Are you tired of feeling bloated and sluggish after eating your favorite baked goods? You are probably thinking it’s all that sugar, but that might not be your only culprit. Did you know that the white flour in your baked goods can have an effect on your blood sugars, as well?
In this blog, you will discover which flours are the best for supporting stable blood sugar levels and keeping your energy levels up throughout the day.
Many of the sweets and baked goods we love to indulge in are made with white flour. White flour contains high amounts of refined carbohydrates and sugars, making them a high-glycemic food.
When eaten consistently, high glycemic foods tend to cause spikes in blood sugar levels, making glucose levels hard to control for people who are living with diabetes.
The good news is there are several foods that contain little to no carbs and are ranked low on the glycemic index scale, like nuts, seeds, and legumes. Flour made from items like these make a wonderful alternative to white flour.
What is the Glycemic Index?
The glycemic index (GI) is a value given to foods to measure their effects on blood sugar levels. Foods are ranked on a scale of 0 to 100 classifying them as low, medium, or high glycemic foods.
Low glycemic foods are considered foods with a GI value of 55 or lower. These foods are typically higher in fiber, lower in carbs, and have less effect on increasing blood sugar levels because they are digested slowly in the body.
Following a diet that consists mainly of low glycemic foods may offer several health benefits, including:
- Improved blood sugar management for people with type 2 diabetes
- Better weight management
- Reduced cholesterol levels
To learn more on this topic read my article about GI and GL, I explain it in more depth.
Keep reading and I will discuss the best low glycemic flours to use for baking if you have diabetes. A low GI flour can help reduce the risk of experiencing a pesky post meal spike in blood sugar when enjoying your cookies, cake, and bread.
Glycemic Index of Common Flours
Often, the more carbs and less fiber that are present in a particular grain means it will rank higher in glycemic index value. Foods that are made with white flour fall in the high GI range of 70 or higher.
Kitchen staples like bread, and bakery items like donuts have a GI value of 74, or even higher.
However, several flour alternatives are low in carbs, or rich in fiber. The GI index for these flours typically fall in the range of zero, low, or moderate GI values.
Low GI flour alternatives like almond flour, coconut flour, and chickpea flour take longer for the body to digest. In addition, low GI flours are higher in protein which has very little to no effect on blood sugar levels.
Besides protein, low GI flours are also rich in a variety of essential nutrients, vitamins, and minerals that are beneficial to your body and overall health.
Below are the best low GI flours to use as alternatives to white flour:
Almond Flour Glycemic Index – GI Value <1
Nutrients per serving: A ¼ cup serving of almond flour contains:
Almond flour is considered the gold standard flour alternative to white flour. It is rich in several nutrients, including manganese, copper, phosphorus, calcium, and iron. It is particularly abundant in vitamin E and magnesium. Vitamin E is a fat-soluble antioxidant compound that helps prevent damage from free radicals.
In doing so, it protects the body from the risk of heart disease and cancer. Magnesium is also an essential nutrient found in almond flour. It is involved in over 600 processes in the body and provides several benefits including controlled blood sugar levels, reduced insulin resistance, and lower blood pressure levels.
Baking with almond flour will give your recipe a mildly nutty and sweet flavor. Because it is gluten-free, your final product will be more dense and more prone to caving in than if baked using white flour.
Adding ingredients like protein powder, xanthan gum, or psyllium husk to your almond flour-based recipes will act as gluten, allowing your recipe to rise and giving your final product structure and adhesion.
It is also important to be mindful of the baking temperature. Anything made with almond flour will brown and cook faster than white flour. It is often recommended to decrease baking temperatures by 25 degrees Fahrenheit when baking with almond flour.
Almond flour has a 1:1 substitution ratio when being used as an alternative to white flour. That means, one cup of almond flour can replace one cup of white flour.
Almond flour is best used in pancake, banana bread, cookie, macaroon, pasta, and meatball recipes.
Walnut Flour Glycemic Index – GI Value <1
Nutrients per serving: A ¼ cup serving of coconut flour contains:
Like walnuts, walnut flour could be considered a superfood that is plentiful in healthy fats, fiber, and plant protein. Walnuts are especially important for brain health because of their high concentration of alpha-linolenic acid, a plant-based omega-3 fatty acid.
Omega 3 is important for mood, memory, and overall brain function. In addition, walnut flour also contains l-arginine, an amino acid that supports strong heart muscles and promotes heart health.
