We are Indians. And we depend on our staple diet plan to survive. Our staple meal comprises chapatis and rice accompanied by a desirable choice of curries and dals. And to make chapatis we generally depend on wheat flour which is considered a healthier option than others. There is another option of refined flour or maida which is the processed form of wheat flour. It is mostly used to make cakes, Indian sweets and other delicacies. But sadly it is nutrition-less and gives us only unwanted added calories. It is a highly processed and carbohydrate dense flour from which the nutritious goodness of germ and bran, fibres and phytonutrients are removed. It also has a lot of gluten. Flours have different glycemic indexes which tell us about how much blood sugar will rise after it’s consumption. Foods break down in our mouth with the help of digestive enzymes present in the saliva. The unhealthy flour varieties do so faster than their healthier versions which break down slowly in the small intestine giving energy for a longer duration of time. Wheat flour too is not the healthiest option to pick from given choices. It breaks down rapidly into simple sugars and raises blood sugar levels. When this happens the pancreas releases insulin to control it. But when we keep eating wheat flour products our cells may become saturated with sugar wanting no more of it.Then cells become more resistant to insulin and the pancreas has to work harder to pump more of it. This leads to a condition called diabetes and the subsequent monitoring of blood sugar levels. So the need arises to introduce healthier versions and varieties of flours on which we can rely and depend to stay healthy, active and fit.Some such varieties are:-
1.Soy Flour-It is made from soybeans. It is a great source of protein, iron, calcium, vit D, folate, zinc, vit K and many essential vitamins. It helps to lower cholesterol in the body. Women nearing menopause must consume soy based foods to avoid hot flashes, mood swings, irritation and other unwanted symptoms.
2.Brown Rice Flour–It has a high fiber content. It also has vitamin B, iron, manganese which helps in the formation of bones and tissues. It gives the dishes made from it a fluffy texture. People having allergy from nut flavors can opt for this flour.
3.Almond Flour– It is usually made from soaked and blanched almonds that have been ground to a fine powder. It has protein, healthy fats and more vitamin E than white flour. It is a healthy, gluten free option to go for. It has a soft texture and prevents deficiency of essential nutrients like manganese, vitamin E and fiber content. It is great for baking recipes like brownies and mug cakes.
4.Ragi Flour–It is gluten free and suitable for people who are lactose intolerant. It is a good source of carbohydrates and has nutrients like calcium, antioxidants and dietary fibers. It provides a complete package of energy and keeps you feeling full for long. It is suitable for diabetics and helps in weight loss issues. When mixed with other flours or used in different recipes it gives a distinct taste and flavor to it. It is good for baking goodies.
5.Quinoa Flour-It is a very effective superfood. It is gluten free and has soluble fibers. It is good for making chapatis, cakes, dosais, cutlets and more.
6.Bajra Flour-It is gluten free, fiber filled, has various amino acids, antioxidants and regulates blood pressure, sugar and heart health. It is a staple ingredient to make chapatis in Rajasthan, northern and western India.
7.Jowar Flour-It is a staple diet in central and western India. It has lots of vitamin B, calcium, fibers, iron, phosphorus, antioxidants and helps to evade the risk of heart diseases.
8.Whole wheat Flour-Wheel wheat flour contains wheat berry in bran, germ and endosperm forms. It is higher in fiber content than white flour. It is also richer in protein and iron than white flour.
9.Spelt Flour-Spelt is a non-hybridized and nutritious ancient grain. It is made from spelt berries which are an ancient variety of wheat. It is milder and lighter than other whole wheat flours. It can be substituted completely for wheat flour.
10.Rye Flour-Rye is a richly nutritious wholesome grain. It is made from rye berries. It is a good source of fiber and minerals like manganese, copper and phosphorus. It is also rich in phytonutrients, chemical compounds found in plants that help fight diseases. It is lower on the glycemic index than wheat flour. It’s high fiber content helps control blood sugar.
11.Psyllium Husk–It is a rich source of fiber that helps get relief from constipation, reduces cholesterol and blood sugar levels in type 2 diabetes. It can be mixed with other flours and get a healthy alternative to try.
12.Plantain Flour-It is higher in resistant starch than the regular flours and it doesn’t totally break down in the body. It’s dense and grain free and can be used instead of refined flour.
13.Chickpea Flour-It is made from dried garbanzo beans. It has selenium and vitamin B. It helps to add texture. It is a gluten free, protein packed and fibrous flour and serves a good substitute for refined flour. It can be used with crepes, pancakes, breads or dumplings.
14.Oat Flour-It helps in maintaining cholesterol levels and lowering blood pressure. It is gluten-free and high in protein. It also has lot of soluble fiber. It can be used to thicken soups, gravies and make healthy snacks like cutlets, rolls and pancakes.
15.Buckwheat Flour-It is not related to wheat in any way as is suggested by the name. It is a pseudo cereal and not a grain and is gluten free. It is a great source of fiber and essential amino acids. It is a good substitute for refined flour.
16.Amaranth Flour-It has more calcium, magnesium, iron, carotenoids, fiber than most veggies and grains. It is one of the most protein packed plant foods and has vitamin C and vitamin B6.
17. Konjac Glucomannan– It is a Japanese flour and has only 20 calories per serving. It has five grams of carbohydrates and five grams of soluble fiber which means zero net carbs. We can substitute it with cornstarch and say, if we need 10 heaped teaspoons of cornstarch it can be switched with 2 tsps. of Konkan flour and thus cut down on calories and blood sugar levels. It can also be used for baking cakes and cookies. It has no sugar and is apt for a healthy metabolism and digestive system. This flour is really a suitable substitute for refined flour and has been used in Japanese cuisine for centuries.
18.Coconut Flour-Coconut flour is a soft flour made from the residual pulp after extracting coconut milk. It is a protein and fiber rich flour which is gluten free and has more digestive carbohydrates than white flour. It is easy to make and can be used in combination with wheat flours. It has lower glycemic index too.
We need flour basically for our regular, every day meal preparations of chapatis, baked goods, pancakes, muffins, stuffed wraps, rolls and many more dishes. With our fast tracked, busy lives, engaging schedules and a rising surge of health consciousness, given the attack of terrible, life threatening diseases on a high ever impact influencing each one of us in this world, we all are in dire needs for healthier alternatives in everything we eat. There are many substitutes for white flour as mentioned above. We must know about a healthy lifestyle and healthier diets to improve the overall quality and standard of our lives. We must eat healthy to stay happy. And we must remember that ‘health is wealth’ and every other thing is secondary to it. So include all good ingredients and healthy methods to make a tempting, healthy and hearty meal which will be quite satisfying to both the tummy and the soul. So if we want to progress, be an aware, all rounder person and want a blissful life then we should definitely strike the chord of balance in our diet plans, our routines and incorporate healthy habits in things concerning us and our well being.