White Flour Alternatives
We've all heard it, we've all read about it: white flour is not good for us. Though most of us were raised on white flour products, no matter how hard it is to switch, we know the truth. Whole flour alternatives really are better for our health. Since grains come in a variety of sizes, shapes and flavors, and are essential to good health, there is no good reason not to include them in our daily diets.
Whole Grain Flours
When whole grains are used in breads, pastas and other products, the bran and germ, both great sources of fiber, remain in the flour. Because fiber is a type of roughage that cannot be digested, these foods are passed through the body quickly and efficiently. Ways fiber is good for the body:
- Fiber slows the way blood sugar enters the bloodstream, thereby helping to maintain consistent blood glucose levels. When blood glucose levels drop, hunger strikes and overeating is generally the end result.
- Fiber helps your body feel fuller and also helps food move through your intestines more quickly, which also helps to keep your digestive tract regular. As fiber passes through your colon, it acts like a scrub brush to clean the colon walls.
Whole grain flours are also associated with lower risks of cardiovascular disease such as stroke and heart attack. There is also significant evidence that a diet rich in whole grains helps protect against diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, obesity and other chronic ailments and diseases. According to Philip Mellen, M.D., assistant professor of internal medicine at Wake Forest University School of Medicine, "Consuming an average of 2.5 servings of whole grains each day is associated with a 21 percent lower risk of cardiovascular disease compared to consuming only 0.2 servings." Mellen further explains that findings such as these indicate an urgent need to educate and encourage patients so that more whole grains are included in their diets.
Whole Grain and Gluten
Gluten is a protein found in some whole grains. The bad news is that nearly three million people have Celiac disease - a form of gluten intolerance - and many others have allergies to gluten. And since a gluten-free diet is often recommended in the treatment of autism, the number of people who cannot ingest gluten has recently risen to an all-time high.
Wheat Flour Alternatives
The good news is that gluten sensitive individuals can eat whole grains and other flours, as there are many without gluten in them. Some whole grains that are gluten free:
- corn (including popcorn)
Other gluten free flour alternatives (non-grain)
- rice (including wild rice)
White Flour Alternatives
Making the switch from bleached white flours to whole grain flours opens up a whole new world of possibilities, especially since whole grain flours are not limited to wheat. Whole grains come in many forms and flavors and all are excellent choices. To make the switch to whole flour grains even easier, start by moving from white breads to "white" whole wheat breads. White whole wheat breads are made with albino wheat that is lighter in color and milder in flavor than red wheat, which is used in the making of whole wheat breads. Due to an extra step during processing, white whole wheat breads are also softer than regular whole wheat breads. Another trick that seems to help the transition to whole grain flours is to start slow. Incorporate half white and half whole wheat grain bread or pasta for the first couple of weeks and then switch to full whole grains as your system gets adjusted to the new tastes.