Give Your Baking an Upgrade With One of These Healthy White Flour Alternatives

This simple swap will boost the nutritional value of any homemade baked good.

One of the best parts about baking from scratch? Aside from being able to enjoy your handiwork straight from the oven (and licking the bowl, obvs), it's having full control over the ingredients you use in the process.

We all know that flour is the one ingredient found in almost every baked good. But whether you're a from-the-box baker or have been making Mary Berry-worthy desserts for years, you have quite a few flour options to choose from these days. Not that there's anything wrong with white all-purpose flour, of course—aside from its limited nutritional value. (And the fact that those with gluten issues can't eat it.)

That said, Gena Hamshaw, a registered dietitian with The Full Helping, is all for using an alternative flour, since it can boost the nutritional value of your favorite baked goods. Here, we've broken down the differences between some of our favorite healthy alternative flours to make things a little easier next time you're in the baking aisle and feel like shaking things up.

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Whole Wheat Flour

Whole wheat flour is ideal for enjoying homemade bread and baked goods without sacrificing a commitment to eating whole foods. "Whole wheat flour contains all parts of the wheat berry in its whole form: bran, germ, and endosperm. This makes whole wheat flour significantly higher in fiber than white flour," Hamshaw says. In addition to fiber, whole wheat flour is richer in protein and iron than all-purpose white flour. "I always recommend products that are sourced transparently, non-GMO, and free of artificial ingredients."

Whole grain flours are especially nice for adding texture and nutty flavor to bread, muffins, and baked goods. If you're new to working with whole grain flour, try combining it with all-purpose flour and adjusting ratios to suit your needs. You can also try a whole wheat flour that is sprouted, a process which maximizes the nutrition and digestibility of the ingredient, says Hamshaw​​​​​​​.

RELATED: We All Know Whole Grains Are Good for You, but These 11 Are the Healthiest

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Spelt Flour

Spelt is a pure non-hybridized, nutritious ancient grain. Spelt flour is milled from spelt berries, which are an ancient variety of wheat. "Spelt lends subtle sweetness to baked goods, along with fiber," Hamshaw says. It's milder and lighter than other whole wheat flours, which makes it popular in whole grain baking. "Some people who find wheat difficult to digest have an easier time digesting spelt, possibly because it contains less gluten than conventional wheat." Generally speaking, spelt flour can be substituted for any recipe that calls for wheat flour.

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Rye Flour

Rye is a richly nutritious, wholesome grain. "Rye flour is made from rye berries, which have a similar appearance to wheat berries, but are distinct from it," explains Hamshaw. Rye is a good source of fiber, as well as minerals like manganese, copper, and phosphorus. "Rye is also rich in phytonutrients—chemical compounds found in plants that may help fight disease and protect our bodies from the stress associated with aging."

Rye flour is lower on the glycemic index than wheat flour, so it's less likely to trigger a high insulin response and spike blood sugar. In addition, studies have shown that rye flour's high-fiber content can also help with blood sugar control. Choose an organic sprouted rye flour if you're looking to make sourdough breads with a complex flavor profile.

RELATED: What Is Sprouted Bread? And Why You Should Add It to Your Diet

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Brown Rice Flour

Brown rice flour is a good choice for those who follow gluten-free diets, since it is naturally gluten-free and richly nutritious. "And unlike many gluten-free flours or flour blends, brown rice flour is minimally processed," Hamshaw says. "Brown rice flour can be combined with other flours when baking or used to thicken up gravies and sauces, a great tip for preparing gluten-free meals during the holiday season!"

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  1. “Rye - An Overview.” ScienceDirect Topics, ScienceDirect, 2014,

  2. Minich DM. A Review of the Science of Colorful, Plant-Based Food and Practical Strategies for "Eating the Rainbow". J Nutr Metab. 2019 Jun 2;2019:2125070. doi: 10.1155/2019/2125070. Erratum in: J Nutr Metab. 2020 Nov 28;2020:5631762. PMID: 33414957; PMCID: PMC7770496.

  3. Sandberg JC, Björck IME, Nilsson AC. Effects of whole grain rye, with and without resistant starch type 2 supplementation, on glucose tolerance, gut hormones, inflammation and appetite regulation in an 11-14.5 hour perspective; a randomized controlled study in healthy subjects. Nutr J. 2017;16(1):25. doi:10.1186/s12937-017-0246-5

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