Best Alternatives to Foods with Refined Flours

When you’re eating outside your home, it’s really hard to avoid flour-based foods. Whether at restaurants or even at the homes of friends and family, breakfasts tend to be bread-based, lunches often include bread, buns or tortillas, and for dinner there’s white flour pasta, pizza, or bread rolls. And the flours that make up these foods, almost exclusively refined flours, whether bleached white flour, bread flour, or even whole wheat flour, are devoid of any nutritional benefits. They’re empty-calorie, sugar-based carbs that are the foundation of a poor diet.When you’re eating at home, you do have control over the kinds of carbs you consume, so to that end I’m going to provide you with three alternatives to refined flour foods.

1. Brown rice, and brown rice tortillas

Brown rice is more nutritionally-pure than white rice, which has had many of its nutrients taken out. Brown rice is a great accompaniment to just about all dishes, ideally vegetable-based, but also beans, tofu, or tempeh, in addition to basic meats if you’re not a vegetarian.
Instead of flour tortillas, which like most breads are made with refined flours, try brown rice tortillas. They’re available in most health food stores and alternative chain groceries, and they’re not only more nutritionally-sound than flour tortillas, they’re also gluten-free.2. Corn tortillas
These are far more readily available than brown rice tortillas, but they come in a range of quality so note your options carefully. The best versions have the shortest ingredients list possible (no more than about five listed), and come either in ‘handmade’ versions or more mass-produced. Corn tortillas are also gluten-free, and after eating them you tend to keep your same energy level, whereas with refined flours you may experience some level of crash.3. Gluten-free products and mixes
With the rise of the attention paid to Celiac’s Disease, and gluten intolerance generally, there are tons of gluten-free products now on the market, from bread and pizza mixes to pre-made breads, bagels and pastas (including brown rice and quinoa pastas, both of which are great products generally). You’ll find a wide range of quality in this category as well- so pay attention again to ingredients, and wherever possible, opt for the mixes that have no or very little sugar added (unfortunately, sugar is usually added to gluten-free bread mixes to help them rise). The types of flours used in gluten-free products, or mixes if you make them yourself, include rice flour, tapioca flour, potato flour/starch, and amaranth flour, among others. Compare certain products and mixes with each other, and look for the ones that affect your energy levels the least after you eat them.

All of the above refined flour alternatives will be lower in sugars and far less taxing than the typical refined white flours that are so omnipresent. The more you can transition away from those and towards refined flour alternatives, the healthier you’ll be.

Michael Shaw is a freelance writer covering health and nutrition. He writes about unrefined flours and sugars at his website No Flour, No Sugar Diet.