Over the past 50 years, wheat has been cross-bred to make it more resistant, shorter and faster growing. Today’s wheat is extremely inflammatory and contains substances that are difficult to digest. It is believed that the gluten found in this modern-day wheat is responsible for the rising occurrence of celiac disease, as well as benign gluten and wheat intolerance.
In addition to this, wheat’s glycemic index is very high as it contains amylopectin A, which is more easily converted to blood sugar than any other carbohydrate, including table sugar. The protein in wheat is transformed into exorphins which bind themselves to the opioid receptors in the brain, creating cravings and serious addiction. And to add insult to injury, recent research suggests that the consumption of modern wheat might trigger autoimmune diseases such as type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and multiple sclerosis.
So if you make only one change towards improving your diet this year, how about replacing wheat flour with some of the many alternatives? Not only will you be adding flavour and goodness to your plate, you’ll be improving your overall health as well.
- Spelt flour. This is a big favourite of mine. Although it contains gluten it is in a form far more easily digested than the gluten in wheat. It contains more protein (in the form of amino acids) than wheat and is a rich source of B vitamins, fibre and minerals. Makes a wonderful, slightly nutty-tasting substitute for wheat flour in baking.
- Rye flour. Rye flour also contains gluten, but again in a more digestible format. It is an excellent source of fibre, so much so that it is actually said to aid weight loss. It also contains plenty of vitamin E, calcium, iron and other trace minerals. Also well-adapted to baking, although I usually combine it with another flour as it can be a bit dry.
- Buckwheat flour (gf). Despite its name, it’s not a type of wheat at all, but a plant closely related to rhubarb. Buckwheat is rich in protein, B vitamins and minerals (including iron). It makes wonderful pancakes and crepes and may be combined with spelt or rye flour for baking.
- Chestnut flour (gf). Chestnut flour provides protein in the form of amino acids, fibre as well as vitamin E, B complex vitamins, potassium, phosphorus and magnesium.
- Chickpea flour (gf). Grain-free, chickpea flour is high in protein (again in the form of amino acids), folate and B vitamins, iron, magnesium and phosphorus. Makes superb fritters, savoury pancakes and flatbreads.
- Millet flour (gf). Purportedly one of the least allergenic of all flours, millet flour is gluten free and very easily digestible due to its high alkalinity. An excellent source of iron, magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, manganese, zinc and B vitamins.
- Quinoa flour (gf). Quinoa flour contains about 17% protein, which makes it a richer source than any other grain flour. It also contains iron, calcium, zinc, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus and copper.
- Kamut flour. A highly nutritious flour, containing a form of gluten easier to digest than wheat. Again high in protein, it also contains potassium, B vitamins, zinc, magnesium and iron.
- Teff flour (gf). Teff has by far the highest proportion of calcium compared with other flours. It also contains amino acids, B vitamins, vitamin K and minerals. In its native Ethiopia, it is primarily used to make traditional flatbread.
- Coconut flour (gf). Like chickpea flour, coconut flour is grain-free. It has the highest percentage of fibre (58%) of any flour. It also contains vitamin C, iron and calcium. It is delicious used in baking and may also be used for pancakes or bread.