutrients intact. Notably, it’s a good source of protein, fiber, iron, and unsaturated fats. Furthermore, it boasts antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects that may benefit digestive health, inhibit tumor growth, and lower overall disease risk.
A 1/2-cup (56-gram) serving of quinoa flour provides:
- Calories: 200
- Protein: 8 grams
- Fat: 2 grams
- Carbs: 38 grams
- Fiber: 6 grams
- Iron: 33% of the DV
- Potassium: 4% of the DV
Quinoa flour lends a moist, tender texture to baked goods. Substitute it for half the amount of wheat flour in most recipes. Some people find this flour bitter, but you can diminish the aftertaste by toasting it on a dry skillet over medium heat for 5–10 minutes, stirring gently, before adding it to your recipe. Quinoa flour is great for pancakes, muffins, and pizza and pie crusts. You can also use it to thicken soups and sauces. (1)
Buckwheat flour is made from ground buckwheat, a plant known for its grain-like seeds. Despite its name, buckwheat is unrelated to wheat and therefore gluten-free. Buckwheat flour has an earthy flavor and is used to make traditional Japanese soba noodles. It’s a good source of fiber, protein, and micronutrients like manganese, magnesium, copper, iron, and phosphorus. Research shows that this flour may reduce blood sugar in people with diabetes and improve biomarkers of heart health. It may also have anticancer, anti-inflammatory, and prebiotic properties. Prebiotics are a type of fiber that feeds the beneficial bacteria in your gut, which support digestive health.
A 1/2-cup (60-gram) serving of buckwheat flour offers:
- Calories: 200
- Protein: 4 grams
- Fat: 2 grams
- Carbs: 44 grams
- Fiber: 6 grams
- Iron: 17% of the DV
- Manganese: 34% of the DV
- Magnesium: 33% of the DV
- Copper: 73% of the DV
- Phosphorus: 17% of the DV
For best results, buckwheat flour should be used in combination with other whole grain flours, comprising 25–50% of the total flour in a recipe. It works well in pancakes and quick breads and makes a delectable crumb coating for meat or other proteins. (1)
Whole Wheat Flour
Wheat flour is in most baked goods you’ll find at bakeries and supermarkets. Yet, whole wheat and white flour are vastly different. Whereas the whole wheat version is made by grinding entire wheat kernels into a powder, white flour removes the most nutrient-rich parts — the bran and germ. Thus, whole wheat flour is widely considered healthier.
It’s a good source of protein, fiber, and a variety of vitamins and minerals. As it contains gluten, it isn’t appropriate for people with celiac disease or gluten intolerance.
A 1/2-cup (60-gram) serving of 100% whole wheat flour provides:
- Calories: 200
- Protein: 8 grams
- Fat: 0 grams
- Carbs: 42 grams
- Fiber: 8 grams
- Iron: 11% of the DV
- Potassium: 5% of the DV
Whole wheat flour can be used in equal amounts as white or all-purpose flour in any recipe. Bear in mind that it gives a less fluffy texture than white flour because it’s unrefined. You can enjoy it in homemade breads, muffins, cakes, cookies, rolls, pizza dough, pancakes, and waffles. (1)
Some of these flours might fit into your nutritional needs, and some may not. It is up to you to decide what you want to consume, but at least this gives you an idea of healthier alternatives than simple refined white flour, and the reasons why they are healthier alternatives.