Most all purpose and white flours on the market have been bleached, bromated, and enriched.
What does that mean?
Bleached flour is just what it sounds like – the flour has been chemically bleached to make it whiter. And bromated means that potassium bromate has been added to increase elasticity and improve the rise of baked goods. But, the chemicals used in this process pose potential health risks.
In fact, bromated food products are banned in other countries and a cancer warning label is required on bromated food products in the state of California.
This chemical processing isn't even necessary for great baking results. If flour is aged, it will naturally whiten and increase in elasticity without the additives. Food manufacturers bleach it to mimic the color of aged flour. And, it's bromated to get the flour on store shelves faster and to cut down on storage space. This saves manufacturers money, but at what cost to your health?
Not only is white flour chemically processed, the outer bran and germ of the whole grain are also removed, leaving behind only the starchy endosperm. This removes many of the natural nutrients and fiber and increases the impact it has on your blood sugar. Synthetic B vitamins and iron are added back to make "enriched flour."
Are these synthetic vitamins and minerals just as good as what was removed? Listen to "Synthetic or Natural: What's Really in Your Vitamins?" on RadioMD's Family Food Kitchen for the answer.
So, how can you replace white flour in your diet?
The easiest two answers are to seek out unbleached, unbromated flour or whole grain flours. You can substitute them easily in your recipes. But, there are many gluten-free and grain-free alternatives, too.
For a gluten-free option, try substituting one cup wheat flour with ¾ cup rice flour. Oat flour and corn meal are great alternatives as well, replacing up to half the flour in the recipe. To keep it gluten-free, use a gluten-free flour bend for the other half.
Baked goods using flour substitutes may not rise as much, so try using a smaller pan and add a little extra baking powder. Or, keep it simple and use a gluten-free flour blend in place of all the flour in the recipe. Since these blends are designed for baking, you will get good results without the trial and error.
Want to go grain free?
Almond flour is perfect for coating foods instead of bread crumbs, and it's more nutrient dense. You can also use it to bake; replace up to one-quarter of the flour in the recipe.
Quinoa flour is another grain-free option since quinoa is technically a seed. Plus, it's high in protein and fiber. Use it to replace half the flour in a recipe.
Coconut flour has gained popularity for its low glycemic index. You can replace up to one-quarter of the flour in a recipe, or look up a recipe that uses only coconut flour. It is very absorbent, so those recipes will require more liquid and also eggs to bind it together.
Two of my favorite grain free baking recipes use pureed beans instead of flour. This makes them grain-free, gluten-free, and higher in fiber, protein, and minerals.
Be sure to listen to "Food Swaps: Healthy Baking Substitutes that Work" on Family Food Kitchen for those recipes and more healthy baking substitutes.
And, tune in for more segments on baking with ancient grains and gluten free recipes:
Delicious Ancient Grains Recipes
Gluten-Free Can Be Good for Everyone