Flour is the main ingredient in bread; one of the most commonly used ingredients in most cultures and popular right across the world.
It is a powder created by grinding raw grains, seeds, nuts, roots or beans and can be used to make a variety of different foods as well as bread, including pastries and biscuits.
White flour, otherwise known as plain flour, is the most commonly used flour and is made from ground wheat.
White flour is highly refined. Made from just the endosperm of the grain, it doesn’t contain any of the nutrients which are contained in the grain’s germ and bran.
Can you eat flour if you’re on a gluten free diet?
There are a number of reasons why someone may be following a gluten free diet.
They may have coeliac disease, which is where your immune system attacks and damages your gut when you eat food containing gluten. If you do eat gluten as a coeliac, you could become severely ill.
The symptoms of this include stomach ache, bloating and diarrhoea. Coeliac disease may cause damage to the intestine and prevent the body from absorbing nutrients. Therefore the best way to manage coeliac disease is with a gluten free diet.
Coeliac disease is a very severe form of gluten intolerance. But there are other less severe reasons why you may have an adverse reaction to gluten, including bloating and discomfort, which is unlikely to cause any long term damage.
If you choose to follow a gluten free diet, you must ensure that you eat a balanced diet and get all of the nutrients that your body needs through alternatives.
Unfortunately, traditional plain white flour often contains gluten, which is a protein contained in the grains barley, wheat and rye.
However, there are plenty of flour alternatives which means that if you’re following a gluten free diet, you don’t need to go without.
Gluten free flour substitutes
Doves Farm Gluten & Wheat Free Plain White Flour
Doves Farm Gluten & Wheat Free Plain White Flour is a very close alternative to white wheat flour and contains no gluten, wheat, milk, peanut, egg or soya. This means that not only is this free from flour suitable for a gluten free diet, it’s also great for vegans.
It can be used to make puddings and biscuits and can be used to thicken sauces for both sweet and savoury dishes.
Brown rice flour is made from ground wholegrain brown rice and has a slightly nutty flavour.
This flour alternative is made from the starch extracted from potatoes. Holland & Barrett Potato Starch is a gluten free flour which can be used in bread, sponge cakes and to bind ingredients together to make meatballs.
This nutritious power flour is made from dried coconut flesh. Coconut milk is squeezed out of the flesh, before the flesh is dried at a low temperature and ground to make this completely wheat free flour.
It is rich in fibre and protein and therefore great for a variety of recipes including breads, cakes and muffins. It is perfect for those following a gluten or grain free diet.
More nutritious alternatives to plain white flour
You may be looking for flour substitutes which have more nutritional value than plain white flour.
Spelt flour is made from an ancient grain which is related to, and looks like, wheat. Spelt is a wholegrain which means that the endosperm, bran and germ are all included and so none of the nutrients are lost. The flour contains more fibre and protein than regular wheat flour and so it is a great alternative.
Although this Doves Farm flour isn’t suitable for a gluten free diet, spelt flour is a great plain flour alternative for Kosher, vegetarian and vegan diets.
‘Normal’ flour, the wheat flour that we use in our everyday breads and cakes, is tolerable to most people, who are able to enjoy everything from baguettes to brownies, without any side effects, aside perhaps from the weight gain that comes with over-indulgence.
Unfortunately for others, eating products containing flour can cause extremely unpleasant side effects.
Some people are allergic to wheat. For these people, coming into contact with bread or other wheat-containing products can cause hives, nausea and vomiting, diarrhoea and in some cases, congestion and sore eyes.
In extreme cases, an allergic reaction to wheat can cause anaphylaxis.
Wheat free flour therefore enables those with wheat allergies to enjoy baked goods, without discomfort.
Other people are specifically intolerant to gluten.
Coeliac disease is an autoimmune disorder characterised by a serious intolerance of gluten-containing products.
Coeliac disease causes the body to trigger an immune response to gluten and can result in extreme symptoms including weight loss, vomiting, fatigue and persistent GI issues. For these people, gluten free flour is a must.
Gluten is a protein that is present not only in wheat but also barley, rye and triticale, a wheat and rye hybrid.
It is sometimes found in medicines and cosmetics, as well as in foods, including breads, soups and pasta.
Oats are often processed in places where wheat is also present, so oats are often listed as not recommended for those with a gluten intolerance.
Gluten-free does not mean that the gluten has been removed from your flour.
In fact, gluten free flour is made from alternatives to wheat, barley and rye.
While almond, sorghum and buckwheat flour are popular alternatives, many people choose potato starch gluten free flour, while rice and lentil flour are also popular choices.
Choosing a free from flour can be challenging, so opting for a specific gluten free bread flour or gluten free all-purpose flour labelled for cake baking can take out some of the stress of deciding between a plethora of options.
Ideal for thickening sauces and soups, organic brown rice flour gluten free, light and full of healthy whole grains, is a good for you alternative, which is also suitable for any baking recipe.
Nutrient-rich coconut flour meanwhile is naturally sweet, making it perfect for baking cookies, cakes and pancakes.
Gluten-free baking takes some getting used to but once you have got to grips with your favourite flour, working with it can be as easy as pie.
You may require a little more liquid than a recipe states to rehydrate gluten-free flour.
You might also find that giving your mixture an extra sprinkle of gluten-free baking powder makes for lighter, more fluffy cakes.
Adding xanthan gum is a favourite tip of gluten-free bakers.
This clever stuff helps bring some of the elasticity that flour without gluten is missing, helping to keep cakes from becoming too crumbly and giving glutenless loaves a stronger structure.