Using Healthy Flours to Make Grain-Free Goodies
If you follow the all-natural, grain-free, low-glycemic diet that our ancestors enjoyed, then you might have decided that most cookies, cakes, bread and pizza just aren’t on the menu.
And if we’re talking about the usual processed foods and traditional recipes for these goodies, that’s probably a good thing. But it doesn’t have to be that way…
Thanks to a new breed of grain-free flour alternatives and all-natural, low-glycemic sweeteners it can be easy to make, paleo-friendly desserts (as well as breads, biscuits and crusts) that are every bit as delicious as they are nutritious.
In today’s article, we’ll discuss how to make healthier baked goods by switching out the flours you use. Then stay tuned, because in a follow up article, I’ll show you how to sweeten your baked goods in a way that won’t sour your health.
Many bakers believe that whole grain flour is a healthier choice than white flour. However, whole grain flours are still very high in carbohydrates and score high on the glycemic index. In fact, did you know that the glycemic index of so-called “healthy” whole wheat is among the highest of ALL foods?
According to research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, eating two slices of whole wheat bread spikes your blood sugar more than helping yourself to six teaspoons of table sugar!
High glycemic foods cause blood sugar and insulin levels to spike. Chronically high blood sugar is directly linked to nearly every chronic disease including diabetes, cancer, heart disease, metabolic syndrome, obesity, macular degeneration, PCOS and many more.
High insulin levels also block fat burning and promote the storage of fat. So, if you want to avoid that “muffin top” then stay away from grain based flours. Of course, wheat flour also contains gluten – an allergenic protein that causes health issues for many people.
What about Gluten-Free Flours and Baking Mixes?
Unfortunately, the term “gluten-free” does not always equate to “healthy.” Most gluten-free flours use ingredients such as rice flour, potato starch, tapioca flour and sorghum flour – which can spike blood sugar even MORE than wheat flour. So while the gluten is missing, the health harming consequences are still there.
The good news is that there are truly healthy options you can use to create delicious baked goods… I’m talking about nut flours!
Nut flours are surprisingly versatile. They lend buttery richness to all kinds of baked goods – from crisp biscotti to moist cupcakes. And unlike grain-based flours, they are naturally gluten free and low carb too.
The Best Nut Flours to Use in Your Baking
- Almond Flour: This staple flour can be used to create everything from fluffy pancakes to crispy cookies. However, you should opt for “blanched” almond flour, which contains no skins. Unblanched almonds can add an unpleasant aftertaste when baked.
- Coconut Flour: Coconut flour appears light and fluffy. But it is actually quite dense and fiber-rich, so a little goes a long way. A rule of thumb is to use one egg for each tablespoon of coconut flour in your recipes. Also, most recipes that call for coconut flour specify “sifted coconut flour”. This is important, because one half cup of coconut flour does not equal one half cup of sifted coconut flour. Always sift then measure, or your baked goods can end up dry and dense.
- Hazelnut and Pecan Flour: These nut flours are a bit richer. They are best used in combination with almond flour to punch up the nutty flavor. They are great for pie crusts and cookies of all kinds.
- Sunflower Seed Flour: For those who may be allergic to nuts, sunflower seed flour can be used anywhere almond flour is called for. This flour is available online and it’s also easy to make your own. Simply grind fresh, raw seeds in a high powered blender to a fine powder. Caution, however: processing too long will create seed butter, so watch closely.
It’s also important to know that nut flours contain healthy fats… but these fats can go bad if they’re not protected. Nut flours should be stored in airtight containers away from light and heat (and preferably, refrigerated). If you buy in bulk, freeze in airtight bags.
Of course, it is not quite so easy as simply substituting an unhealthy flour for one that has a better nutritional profile. There are lots of tricks and tips to using nut flours in your baking. And your health depends on it! If you enjoy baked goods and you value your health, take some time to learn study online recipes and resources for the best ways to use these superior alternatives.
For those who are looking for a quick (and healthy) shortcut Wellness Bakeries has created a range of grain-free, gluten-free and low-glycemic breads, breakfast, dessert and other blend-and-bake mixes that can help you enjoy all your favorite comfort foods – without concern for your health. Check out their line of products carried by US Wellness Meats.
Now, you really can have your cake… and eat it too!
And stay tuned for my next article, where I will show you how to create the exact taste and texture of sugar, with none of the guilt.
Kelley Herring is the co-founder of Wellness Bakeries, makers of grain-free, gluten-free, low-glycemic baking mixes for cakes, cookies, breads, pizza and much more.