The Facts Behind Flour: Which is Really the Healthiest?

Strolling through the aisles of the grocery store today you’ll find a lot more than just one type of flour. From chickpea to tapioca and coconut to your classic white and wheat, each claim the title of ‘best.’ But which truly is the healthiest flour to use?

Why We Should Avoid White Flour

When white flour is produced the bran and germ of the whole grain are removed. This might not sound like much, but what is left proves significantly less nutritionally-dense.

This process allows white flour a longer shelf-life, but creates a product damaging to our health.

Because white flour no longer contains the vitamins and minerals present within the bran and germ, they must come from our tissue. This process causes vitamin deficiencies on, in the long-run, deteriorating health.

Furthermore, products made with white flour are far less satiating then their whole grain counterparts. This leads to overeating and eventually weight gain and obesity.

Our insulin levels also rapidly increase when white flour is consumed. This phenomenon has been linked to increasing rates of Type 2 diabetes as well.

Refined grains also increase the risk for heart disease, inflammation, deprive our gut of healthy bacteria, and even may increase your cancer-risk.

Now that it’s clear white flour isn’t the best option, what is?

The Alternatives

Currently there are more flour alternatives on the market than ever before. While having such variety is a luxury, searching for the right flour for your dietary and cooking needs isn’t so easy.

  • Whole Wheat
    • Simply white flour prior to processing, whole wheat flour hosts higher amounts of protein, fiber, and B vitamins.
  • Spelt
    • Can be used for baking and known for metabolism regulation abilities, increased circulation, lowering blood sugar, and reducing cholesterol.
  • Brown Rice
    • Similar texture to white flour, but with more fiber. High in B vitamins, iron, and manganese. Good for baked goods.
  • Coconut
    • High in fiber and better for digestion. Dense and absorbs moisture, tough for baking.
  • Chickpea
    • High in fiber, protein, selenium, and B vitamins. Unique taste and good for pancakes and bread.
  • Almond
    • Offers up more protein, fats, and vitamin E than white flour as well as fiber. Good for baking.
  • Tapioca
    • This flour can be used in mousses, jello, and sauces in place of white flour. It’s gluten free, but is low in protein. It is, however, also low in sugar and fat.

  • Soy
    • Rich in protein, B vitamins, and calcium, soy flour is available in both full-fat and non-fat varieties.
  • Millet
    • High in vitamins, minerals, and protein. Gluten free and known for controlling diabetes and reducing inflammation.
  • Quinoa
    • High in protein and good for muffins, pancakes, and bread. Doesn’t hold shape well
  • Amaranth
    • Another high protein grain that’s also home to high levels of amino acids and calcium.
  • Arrowroot
    • Can be used in baking, roasting and frying. Easily digested and high in potassium, iron, and B vitamins.
  • Teff
    • Rich in B vitamins and high in calcium, iron, magnesium, and other minerals. Teff is also high in protein.
  • Buckwheat
    • Improving heart health and reducing blood sugar are just two of the many benefits of this “groat.” It also contains a good amount of protein and amino acids. Good for pancakes and baked goods.
  • Cassava
    • Of the gluten free flours, cassava is supposedly most similar to wheat. It’s also a good source of vitamin C, thiamine, riboflavin, and niacin.
  • Oat
    • Simply derived from oatmeal, oat flour has the same cholesterol lowering abilities. It also is high in protein and healthy fats and low in carbs.
  • Rye
    • In comparison to wheat, rye flour can be linked to lower body weight, improved insulin sensitivity, and lower cholesterol.
  • Banana
    • Made from green bananas, this flour may improve metabolic syndrome effects, promotes and healthy colon, and may reduce cholesterol levels.
  • Hemp
    • After removing the oils, hemp can be made into flour. This alternative has high amounts of amino acids, essential fatty acids, fiber, and minerals.

Another thing to remember when using these flours is that most of them aren’t 1:1 ratio swaps for white flour. Make sure you find out how to substitute properly to ensure your dish comes out flawless!

So, Which is the Healthiest?

Now that you’ve been bombarded with flour-alternatives, you’re probably wondering which is the healthiest. Well, this all depends on your personal needs and goals.

It’s safe to say that white flour is not the healthiest option. However from there, the choice is up to you on what you substitute for it.

Factors like gluten tolerance, physique goals, vitamin needs, and even what you’re cooking in the first place all come into play.

All of these options hold their own benefits, so find one you love and use accordingly!

Cover image via The List Show TV

Also published on Medium.