Everyone could benefit from going gluten-free… hands down. Whether you’re gluten intolerant, need to heal a damaged digestive tract, looking to lose weight or simply want to improve your overall health, ditching gluten can help.
So what makes gluten so powerful? Let’s take a look …
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye and barley. People who are gluten intolerant, or suffer from Celiac Disease, have trouble digesting gluten. Their bodies perceive gluten as an invader and triggers an immune response that damages the intestines.
Needless to say, people who are gluten intolerant or suffer from Celiac Disease should avoid gluten like the plague. But you don’t have to be gluten intolerant to benefit from a gluten-free diet. Ditching gluten can help alleviate or eliminate the following:
- Chronic migraines
- Weight gain
- Mood disorders
- Skin conditions such as rashes, acne, rosacea or eczema
- Thyroid disease
Let’s Talk Gluten-Free Baking
You may be thinking to yourself, “Can I eat any baked goods while eating gluten-free?” The answer is YES!
One of the most important steps is to swap out white and wheat flours, which are HORRIBLE for you! Most white and wheat flours contain gluten, are bleached and hard on your digestive system.
Instead of white or wheat flour, you can simply use an all-purpose gluten-free flour. But if you want to bump up the nutritional value, try using some of following, great-tasting, gluten-free flours (article continues below):
1) Coconut Flour
This popular gluten-free flour alternative has people going coco-nuts! It’s high in fiber, low in carbs and chock-full of protein. Among it’s many health benefits, coconut flour is actually great for digestion.
But before you start baking with coconut flour, there are a few things you need to know:
- You cannot substitute coconut flour with wheat or white flours at a 1:1 ratio. They are not equivalent. Rather, in baked goods, you typically want to use 1/4 cup coconut flour for every 1 full cup grain flour.
- Since coconut flour tends to be dense and dry, you will need to use more eggs with coconut flour than you would with grain-based flours. According to Nourished Kitchen, “In general for every one cup of coconut flour you use, you will need to use six beaten eggs in your recipe in addition to approximately one cup liquid such as coconut milk.”
- Since coconut flour is clumpy, it must be thoroughly beaten.
- Coconut flour has an irresistible sweetness to it, so you may want to cut back on your sweeteners.
2) Almond Four
Almond flour has all the same health benefits as a handful of almonds! It’s great for making baked goods such as cookies, cakes and pastries. It’s also good for coating foods like chicken tenders.
Here’s what you need to know:
- Almond flour absorbs liquid differently than most other flours and you’ll likely get a soggy baked good if you do a straight substitution. The ratio really depends on the recipe. (Your best bet is to find a recipe that already calls for almond flour.)
- Depending on the brand, you can get “fine ground” or a more “coarse ground”. Using a coarser ground almond flour could make your baked goods overly grainy.
- Once opened, store almond flour in the refrigerator or freezer. This will prevent spoilage.
3) Hazelnut Flour
When baking pastries, cakes, cookies, pancakes or breads, you can replace a portion of your flour with hazelnut flour. This will add key vitamins and nutrients to your pastries, along with reducing the carbs!
Bob’s Red Mill manufacture recommends replacing 30% of your flour with hazelnut flour.
4) Chia Seed Meal
Chia seeds may be small, but they pack a powerful nutritional punch. They’re rich in protein, Omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants. They also contain numerous vitamins and minerals important for your overall health. Chia seeds are known to boost energy, fight inflammation, support heart health and lower blood pressure (just to name a few benefits).
Chia seed flour feeds the body those same benefits, since it’s simply made of ground chia seeds. You can make your own chia seed flour by putting seeds into a coffee grinder or blender and pulsing until they’re finely ground. Be sure to store your chia seed flour in an airtight container.
Here are some things you need to know about baking with chia seed flour:
- You can use chia seed flour in a wide variety of gluten-free recipes as a 1:1 replacement for wheat flours.
- Increase baking time by about 5%
- Liquid levels may need to be increased (depending on the recipe)
5) Quinoa Flour
This is one of the most nutritious flours out there! You can use quinoa to boost the protein value of your baked goods since it’s a wonderful source of complete protein, providing all of the essential amino acids.
According to manufacturer Bob’s Red Mill, “You can substitute this [quinoa] flour for half of the all-purpose flour in many recipes, or completely replace wheat flour in cakes and cookie recipes.”
As far as flavor, quinoa flour will add a light, nutty flavor to your baked goods.
6) Brown Rice Flour
Rice flour will give your baked goods a richer, nuttier flavor than wheat flour. Here are a few things you need to know:
- You can replace up to 1/4 of wheat flour with brown rice flour.
- Since rice flour absorbs more liquid than wheat flours, you may need to add more eggs and/or liquids.
When switching from traditional all-purpose flour to any of these gluten-free flour alternatives, expect to go through a trial and error period! Remember, these flours act very differently than traditional all-purpose flour. For this reason, we recommend looking for gluten-free recipes that already call for these flours to make things easier on yourself.