White flour is a thing of the past. Now, what’s in are all these whole-grain, whole-wheat and gluten-free flour classifications that may often leave you scratching your head and confused. Overwhelmed much? The following 5 alternatives to regular white flour go beyond whole-wheat and whole-grain and even the flours derived from the ever-fashionable quinoa and millet. These gluten-free flour alternatives span the range, from buckwheat to sorghum, and are nutrition powerhouses that will bring new textures and tastes to your baked goods.
To avoid the grainy texture and heaviness of these flours, combine them with one or several other flours that are lighter or are part of the original recipe. That way, you can sneak in some more nutrition in each bite.
Sorghum is an ancient cereal grain originating from Southern Egypt some 8,000 years ago. It is a gluten-free flour from whole grain that is eaten with its hull, because it isn’t inedible like that of other grains, and thus retains most of its nutrients. In one cup, there are 650 calories, 12 grams of dietary fiber, 22 grams of protein and nearly 50 percent of your daily dose of iron and 5 percent of calcium. The compounds found in dark sorghum, which are called 3-DXA, helped to reduce the proliferation of of colon cancer cells. Sorghum has also been shown to be able to protect against diabetes and insulin resistance due to its high phenolic and antioxidant content. Additionally, sorghum has proved to help reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol among hamsters.
Teff traces back to Ethiopia and can be harvested in many different environments and is cultivated around the world and is currently mostly sourced from Idaho. In one cup of teff flour, there are just over 700 calories, 5 grams of fat, 15 grams of dietary fiber, 35 percent of the RDA of calcium and 82 percent of the RDA of iron. Teff is a rougher flour because it cannot be sifted or separated easily and is thus always in whole-grain form. Research shows that teff flour is best suited for use in cookies and biscuits.
3. Tapioca Starch
Used in equal parts with another flour on this list, tapioca starch flour is gluten-free and offers a lighter edge to baked goods. Tapioca is velvety and is derived from the tropical root manioc or cassava. It is a great thickening agent, so should not be used along to replace flour and instead should be used for its lightening effect when paired with another flour alternative on this list. Tapioca loses its thickening power when it is heated beyond 150 degrees Fahrenheit, so if you want to use it as a thickener, relegate tapioca to to chilled desserts, fruit fillings and other sauces that require little cooking.
4. Brown Rice
Brown rice flour comes from unrefined brown rice. It is milled and retains more nutrients than white rice flour because its outside bran is kept intact. It contains bran and has a shorter shelf-life, so you should refrigerate it. Brown rice flour contains 574 calories, 4.4 grams of fat, 457 milligrams potassium, 11 grams protein, 17 percent of the RDA of iron, 60 percent of the RDA of vitamin B-6 and 44 percent of the RDA of magnesium in just one cup. It is also rich in thiamine, calcium and fiber. Relative to white rice, brown rice has also shown to reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol and lower glycemic response.
Often referred to as “kasha”, buckwheat flour is gluten-free and actually not considered a grain or cereal but rather a seed from a flowering plant. One cup of buckwheat flour contains 402 calories, 4 grams of fat, 12 grams dietary fiber, 15 grams of protein, 5 percent of the RDA of calcium and 27 pecent of the RDA of iron. Buckwheat contains rutin, which is a glycoside that strengthens capillaries. Its high-antioxidant content also means buckwheat flour can help to fight off free radicals and turn the tide on aging.
Photo Credit: Rickard Berggren
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