Going gluten free doesn't have to mean forsaking your favorite flour-filled foods. Thanks to the growing popularity of gluten-free flour, baking and cooking without wheat is easier than ever. Alternative flours also have higher amounts of protein, vitamins, minerals, and fiber than white and wheat flours, increasing food's nutritional value while adding new tastes and textures. Whether you're avoiding gluten or simply looking for a healthier cookie or savory crust, here are five flours to tempt your tongue and nourish your body.
Baking or cooking with this flour, made from pulverized, blanched almonds, is a surefire way to add extra bone-building calcium to your diet: A half-cup serving has 12 percent of your daily requirement - six times the amount of that in "light" whole-wheat flour. Almond flour is also high in vitamin E and mono-unsaturated fat, which can help keep cholesterol levels in check. Increasing vitamin E intake may also slash lung cancer risk by more than 50 percent, according to a 2008 study by University of Texas researchers.
If you can't find the flour in stores, buy blanched almonds, available at most natural food markets, and grind them to a fine powder in a coffee grinder or food processor, says Carol Fenster, PhD, author of Gluten-Free Quick & Easy (Avery, 2007). "But don't overgrind," she cautions. "Almond flour can quickly become pasty almond butter."
Made from finely milled broken rice-kernel hulls, this pantry staple has a milder taste than most gluten-free flours. "When possible, choose brown-rice flour over white for the extra potassium, calcium, iron, B vitamins, fiber, and protein," says Marlissa Brown, RD, author of Gluten-Free, Hassle Free (Demos Medical Publishing, 2009). One cup of brown-rice flour has three times more vitamin B6 than whole-wheat flour; this oft-ignored B vitamin may slash colorectal cancer risk by half, according to a 2009 Harvard study.
Half a cup of hempseed flour boasts twice as much protein (about 20 grams) and three times more cholesterol-busting fiber than whole-wheat flour. This unique option also contains all essential amino acids, making it a good source of protein for vegetarians. Compared to other flours, hempseed contains more alpha-linolenic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid that may reduce the risk of heart attack, according to a 2009 study published in the Journal of Oleo Science.
Indigenous to Ethiopia, the tiny teff grain is high in protein and trumps other flours in terms of iron: One half cup serving provides up to a quarter of the daily recommendation for the mineral, essential for delivering oxygen to cells. A 2007 Penn State University study found that even a moderate iron deficiency in women can hinder memory and learning.
Although many gluten-free flours are nutritional stars compared to traditional options, quinoa is a true standout. Regarded as a source of strength by the Incas, easy-to-digest quinoa contains all essential amino acids, along with a hefty dose of fiber, zinc, folate, and iron - and 40 percent of your recommended daily intake of magnesium intakes were at lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Published in March 2010 issue of Natural Solutions magazine. Flour Power - Boost nutrition with these gluten-free options. By Matthew Kadey, RD.