Will the Healthiest Flour Please Stand Up?

 

Recently it was brought to my attention that I made a rather large factual error in my post Gluten Free is Not Healthy. You see, in this post I claimed:

Gluten free goods are generally made with ingredients such as rice, corn, potatoes, sorghum, tapioca and millet, which are higher in carbohydrates and lower in protein and other nutrients than wheat flour.

I apologize, as I did make a mistake in claiming that sorghum is not as healthy as wheat flour itself. Sorghum is not higher in carbs and lower in protein as I claimed, as you can see in the tables below.
Wheat-Flour-White-Nutrition-Facts-575x504

Nutrition facts from: Self Nutrition Data

Those who addressed my mistake, also helped me crystallize my point, which is that grains are not a nutrient dense food when compared to meat, nuts and vegetables. I don’t eat grains. I’ve been entirely grain free since 2001.

Sorghum-Nutrition-Facts-575x469

Nutrition facts from: Self Nutrition Data

Sorghum flour and wheat flour have a similar protein to carbohydrate ratio of 1:7. Sorghum flour is actually the winner when it comes to glycemic load.

However, take a peek at the table below. As you can see, almonds have a protein to carbohydrate ratio of 1:1 and a glycemic load of 0. Far superior to both wheat and sorghum.

There are many ways to look at nutrients. Addressing nutrition from the perspective of a carbohydrate to protein ratio is merely one very simplistic and myopic way. However, as someone with celiac, this type of analysis is critical because celiac and diabetes ride on the same gene. For this reason, I make a point of controlling my carbohydrate intake and making sure that any carbs I eat are slowed down by either protein or good fats.
Nuts-almonds-blanched-Nutrition-Facts-575x510

Nutrition facts from: Self Nutrition Data

To make things even more complex, let’s consider the protein to carbohydrate ratio of broccoli. It is 1:2, not as good as almond flour, yet far better than grains. However, I’ll take my broccoli over almonds any day. And then there are folks who can’t eat raw broccoli because of thyroid issues. But that’s a topic for another post entirely. I think you get the idea. Nutrition is complex.

My point? I wrote the post Gluten Free is Not Healthy to illustrate that fads can’t automatically make certain unhealthy foods healthy again, and that junk food is still junk even if it’s gluten free. I stand by that idea.

Finally, I want to thank you for your delightful comments, whether they agreed with my point or took it to task.

I am grateful for the respectful tone in which so many criticisms were made. The point of this blog is to provide information and conduct a positive and lively dialogue –that is the type of discusion that I will continue to encourage, and with which I will continue to directly engage on both Twitter and Facebook.

Comments

82 responses to “Will the Healthiest Flour Please Stand Up?”

  1. It’s all just too much to wrap my brain around. My husband was recently diagnosed as gluten intolerant, my dog (for whom I cook) has chronic pancreatitis & cant have fat or high carbs, and i’m a vegetarian who’s deathly allergic to all tree nuts. It feels as though I do nothing but cook & bake specialty items for the 3 of us and we no longer get the textures, flavors, or variety we used to enjoy. My sourdough hobby has gone out the window & I’ve started eating meat out of desperation. Cooking has become a chore instead of a joy.
    All that said, I sooo appreciate resources like this one to help me make healthier choices!

  2. After 25 years of auto-immune thyroid disease (Hashimoto’s), I just wanted to share a few things I learned the hard way:
    1) the first food I was told to avoid entirely was any cruciferous vegetable (broccoli, cabbage, etc)…I later learned soy must also be avoided. The explanations given me (by doctors):
    (a) cruciferous veggies absorb iodine (which people with hypo-thyroid issues tend to lack, and iodine insufficiency is a major cause of goiter),
    (b) soy slows down the thyroid’s functions (thus further slowing a slow hypo-thyroid metabolism);
    2) while not lactose intolerant, I am sensitive to casein, and have learned to be very careful, buying “dairy-free” cheeses, because many commercial brands contain casein (especially in the US);
    3) when I discovered I was wheat-intolerant, and then that (while not celiac) I was also sensitive to gluten, I also learned:
    (a) to always read labels on gluten-free products, because some are made with “de-glutinated wheat” (if you’re wheat intollerant, removing the gluten isn’t enough);
    (b) beware of oats, because oats (by nature gluten free) are usually contaminated by contact with wheat (handled in the same facilities, or grown in nearby fields). It is possible to find oats that are guaranteed “gluten free” (I have found them in a couple of specialized health food stores),, but otherwise it’s best to avoid oats.

