Everyone has their preference of what type of flour they enjoy cooking or baking with the most.
There’s a seemingly unlimited amount of flours. And with all of the different kinds of flours out there today, can you still enjoy your favorite baked goods while remaining on a low carb or ketogenic diet?
To answer this question you have to know a little bit about flour in the first place.
What is Flour?
Flour is a powder made from the grinding of grain.
What kind of grainsk? Well, typically wheat grain is the kind used for flour. The type of flour varies based on what part of grain is retained during the milling process. The three parts of the grain include:
- Brain (bran)
Most of the simply white flours contain this part, and this part alone, of the grain. The endosperm is the starchy center of the grain. It contains carbohydrates, protein and a small bit of oil.
The brain, also known as bran, adds texture, color and fiber to flour, Thi part is the outer husk of the grain. This is the component that gives the whole grain flours their rough texture and brown color.
The third part of the grain is the germ — the reproductive center that contains the majority of the nutrients. Flour that contains the germ throughout the milling process will be rich in vitamins and minerals in comparison to other flours.
Now that we know the basics of the makeup of flour, let’s get into the different types. If you’ve been down the baking aisle in your local grocery store, chances are you’ve seen a variety of different flours to choose from.
Some of the classic flours include:
- Unbleached flour
- Bread flour
- Cake flour
- Pastry flour
- Self-rising flour
- Whole wheat flour
- Rice flour
With all of these different flours to choose from, chances are they aren’t all completely identical in macronutrients.
However, for whole wheat, enriched, all-purpose flours, a one cup serving is almost 96 grams of carbohydrates, two grams of fat and 13 grams of protein.
Looking for fiber? That might be harder to find, with one cup of flour only containing 3 grams, making about 93 grams of net carbs.
That’s a lot of carbs.
You may be surprised to hear that flour actually does have some nutritional value. When it comes to vitamins and minerals, flour is rich in a quite a few including folate, choline, betaine, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and potassium.
How Does Flour Fit Into the Low Carb Diet?
When it comes to foods to avoid on a low carb or ketogenic diet, flour is one of them.
Not only is it high in carbohydrates, but high in gluten as well.
This can have negative effects on those with gluten sensitivity, causing a number of issues including bloating, abdominal pain, headaches, fatigue, skin issues, depression, anxiety, autoimmune disorders, joint pain, muscle pain and brain fog[*].
Most of the popular flours today such as white and wheat flours are also usually bleached and hard on the digestive system.
However, for individuals who don’t have problems with gluten or other digestive issues, a bit of flour every now and then would be okay on a low carb diet. While it would have to be a rather small serving of flour to stay below your goal carb intake for the day, a small amount shouldn’t kick you out of ketosis.
When Should Flour Be Avoided in the Low Carb Diet?
Along with those sensitive to gluten, diabetics should avoid whole or wheat flour altogether.
High glycemic index foods rapidly affects blood sugar, which could be dangerous for diabetics.
But if you don’t want to stay away from flour all together, low glycemic index foods such as almond flour and coconut flour are digested and absorbed slower, producing a gradual rise in blood sugar instead of an instant spike.
If you are free of health concerns and just want to try a low carb or ketogenic diet, there may still be room for flour in your diet, but at a bare minimum.
One type of ketogenic diet, the cyclical keto diet (CKD), allows for more wiggle room with carbs, adding in 24-48 hours of carb loading every week or two. However, the CKD is only a recommended type of diet for athletes that train at a high intensity that absolutely need their glycogen stores replenished. That’s probably not most of you reading.
If too many carbs are eaten out of this carb loading window, there’s a good chance you’ll be kicked out of ketosis and your body will start looking for carbs as fuel again.
If your goal is to remain in ketosis, the best option would be to use low carb flours such as a coconut flour or almond flour. These options are perfect for baking your favorite sweets while keeping your carb intake low. Try this low carb pizza crust or these low carb gingersnap cookies made with coconut flour and almond flour.
Back to the science.
During ketosis, your metabolism is literally being altered, where your body then looks for fats for fuel instead of carbs.
So as you can imagine, getting back into ketosis can be a huge pain in the you-know-what for some people, which is why it’s better to just avoid flour in your diet and save yourself the headache.
So Is Flour Low Carb Friendly?
While there are a few cases in which flour is low carb friendly, those looking to improve their health and limit their carb intake should avoid the typical flours found in the baking aisle such as the ones listed above.
The limited cases in which flour would be considered low carb friendly is during the carb loading days of the CKD in which case an individual can have up to 24-48 of replenishing their glycogen stores with about 70 percent of your total caloric intake coming from carbohydrates.
Luckily for us, we have many low carb alternatives for flour to make our favorite sweet treats and indulge in our favorite satiating goodies! Using flours such as almond flour or coconut flour take the guessing out of whether you’re sticking to your health goals and allow for you to have some fun without feeling deprived. Have a favorite recipe using a low carb flour alternative? Share it with us.
In the end, flour is not low carb or keto friendly.