During the baking process, nut oils are released which adds a strong nutty, earthy flavor to your recipe. Although it can be used as a 1:1 substitution ratio, it is more often used in combination with another flour to balance out the heavy walnut taste.
Walnut flour is best used for cookies, cakes, muffins, smoothies, and stuffing recipes.
Flaxseed Flour Glycemic Index- GI Value 0
Nutrients per serving: A ¼ cup serving of coconut flour contains:
Flaxseed flour is a nutrition powerhouse abundant in fiber, omega-3 fatty acids and other essential nutrients like copper, magnesium, and thiamine.
It contains both soluble and insoluble fiber which helps support gut health. Soluble fiber slows digestion which aids in regulating blood sugar levels and lowering cholesterol, and soluble fiber prevents constipation and promotes regularity.
Flaxseed flour has a coarse, oily texture that can be used as a flour or fat substitute in recipes, as well as a thickening agent.
Baked goods may brown more quickly when using flaxseed flour in the recipes. You may need to lower the oven temperature or decrease the cooking time slightly, as well as keep a close eye on your recipe while it is baking.
Due to its high concentration of oil, it should be used in limited amounts in recipes. You can replace up to 15% of white flour in recipes for baked goods. You will also need to use up to 25% more yeast when using flaxseed flour in yeast bread recipes.
Flaxseed flour is best used to make cookies, pancakes, muffins, and brownies.
Oat Flour Glycemic Index – GI Value 44
Nutrients per serving: A ¼ cup serving of oat flour contains:
Oat flour is a whole-grain flour simply made from ground-up rolled oats. It is a very nutrient-dense food with rich amounts of healthy fats, B vitamins, and antioxidants.
Oat flour also contains molybdenum, a trace mineral that helps to break down proteins and toxins in the body.
Lastly, it is plentiful in fiber, specifically beta glucagon which helps to decrease blood sugar levels.
Oat flour can easily be made at home by grinding up rolled oats in a food processor. It has a subtle sweet and nutty flavor with a touch of caramel, which helps enhance the taste of recipes containing molasses, dark sugars, and maple syrup.
Oat flour is of medium density, which adds a chewy and crumbly texture to baked goods while also keeping them light and moist.
Because it is slightly more dense and more absorbent than white flour, combine 1 ⅓ cups oat flour with one cup of another flour for best results.
Oat flour goes well in bread, cookie, waffle, and pancake recipes.
Chickpea Flour Glycemin Index – GI Value 44
Nutrients per serving: A ¼ cup serving of chickpea flour contains:
Chickpea flour is abundant in several vitamins and minerals, namely thiamine, iron, magnesium, and manganese. It is also an excellent source of folate with over 100% of the daily recommended amount.
It is antioxidant-rich and helps to reduce levels of acrylamide, a harmful compound that has been linked to problems with nerve and muscle function, as well as enzyme and hormone activity.
Lastly, chickpea flour contains 25% fewer calories compared to white flour making it less energy dense and an ideal flour choice if you’re focusing on weight management.
Chickpea flour adds a natural, light nutty flavor to your recipes. Like most flour alternatives, it has stronger binding properties compared to white flour. This may require adjusting the amount of fluids in the recipe.
Another thing to consider is its effect on the structure of the final product. Chickpea flour is naturally gluten-free, so adding xanthan or guar gum to replace gluten may be needed for certain recipes, like yeast bread.
You can substitute 1 cup of white flour for 3/4 cup of chickpea flour.
Chickpea flour is favorable in quick bread, muffin, waffle, and tortilla recipes, as well as used as a thickener for sauces and soups.
Coconut Flour Glycemic Index – GI Value 49-51
Nutrients per serving: A ¼ cup serving of coconut flour contains:
Coconut flour is packed with fiber and medium-chain triglycerides (MCT). MCTs help transport vital nutrients, like vitamin E and CoQ10, to support brain and heart health.
Iron is the primary mineral found in coconut flour, making it a good choice for individuals following a vegan and vegetarian diet.
Despite what one may think, coconut flour has a very mild coconut flavor. This is because the milk and majority of oils are removed from the coconut during the process of making it into flour.
Coconut flour has a denser composition compared to white flour. When used in baking, it will absorb more liquid compared to traditional white flour; therefore, coconut flour should only make up 20 to 25 percent of the flour in your recipe.