    I didn’t know about certain gluten free flours spiking glucose levels (which explains why my levels have been higher, of late), so thank you for that new knowledge, and I’ll now go back to baking my own bread, instead of buying it.
    Hint: if you need to avoid yeast, Irish soda bread doesn’t contain yeast, and you can substitute the buttermilk (more digestible than regular milk, but still…) with yogurt (and non-dairy yogurt works just as well).

  3. So can you clarify… Is sorghum flour good? And is almond flour better? also can you cook with both like regular flour?

    • I love both almond flour and coconut flour, but you can not cook with either just like you would with regular flour. The up side is you can find a lot of excellent recipes online that take the guess work out of making things with them.

  4. Hi Elana: Using wheat flour as a benchmark (per 1oz) with 1:7 protein/carb ratio & GL of 14. Your Bread 2.0 recipe calls for almost a cup of arrowroot flour (a GL flour)in adjunct with the almond flour. Looking at nutritional profile of arrowroot flour (per 1oz), there are no proteins, 25g of carbohydrate & a GL score of 17 (3pts higher than wheat flour).See link below. The GL for (1oz) sugar is 15. The $64K question: As a healthier alternative to wheat flour, even though arrowroot flour is GF, is it the ‘lesser’ of the 2 evils?

    http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/cereal-grains-and-pasta/5677/2

    Theo

    • Elana, I agree with your idea that almond is the healthiest, but I am finding out that cheaper as well as healthy alternative.

      HOWEVER, In all my research I have found NutritionData.self.com to be in error NUMEROUS times in BOTH conversion calculator to different sizes as well as the data as compared to the USDA. Since they were bought out Self, they seem to make all their advertisers and sponsors look suddenly better :)

      If you do not wish to look an idiot, PLEASE do not go by that incorrect information.

      Also if you will notice, most nutritional studies are based om 100g serving size, which is then easier to compare apples to apples.

      For your information, Gluten allergies do not exist scientifically. There is a such thing as wheat allergies, and gluten sensitivities. “Sorghum” IS a healthy alternative with very little know sensitivities or allergies. ALSO OAT flour is a cheap healthy fantastic alternative … as ell as easy to swap out.

      Oat is Low GL (11), gluten Free, low inflammatory index, easily obtained (can be made from ground rolled oats), cheap, almost as white as wheat flour (so can deceive kids) virtually tasteless, almost a 1-for-1 swap in many recipes. EASY to swap for flour in rue, gravies and thickeners in soups or sauces. A ACTUALLY HEALTHY RUE IS OAT FLOUR AND COCONUT OIL! Can be used with nut flours to make a smoother, lighter, and less obvious that it is a NUT-bread.

      Although a little more expensive than oat flour, sorghum is also low GL (14),gluten Free, non-wheat related, low inflammatory, and EXTREMELY low in problems with allergies.

      BOTH sorghum AND oats flour is FAR LOWER glycemic load as well as lower on the inflammatory index than ANY RICE PRODUCT — INCLUDING BROWN RICE! These are two “grains”that are far healthier in every way than rice. Not quite sure why so many people use such an unhealthy product and call it healthy?

      Potato flour is also another unhealthy food in all ways as compared to these “grains.” Need to make sure that when people SWAP they do it for a MORE healthy food rather than worse.

      Healthier STARCH SWAP OUT: Corn starch has MANY draw backs, as grain(corn) higher GL, ZERO fiber, higher on the inflammatory index than arrowroot … so therefor a good swap out. Potato starch is even worse than corn starch.

      Keep in mind most readers are poor and unable to afford higher priced flours and any healthier swap-out for wheat is a step up.

    • THEO,
      Oops on the last message left it to the wrong person LOL

      I acknowledge that much arrowroot flour is a bad choice (although better than cornstarch).

      As far as the carb/protein ratio, many people do not realize that oat flour has a higher ratio than white wheat flour … plus it has mare fiber, lower GL and lower inflammatory rating. It would have been FAR healthier if she used oat flour instead as well as lower GL AND lower on the inflammatory index.

      When grains and flours are so close, the deciding factor has to be the inflammatory index, and the inflammatory index on wheat and corn is FAR HIGHER than alternatives like oat, sorghum, etc.

      • Hi

        I am new to this site.I am diabetic type 2 and in a process of
        Reversing it.pl recommend top 3 grains with lowest carbs and gluten.How about teff..thx

        • Hi there! I don’t eat teff, or any grains, or grain-like seeds. I gave them all up in 2001 when I went on a grain-free diet. The lowest carb flour that is commonly used and readily available is almond flour. I wrote a book about it with numerous recipes in 2008. You can find it here:

          https://amzn.to/1VBWPN4

          But if you don’t want to buy it, I have hundreds of low-carb recipes on this website that you can find here:

          https://elanaspantry.com/low-carb-diet/

          Enjoy!
          Elana

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