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Most products are made from white or wheat flour. While unproblematic for many, people with celiac disease, non-celiac gluten sensitivity or those avoiding gluten for other reasons should not consume these two types of flour.
Fortunately, there are a variety of gluten-free flours on the market, each with a different taste, texture and nutrient composition.
Here are the 14 best gluten-free flours.
1. Almond Flour
Almond flour is one of the most common grain- and gluten-free flours. It's made from ground, blanched almonds, which means the skin has been removed.
One cup of almond flour contains about 90 almonds and has a nutty flavor. It's commonly used in baked goods and can be a grain-free alternative to breadcrumbs.
It can typically be substituted in a 1:1 ratio in place of regular or wheat flour. If you are baking with this type of flour, use one extra egg. Note that the batter will be thicker and your end product denser.
Almond flour contains many minerals, including iron, magnesium, calcium, potassium, copper and manganese. It's also a good source of vitamin E and monounsaturated fat.
While almonds and all nuts are naturally gluten-free, it's still important to read the package to confirm the flour was not made in a facility where gluten is processed.
Almond flour is a nutritious replacement for flours containing gluten and can be used in a variety of baking recipes.
2. Buckwheat Flour
Buckwheat may contain the word "wheat," but it is not a wheat grain and is gluten-free. It belongs to the family of pseudocereals, a group of grains that are eaten like cereals but don't belong to the grass family.
Buckwheat flour provides a rich, earthy flavor and is good for baking quick and yeast breads.
Due to its lack of gluten, it tends to be crumbly in nature. To make a quality product, it can be combined with other gluten-free flours like brown rice flour.
It contains a variety of B-vitamins and is rich in the minerals iron, folate, magnesium, zinc, manganese and fiber. Buckwheat flour is also high in antioxidants, specifically the polyphenol rutin, which has anti-inflammatory properties (4, 5, 6, 7).
Buckwheat can be cross-contaminated with gluten-containing foods during processing, transportation or when used as a rotational crop with wheat. Be sure to look for certified gluten-free on the label to be safe.
Buckwheat flour is rich in fiber and nutrients and contains antioxidants that help the body fight inflammation.
3. Sorghum Flour
Sorghum flour is made from an ancient cereal grain that has been grown for more than 5,000 years. The grain is naturally gluten-free and considered the fifth most important cereal grain in the world (8).
It has a light color and texture, as well as a mild, sweet flavor. Considered a heavy or dense flour, it's often mixed with other gluten-free flours or used in recipes requiring small amounts of flour.
The sorghum grain is high in fiber and protein, which can help slow sugar absorption. It also contains an abundance of the mineral iron, as well as antioxidants that help you fight inflammation (9, 10, 11).
Sorghum flour may be contaminated with gluten during processing. Look for the certified gluten-free label.
Research suggests that sorghum flour contains nutrients that may help reduce inflammation and balance blood sugar levels.
4. Amaranth Flour
Like buckwheat, amaranth is considered a pseudocereal. It's a group of more than 60 grains that were once considered a staple food in the Inca, Maya and Aztec civilizations.
Amaranth has an earthy, nutty flavor and tends to take on the flavor of other ingredients. It can replace 25% of wheat flour but should be combined with other flours when baking. The best use of this type of flour is for making tortillas, pie crusts and bread.
If you have a gluten intolerance, make sure to read labels. Amaranth processed in the same facilities as wheat may contain traces of gluten.
Amaranth flour is rich in nutrients that play a role in brain health, bone health and DNA synthesis.
5. Teff Flour
Teff is the world's smallest grain and is 1/100 the size of a kernel of wheat.
It comes in a variety of colors, ranging from white to red to dark brown. Light colors have a mild flavor, while darker shades are more earthy in taste.
Teff flour has traditionally been used to make injera, a fermented, sourdough-like Ethiopian bread. It's now also used for other foods like pancakes, cereals, breads and snacks. It can be substituted for 25–50% of wheat or all-purpose flour.
As with any grain, to ensure your teff flour is 100% gluten-free, look at where it was processed.
Teff is the smallest grain in the world. Nonetheless, its flour is packed with a nutritional punch.
6. Arrowroot Flour
Arrowroot flour is a less common gluten- and grain-free powder. It's made from a starchy substance extracted from a tropical plant known as Maranta arundinacea.
It's a versatile flour and can be used as a thickener or mixed with almond, coconut or tapioca flours for bread and dessert recipes. If you want a crispy, crunchy product, use it on its own.
Starch-based arrowroot flour can be a good thickener or mixed with other flours to create bread products. It might even provide an immune boost.
7. Brown Rice Flour
Brown rice flour is made from ground brown rice. It's considered a whole-grain flour and contains the bran, germ and endosperm.
It has a nutty flavor and can be used to make a roux, thicken sauces or prepare breaded foods, such as fish and chicken. Brown rice flour is often used to make noodles and can be combined with other gluten-free flours for bread, cookie and cake recipes.
To avoid contamination with gluten, look for brown rice flours that were not produced in a facility that also processes wheat.
Flour made from brown rice offers a variety of health benefits. It can help lower blood sugar levels, reduce body weight and protect against heart disease.
8. Oat Flour
Oat flour is made by grinding whole-grain oats. It gives baked goods more flavor than all-purpose flour and results in a chewier, crumblier texture.
Baking with oat flour will likely make your end product more moist. Due to its lack of gluten, some ingredients will need to be adjusted to create light and fluffy baked goods.
