Healthful flour alternatives

Modern manufacturing practices are practically built around flour, making it a difficult ingredient to substitute for in the production of low-carb foods.

By Kantha Shelke, Ingredients Editor

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Dreamfields Foods (, Carrington, N.D., created a pasta with reduced glycemic index and which, most importantly, did not suffer from the poor taste and appearance of other low-carb pastas on the market.

“The Dreamfields concept is rather simple and elegant,” according to marketing director Jon Hall. “The semolina is coated with a functional film of hydrocolloids so as not to affect the taste, appearance or cooking properties of the finished product but which, when consumed, forms a viscous coating that slows the production of glucose in the small intestine. It also favors the activity of probiotic bacteria in the lower gut and the production of healthful butyrates.”

The product is sold under the name Dreamfields pasta and it also forms the basis of Inn on the Creek pasta-based dinner mixes for those counting carbohydrates.

Defatted flours from oilseeds such as sesame and flaxseed are proving to be viable alternatives for flour in artisan and low-carb breads. Sesame Flour and BenneFlax – milled sesame seed and flaxseed flours, respectively, from T.J. Harkins (, Wooddale, Ill. -- may be used to replace flour on an equivalent volume basis or as a partial replacement along with soy flour to mask the flavor and bitter taste of the latter ingredient.

Whole-milled flaxseed is now available in more convenient and longer-lasting forms. The ingredient is nutritionally rich in protein (20 percent), dietary fiber (27 percent), omega-3s (20 percent) and polyphenolic antioxidants (2 percent), including lignan phyto-estrogens. Its mild, toasty-cereal flavor makes it an excellent substitute for flour in most cereal-based foods.

Despite its high oil content, its soluble fiber helps retain considerable moisture in bakery formulas, contributing to softening while inhibiting drying or staling. Traditionally used in bread formulations in Canada, whole-milled flaxseed is becoming more popular in the U.S. – driven in part by the low-carb revolution and more recently because of innovative processing to extend shelf stability.

Whole-milled flaxseed may be used to replace 20-30 percent of the flour in bread, rolls, pizza crust, flatbreads and tortilla formulations with the following adjustments: Use fast-acting yeast, decrease mixing times and incorporate dough conditioners to improve handling properties. Whole-milled flaxseed can replace up to 50 percent of the flour in batters or bread crumbs and not affect color or flavor negatively under deep-frying conditions.

All the benefits of soy
Even while the low-carb craze is waning, many industry experts believe the soy craze is gaining steam. Nutriant (, a Beloit, Wis.-based unit of Kerry Ingredients, is producing soy-derived ingredients to replace flour for tasty and healthful low-carb formulations. The Nutriant line of soy powders and concentrates is especially useful where protein and carbohydrate levels are critical to health benefits, functionality and taste. Nutriant flours need no masking and are therefore ideal for food companies managing nutrition for finicky eaters such as children.

Nutriant flours also are processed without chemical solvents to remove the bitterness typically associated with soy, and so are suitable for manufacturers seeking to produce natural and organic products. Offerings range from 45–65 percent protein and are available as full- or low-fat powders and may contain as much as 55 percent dietary fiber. So even small amounts provide a great deal of enhancement for pasta, snacks, pizza dough, bread, muffins and even hand-held pastries.

Other soy-based ingredients on the market today are NexSoy Extra High Fiber Low-Fat Soy Flour and Hi-Protein from Spectrum Foods Inc. (, Springfield, Ill. The products have a grainy, earthy smell and no bitter taste. NexSoy is designed to replace flour and produce high-fiber and/or reduced-carb bread, cookie and bakery products. NexSoy ingredients can be incorporated at high inclusion rates without affecting flavor or texture and are available in natural, non-GMO and organic versions.

Resisting digestion
While digestion-resistant starches are found in nature, American ingenuity has commercially produced resistant starches in a number of ways for food manufacture. Resistant starches have many of the properties of the traditional starches, but do not contribute significantly to “net carbs” and are an excellent replacement for refined flour in the production of low-glycemic foods. They also improve digestive health due to their prebiotic action.

FiberSym 70 from Atchison, Kan.-based MGP Ingredients ( is a resistant starch developed from wheat. As a result, it carries the taste of wheat and is a natural fit for wheat flour-based product formulas. “When used to partially replace flour in bakery products, FiberSym, with approximately 70 percent digestion-resistant starch, provides clean flavor, white color and smooth, creamy texture with a nearly invisible presence in finished products,” according to marketing director Steve Ham.

Maize, which is not hybridized, is higher in fiber and has a lower glycemic value than its hybrid counterpart corn, which is higher in starch and lower in fiber. In fact, National Starch (, Bridgewater, N.J., derives its Hi-maize resistant starch from maize. Hi-maize provides all the health benefits of dietary fiber without changing the taste, texture or appearance of the food. The naturally derived white, resistant starch does not affect texture negatively as do many of the traditional, natural fibers and has been successfully used to lower the glycemic value of commercial grain-based foods including breads, buns, crackers and snacks.

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