In addition, every ¼ cup of coconut flour requires additional wet ingredients to keep moisture and structure in the final product. Some liquids used to increase moisture include an extra egg, pureed low-carb fruits, nut milk, and/or yogurt.
Coconut flour makes a wonderful white flour alternative in many recipes, including cakes, brownies, biscuits, and crepes, as well as used to thicken sauces, soups, and gravies.
Medium To High GI Index of Flours (Not Recommended for Diabetics)
- Rye Flour: Carb 38.4, GI 57-78
- Barley Flour: Carb 55.1, GI 53-66
- Whole Wheat Flour: Carb 54, GI 6
- All Purpose White Flour: Carb 95.4, GI 87
Flours with high GI values are mainly grain flours, which are still relatively high in fiber, but lower in fat and protein, and are the most carbohydrate-rich flour choices.
Glycemic Load of Common Flours
Glycemic load (GL) is a measure that takes into account both the glycemic index (GI) and the carbohydrate content of a food, which provides a more accurate representation of how a food affects blood sugar levels.
When it comes to flour, the GL varies depending on the type of flour and the amount consumed. Generally, whole grain flours such as rye, barley, and whole wheat have a lower GI and GL compared to refined flours.
For people with diabetes, incorporating whole grain flours with a lower GL flours into their diet can be beneficial in managing their blood sugar levels. These flours have a slower release of glucose into the bloodstream, which can help prevent spikes in blood sugar levels.
Additionally, whole grain flours are a good source of fiber, which can further help regulate blood sugar levels by slowing down the absorption of carbohydrates.
Incorporating whole grain flours into a diabetic’s diet can also provide other health benefits, such as improving heart health and reducing the risk of chronic diseases.
Low GL Flours (GL of 0-5)
- Wheat Bran
- Rice Bran
- Quinoa Bran
Medium GL Flours (GL of 11-19)
- Soya Flour
- Rolled Oats
- Oat Bran
High GL Flours (GL of 20 or greater)
- Rye Flour
- Brown Rice Flour
- Barley Flour
What Is The Best Flour For Diabetics?
The best flour for individuals with diabetes are those that are made from nuts and legumes, as they tend to be lower in carbohydrates.
Read my article on the best flour for diabetics for more information on this topic.
Why Do Whole Grain Flours Have High Glycemic Index?
When a grain is in the form of a whole grain, such as barley, it will have little effect on blood sugar levels. Whole grains move through the body and are digested as a high-fiber food, this means it doesn’t break down into smaller particles of sugar in the digestive system.
But, once a whole grain is ground up into a fine powder, aka flour, it changes the way it affects blood sugar levels.
Milling is the process of refining a grain by removing the bran and germ to turn a grain into a finer texture with a longer shelf life. However, this process also removes dietary fiber, along with other nutrients like iron and some B vitamins.
Turning a whole grain into flour also increases its carbohydrate content. Being lower in fiber and higher in carbohydrates will cause an increase in blood sugar levels when consumed.
To put it into perspective, whole grain barley has a low glycemic index of around 20 to 22. When it is milled from its whole grain form into a fine barley flour, the glycemic index of wheat flour climbs to between 53 to 66 on the glycemic index scale.
How To Use Low Carb Flours
Most low-carb flours that come from nut and legume sources cannot be directly substituted for wheat or all-purpose flour in recipes. (For example, typically you will need to substitute one cup of all-purpose flour for ¾ cup of chickpea flour.)
Since nut and legume flours tend to absorb more liquid than other flours, you will generally need to use smaller amounts of flour or add more liquid to your recipe.
An easier way to start incorporating low-carb flour into your recipes is by using a mixed-flour method. If a recipe calls for one cup of all-purpose flour, it may be useful to use a 25-75 rule, where you combine ¼ cup of low-carb flour with ¾ cup of all-purpose flour.
From there, you can modify the recipe as you get more comfortable until you use only low-carb flour.
In general, the more carbs and less fiber present in a particular flour, the higher the glycemic index value it will have. It is recommended for individuals with diabetes to minimize or avoid the use of high GI flour when cooking and baking.
Instead, opt for a flour that can be absorbed slowly, specifically ones that are low in carbs, have a low GI value, and are rich in fiber and protein. There are several diabetes-friendly flours, ranging from nut flours to legume flours to oat flours that are not only more nutrient-dense, but also help manage blood sugar levels in the process.
Thanks for stopping by my Dealing With Diabetes blog! My name is LeeAnna.