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5 Flour Options for Cooking and Baking with Diabetes

Diet and Nutrition

December 14, 2023

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Photography by Martí Sans/Stocksy United

Photography by Martí Sans/Stocksy United

by Sarah Garone

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Medically Reviewed by:

Adrienne Seitz, MS, RD, LDN

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•••••

by Sarah Garone

•••••

Medically Reviewed by:

Adrienne Seitz, MS, RD, LDN

•••••

•••••

Whether you want to bake muffins, whisk together a gravy, or batter some chicken, you have multiple flour options.

Flour is one of the most widely used ingredients in Western cuisine. This powdered wheat is everywhere!

But if you live with type 2 diabetes, you should be careful about foods that contain flour. Besides anchoring tons of baked goods, flour shows up in sauces, pasta, breads, soups, puddings, cereals, granola bars, and more.

The reason to be careful? Flour-based foods aren’t the greatest choices for your blood sugar.

White flour is a high-glycemic food with a glycemic index of 85 out of 100, meaning it can raise blood glucose quickly. While it can be fine for you to include it occasionally, there are other, better options that won’t spike your blood sugar to the same extent.

Some flour types can be substituted based on the bigger picture — reducing simple carbs and eating carbs with fat, protein, and fiber to help digestion. Try these five flour options for cooking and baking.

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1. Almond flour

Due to the rise of gluten-free diets, alternative flours like almond flour have seen a major uptick in popularity. It’s not just good for gluten-free folks! Almond flour can also make baking healthier for people living with diabetes.

Since almond flour is typically made with ground almonds, it contains all the goodness of these healthy nuts. One serving contains:

  • 6 grams of carbohydrates (compared to the 25 grams in a serving of white flour)
  • 3 grams of fiber
  • 5 grams of protein

And because almonds have a glycemic index of just 15, this flour is a safe bet for people with diabetes. According to a 2021 study, consuming more almonds could lead to reduced hemoglobin A1C, an important measure of long-term blood sugar levels.

In baking, you can generally substitute almond flour for white flour at a 1:1 ratio. Just note that you might need an extra binder (like eggs or milk) to hold a recipe together.

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2. Chickpea flour

Fiber is a BFF to diabetes. Research has shown that people who eat more dietary fiber may be less likely to develop type 2 diabetes and that this nutrient can help manage blood sugar.

For a high-fiber baking alternative, check out chickpea flour. At 5 grams per 1/4 serving, it’s one of the highest fiber flours around. It’s also a serious source of protein, packing 5 grams per serving.

A 2019 study even suggests that eating more protein could help reduce insulin resistance.

Chickpea flour is a great alternative to white or whole wheat flour. In most recipes, you can use less chickpea flour than wheat flour. Start by substituting 1/2 to 3/4 of the amount of wheat flour a recipe calls for.

Various flours add unique flavor and texture to your home cooking and baking.

3. Spelt flour

Spelt flour might be harder to come by than other flours, but it’s worth a try if you can find it. It has a pleasantly sweet flavor, and it’s loaded with 5 grams of protein and 4 grams of fiber per serving.

That said, it’s higher in carbs than some other choices, with 22 grams per 1/4 cup. It also has a glycemic index of around 60, which is considered moderate, not low.

Still, as a whole grain, spelt is an especially good choice for people with type 2 diabetes. According to a 2020 study, people who ate less processed whole grain foods improved their blood sugar levels in just 2 weeks.

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4. Oat flour

If you don’t have oat flour on hand, you may very well have the one ingredient you need for a DIY version: oats!

Oat flour is made simply by grinding rolled oats into a powder. Just like oats themselves, it’s an excellent addition to a diabetes-friendly diet for its high fiber content (3 grams per 1/4 cup) and low glycemic index of 25.

Try oat flour instead of all-purpose white flour in recipes that could use nutty, earthy flavor. Because it’s slightly lighter than wheat flour, oat flour should be substituted by weight. Rather than use a measuring cup, weigh your oat flour on a food scale to ensure it matches the weight of all-purpose white flour or wheat flour in a recipe.

5. Whole wheat flour

Sure, whole wheat flour has carbs (21.5 grams per 1/4 cup serving), but they’re not the refined, blood-sugar-spiking kind. (This flour’s glycemic index is just 45.)

In whole wheat flour, wheat kernels are left intact, saving their original fiber, B vitamins, and protein. Also, 100% whole wheat flour contains just over 3 grams of fiber and 4 grams of protein per serving.

Whole wheat flour can replace white flour just about anywhere at a 1:1 ratio. Try it in sauces, cookies, or scones. Adding 2 teaspoonfuls of water for every cup of whole wheat flour so that your cookies turn out just right, according to King Arthur Baking Company.

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Flours to avoid and substitutes

Again, white flour may not be a total bogeyman for blood sugar, but it’s not the best choice for people with type 2 diabetes, either. Its minimal fiber, high carbs, and degree of processing make it less than desirable for diabetes-friendly cooking.

Several common flours fall under the umbrella of “white” or “refined” flour. Some to avoid or limit include:

  • all-purpose
  • cake flour
  • white rice flour
  • pastry flour
  • corn flour

As substitutes, use any of the lower carb options listed above, or experiment with subbing a portion of the white flour in baked goods with ground flaxseed or whole oats to boost nutrients.

Takeaway

Whether you want to bake up some muffins, whisk together a gravy, or batter some chicken, you have multiple flour options.

Look for flour high in fiber and protein but low in refined carbohydrates. You can even think of it as an opportunity to become a more diverse home chef! Various flours add unique flavor and texture to your home cooking and baking.

Medically reviewed on December 14, 2023

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About the author

Sarah Garone

Sarah Garone is a nutritionist, freelance writer, and food blogger. Find her sharing down-to-earth nutrition info at A Love Letter to Food or follow her on Twitter.

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