Oats and oat flour are often subject to contamination, depending on how they were grown and where they were processed. If you cannot eat gluten, be sure to look for products that have been certified gluten-free.
Oat flour provides soluble fiber and antioxidants that can help protect against heart disease and lower blood sugar levels. Note that it may be contaminated with gluten.
9. Corn Flour
Corn flour is a very finely ground version of cornmeal. Cornmeal is made from the whole kernel, including the bran, germ and endosperm.
It's commonly used as a thickener for liquids and can be used to make tortillas and breads.
Corn flour comes in white and yellow varieties and can be combined with other gluten-free flours to make pizza crust.
It's high in fiber and a good source of the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin. These two plant compounds act as antioxidants and can benefit eye health by decreasing age-related macular degeneration and reducing the risk of cataracts (38, 39, 40).
It's also high in vitamin B6, thiamine, manganese, magnesium and the antioxidant selenium (41).
Corn is from a different branch of the grass family than gluten-rich wheat, barley and rye. Cross-contamination is typically more likely in processed foods made with corn flour. Even cornbread can contain regular flour.
Corn flour is a whole-grain flour, providing fiber and antioxidants that can benefit eye health.
10. Chickpea Flour
Chickpeas are part of the legume family. Chickpea flour is made from dry chickpeas and is also known as garbanzo flour, gram flour and besan.
Chickpeas have a nutty taste and grainy texture and are popular in Middle Eastern and Indian cuisine. Chickpea flour is used to make falafel, hummus and the flatbread socca.
Cross contamination may occur with certain manufactured foods made with other gluten-containing flours.
As a legume, chickpea flour offers plant-based protein, fiber and other nutrients that may protect against heart disease.
11. Coconut Flour
Coconut flour is made from dried coconut meat and offers a mild coconut flavor.
Its light texture yields similar results to regular flour and is good for baking breads and desserts. Note that coconut flour absorbs a lot more water than regular or almond flour.
It's high in the saturated fat lauric acid. This medium-chain triglyceride can provide energy for your body and may help lower "bad" LDL cholesterol in combination with the flour's fiber content (49, 50).
Research suggests its fiber content may help maintain healthy blood sugar levels, as it does not cause them to spike (51).
Coconut flour is a good option for those with nut and gluten allergies. It can be contaminated in the processing phase, so be sure to look at where your flour was produced.
Full of fiber and healthy saturated fat, coconut flour is a good option for those with food allergies.
12. Tapioca Flour
Tapioca flour is made from the starchy liquid extracted from the South American cassava root.
This flour is used as a thickener in soups, sauces and pies and has no discernable flavor or taste. It can also be used in combination with other gluten-free flours in bread recipes.
Aside from carbohydrates, tapioca flour provides little nutritional value in the form of fiber, protein or micronutrients. In fact, it's considered inferior to other whole-grain, gluten-free flours and often thought of as empty calories (52, 53).
One health benefit of tapioca flour is its resistant starch content, which functions like fiber. Resistant to digestion, this starch is linked to improved insulin sensitivity, lower blood sugar levels, reduced appetite and other digestive benefits (54, 55, 56, 57).
If you're on a gluten-free diet, ensure that tapioca flour is not combined with another gluten-containing flour.
Low in overall nutrients, tapioca flour is a good grain-, gluten- and nut-free flour option to thicken liquids and use in bread products. It may also offer digestive benefits.
13. Cassava Flour
Cassava is a starchy root vegetable or tuber native to South America. It's also known as yuca.
In contrast to tapioca flour, which is made from a starchy liquid extracted from the cassava root, cassava flour is made by grating and drying the whole root.
This flour is gluten-, grain- and nut-free.
It's most similar to white flour and can easily be used in recipes calling for all-purpose flour. It has a neutral flavor and is easily digestible. It's also lower in calories than coconut or almond flours.
Some research suggests that the resistant starch content in this type of flour may help lower blood sugar levels and improve insulin sensitivity. Note that processing the cassava root may decrease the levels of resistant starch present in the flour (58, 59, 60).
Because cassava flour can be used alone in food products, it's less likely to be contaminated. However, it's always important to look at where the product was processed.
Gluten-, grain- and nut-free, cassava flour is a good choice for those with food allergies. Its resistant starch content may also offer some digestive benefits.
14. Tigernut Flour
Despite its name, tigernut flour is not made from nuts. Tigernuts are small root vegetables that grow in North Africa and the Mediterranean.
Tigernut flour has a sweet and nutty flavor that works well in baked goods. Its sweetness allows you to cut back on the sugar quantity in your recipe.
Note that it's slightly coarser than white flour and likely results in products with more texture.
One-fourth cup packs 10 grams of fiber, which can help lower cholesterol. Tigernut flour is also rich in healthy monounsaturated fat, iron, phosphorus, potassium and vitamins E and C (44, 61, 62, 63).
Newer on the gluten-free market, few companies produce this flour. The risk of gluten contamination is low, as tigernuts are not grain based.
Rich in nutrients, tigernut flour offers an easy white flour alternative in baked goods.
The Bottom Line
A variety of healthy, gluten-free alternatives to regular or wheat flour exist for people with celiac disease, non-celiac gluten sensitivity or those avoiding gluten for other reasons.
Some gluten-free flours have more nutrients than others, making them healthier choices to include in your diet.
Many gluten-free flours require recipe adjustments or combinations of different types of gluten-free flours to create a tasty end product. Be sure to evaluate your recipe.
If you choose or require gluten-free flour, be sure to compare the nutrients, taste and recipe composition before making your flour choice.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Healthline.
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