Guide to Gluten-Free Flours
What to know about gluten-free flours, including nutritional information.
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"Purchase gluten-free products with added vitamins and minerals, and look for items made with whole grain flour or bean flour to help you get the nutrients you need," says Shelley Case, RD, nutrition consultant and author of Gluten-Free Diet: A Comprehensive Resource Guide.
Although there's no shortage of refined carbohydrates in most commercial gluten-free baked goods, most are lower in fiber, Case says.
"When there's no gluten in a recipe, it takes far more gluten-free ingredients to produce a tasty product," Case explains.
The refined carbohydrates typically used in gluten-free products and mixes, including white rice flour and tapioca, produce baked goods that are much higher in calories and total carbohydrates than regular versions.
Simply swapping regular bread, muffins, and other baked items for gluten-free products without any regard for calories can easily lead to weight gain. Case warns that gluten-free baked goods won't necessarily help you with weight control, and they may hinder weight control efforts.
Gluten-free or not, it always pays to be aware of your personal calorie budget for weight control. Check the calories and serving sizes of store-bought baked goods, and make sure all the foods you eat, including gluten-free cookies, cake, and brownies, fit into your daily calorie allowance for weight maintenance or weight loss.
Gluten-Free Home Baking
When you're baking at home, it's impossible to simply substitute gluten-free flours for those with gluten and get the same results. However, home baking allows you to use an array of gluten-free flours with more nutrition than what's often found in commercially baked goods.
In supermarkets and online, you'll find a variety of gluten-free flours, including those made from:
- Brown rice
- Fava beans
- White beans
- Oats (make sure oats are certified gluten-free)
Avoid buying gluten-free flours from bulk bins. You never know if someone accidentally used the whole-wheat flour scoop in a gluten-free flour bin.
When you first start baking gluten-free, it may be easier to stick with a simple multi-purpose flour blend before experimenting further.
Fenster suggests relying on a pre-mixed homemade flour blend to use in a variety of baked goods, including bread, pizza dough, and pancakes. Having a flour mix on hand is a time saver that makes gluten-free baking that much easier.
"A good flour blend uses a main or protein-laden flour such as brown rice or sorghum or beans, for example, blended with a starchy flour such as potato starch or cornstarch," Fenster says. "The protein in flour lends structure and stability, while the starchy flours add lightness and airiness."