Gimme a YAY! Alternative flours, such as coconut flour and almond flour, are the way to go when the recipe permits! These flours can be used to substitute standard flours made from wheat (i.e., whole wheat flour, and all-purpose flour), and offer a TON of benefits. In addition to offering greater variety to those who cannot consume wheat, alternative flours possess a nutritional profile that makes them a healthier option for EVERYONE.
When compared to standard wheat-based flours, coconut flour and almond flour are less processed. Additionally, they are loaded with fibre and protein, nutrients that help to keep you full longer, support healthy blood sugars and cholesterol levels, and are rich in micronutrients, such as calcium, iron and various antioxidants. Simply put, these alternative flours can be built into your weekly menu to help you meet your health goals while simultaneously enjoying delicious recipes.
Should You Avoid Standard Flours?
Standard wheat-based flours can be delicious, however, there are many reasons why these flours should be enjoyed in moderation:
Unlike coconut flour and almond flour, white and whole-wheat flours are low in fibre and protein - nutrients that promote long-term feelings of fullness. As an example, standard pancakes or pizza, compared to versions with almond flour, will leave you feeling hungrier faster, and incur a larger carbohydrate load for your body to digest, absorb and potentially store.
White and whole wheat flours have a higher glycemic index, meaning that standard flours can cause blood-sugar levels to spike and crash rapidly. Overtime, this can lead to an increased risk for high blood sugar, high cholesterol, fatty liver and more.
White and whole-wheat flours are more processed than flour alternatives, stripping them of nutrients and making them more pro-inflammatory. Inflammation is the underlying source for many health conditions, so any foods that are more anti-inflammatory are beneficial to your overall health, and even hormone balance.
Instead of avoiding standard flours all together, enjoy them in moderation! For example, alternative flours, such as coconut flour and almond flour, can be used for 80% of your weekly recipes. Standard flours can be used for the remaining 20%.
Who Benefits from Using Alternative Flours?
To keep it simple, EVERYONE can benefit from using alternative flours! Their nutritional profile makes them a great addition to any menu. In particular, alternative flours can greatly benefit:
Those who are following a gluten-free / low-gluten menu
Based on the higher fibre content, those with digestive concerns, higher blood sugars, and elevated cholesterol levels
Based on the higher protein content, those who are focusing on weight management, hormone balance and menopause, and insulin resistance (e.g. in the context of PCOS)
Based on the anti-inflammatory properties, those with arthritis, endometriosis, and various autoimmune conditions
One of the most impressive things about almond flour is that it is made from one ingredient - blanched almonds added to a blender, and ground into a super fine powder. Almonds are nutrient rich, and offer a lot of value as a part of a balanced diet.
Per 1 cup of almond flour:
Carbohydrate 20g (75% less carbohydrates than standard flour)
Fibre 12-15g (4x greater than standard flour)
Fat 55g (even though higher in fats, the type of fat is plant-based / unsaturated fats, known to be heart healthy)
Protein 24g (Double to triple the amount of protein than standard flour)
1:1 ratio with standard flour
Moist texture, therefore can consider decreasing liquids by 25%
Usually, combining 2-3 flour alternatives in one recipe helps to create the desired texture
Benefits of Almond Flour:
75% less NET carbohydrates than standard flours.
Fibre content is 4x greater than white flour, 1 cup meets ½ of our daily fibre needs!
Even though it is higher in fat, it is a plant-based fat which is unsaturated fat / heart healthy.
Since most of us are aiming for ~20g protein per meal, this flour is a major contributor, as 1 cup contains 24g protein.
Contains bonus nutrients - calcium (275mg) to support bone health, and iron and vitamin E.
Cons of Almond Flour:
High cost: $15-18 per 1kg bag, however, you can always buy in bulk to offset the higher cost!
Not appropriate for those with nut allergies + children may not be able to take almond flour products to school.
Slightly higher in calories due to the healthy fats.
Similar to almond flour, coconut flour is one ingredient - coconut flakes added to a blender, and ground into a fine powder. It also happens to be SUPER high in fibre, offering ~40g fibre per cup.
Per 1 cup coconut flour:
Carbs 70g - MCT / saturated fats (8g per cup)
Fibre 40g - digestive health
Good rule of thumb - use ¼ to ⅓ of coconut flour to every 1 cup of white flour
Highly absorbent - so you will need to double or triple the amount of liquid ingredients in your recipe, and eggs are particularly helpful for optimal texture
Benefits of Coconut Flour:
Calories are comparable to standar flours
70% less NET carbohydrates to standard flours
Although slightly high in saturated fats (a less healthy fat), is balanced the MCT content
Iron rich, meeting more than 50% of our daily needs
Cons of Coconut Flour:
Very absorbent, and can be a flaky / dry finish if used in the wrong proportions
So, do you see we would vote a YAY for flour alternatives! Ramp up the nutritional value of your recipes simply by swapping standard flour for flour alternatives!
Blog Collaborators: Elisa Porretta BSc Candidate and Maya Silva BSc