June 19, 2024

Baking doesn’t have the healthiest reputation, and it’s not just because so many recipes load up on sugar. Refined white flour is at the heart of a vast number of recipes, but it turns out that it may actually be harming our hearts. A diet high in refined grains, like white flour, poses a similar risk for premature coronary artery disease as a diet full of sugars and oils, according to research presented at the American College of Cardiology Middle East conference in 2022. Diets high in refined carbs like white flour have also been linked to an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes, according to past research.

Refining or processing grains is usually done to give them a more desirable texture or longer shelf life, but removes the parts of the grains that contain fiber, as well iron and B vitamins, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). These nutrients can be added back in (those products are called “enriched”) but there is another option. More than a few, in fact.

Flour substitutes made from coconut, quinoa, chickpeas, and more offer a wider variety of nutrients than all-purpose flour, as well as other benefits, such as being compatible with ketogenic or other low-carb diets, or gluten-free. “In years past, alternative flours were premium specialty items, and you either had to order them online or go to a health market,” says Cara Harbstreet, RDN, communications director for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ Sports, Cardiovascular, and Wellness Nutrition Dietetic Practice Group. But a rising demand for nutritious and often gluten-free options has made alternative flours widely available. “These days, even the bulk section of most major retailers carries them,” says Harbstreet, who is based in Kansas City, Missouri.

Here is the nutritional profile of ½ cup of all-purpose flour, according to the USDA:

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