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Low-carb Dark Chocolate Nut Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting {Grain-free, Gluten-free, Low-carb}

Low-carb Dark Chocolate Nut Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting {Grain-free, Gluten-free, Low-carb}
Low-carb chocolate nut cake with cream cheese frosting

Low-carb chocolate nut cake with cream cheese frosting

 

This recipe has been awhile in the tweaking stage, but I think I’ve got a winner now 🙂

I do love dark chocolate. I always have, but perhaps even more so since ditching the wheat and going low-carb… as dark chocolate is one of the few sweet indulgences I still make in my healthy lifestyle. This cake is moist, rich, tasty, low in carbs and delicious enough to have for special occasions, while being simple enough to prepare for no reason at all!

 

Grain-free, low-carbers, Rejoice! 16 pieces will give you:

  • About 3g net carbs per slice without chocolate chips
    (4.25g with cream cheese frosting )
  • About 6g net carbs with chocolate chips
    (7.25 with cream cheese frosting)

The recipe is one that I evolved from my Pumpkin Maple Spice Muffins (which are truly awesome by the way, if you haven’t tried them yet!) The nut butter and pumpkin puree in the batter seem to really add to the moistness. I threw in some walnuts and a few chocolate chips, which made it even yummier, but those are optional of course. These would also work great as cupcakes or muffins, but I rarely make cake, so am happy having a slice with my coffee this morning 😀 While this was yummy when fresh, I find it’s much better when it’s been refrigerated overnight, as the frosting firms up and the cake takes on a fudge-y richness. It reminds me of the zucchini fudge cake my mom used to make back in the wheating days 😉

Low-carb Chocolate Nut Cake

Adding wet ingredients into dry

Adding wet ingredients into dry

Dry Ingredients:

  • 2 C almond flour
  • 2 Tb coconut flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 C dark cocoa powder
  • 6 Tb Truvia or other sweetener to taste
Prepared pan

Prepared pan

Wet Ingredients:

  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 C nut butter (I have used both cashew and almond butters)
  • 1/4 C mayonnaise
  • 1/4 C sour cream
  • 2/3 C pumpkin puree
  • 1/4 C half-n-half, coconut milk or almond milk
  • 1/4 C melted butter or coconut oil
  • 1 Tb vanilla extract
Smooth batter on top

Smooth batter on top

Add-Ins:

  • 1/2 C dark chocolate chips (I used 60% cocoa Ghirardelli)
  • 1 C chopped walnuts, pecans or nuts of your choice

Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare cake pan or cupcake pan with liners. (Note: I used a 10″ springform pan, greased with butter, the bottom lined with a parchment round, and dusted with gluten-free flour to prevent sticking.) In a large mixing bowl, combine all dry ingredients; set aside. In a medium bowl, beat eggs, and add other wet ingredients one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add wet ingredients into dry, and combine completely.

Cooling before frosting

Cooling before frosting

Stir in nuts and chocolate chips if using them. Fill cake pan with batter, taking care to smooth out the top a bit, as this batter is not self-leveling. Bake for a total of 35-45 minutes, rotating pan halfway through bake time to ensure even cooking. Remove to rack to cool. If splitting one cake into 2 layers as I have done, cool completely before attempting to cut cake. Frost with Cream Cheese frosting or serve plain.

 

 

Rich, thick cream cheese frosting

Rich, thick cream cheese frosting

Cream Cheese Frosting:

  • 3/4 C butter, softened
  • 1/4 C Truvia or other sweetener to taste
  • 2 blocks cream cheese, softened (16 oz total)
  • 1 Tb vanilla extract
  • 1-2 Tb half-n-half or cream if needed

Directions: In the bowl of an electric mixer, using the whisk attachment, beat butter until lightened. Add sweetener and beat until well mixed and light. Add cream cheese, one block at a time, beating completely to ensure a fluffy frosting. Mix in 1Tb vanilla if desired. Add liquid if needed for desired consistency, and mix well. Be sure cake is cooled completely before frosting.

Very moist, rich and filling!

Very moist, rich and filling!

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COCONUT FLOUR TORTILLA! {Grain-free, Gluten-free}

Coconut flour tortilla with cheeseburger filling for lunch, YES!

Coconut flour tortilla with cheeseburger filling for lunch, YES!

 

I don’t do a lot of bread replacements, but I will definitely be using this one again. In fact, after I cooked it, and it was a success, I looked at it –blankly– for a bit, trying to figure out what to put in it, because my mind doesn’t even *think* in terms of sandwiches anymore!!

This is a recipe from www.freecoconutrecipes.com which is part of the Tropical Traditions coconut product website. I will probably tweak this a little after I have made it a few times, but as a basic recipe to work from, it ROCKS! I want to share this now because there are some who rely a lot on tortillas and wraps, and this might make your day a little easier and the switch to grain-free eating a little less scary.

 

Click for COCONUT FLOUR TORTILLA RECIPE.

It’s somewhere between a tortilla and a crepe, and was even sturdy enough for burger fillings! There’s no question it would be good with sweet dessert-type fillings as well, like sweetened cream cheese and berries, mmmm. I’ve been wanting to focus more on using coconut flour because almond flour can be a little harsh for my digestion, so this is perfect. KEEPER, thank you to my Facebook friend for posting this on her page, made my day!
 

 

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Which nutritional myths have you mistaken for fact?

 

This is something I haven’t done before, so please forgive me for relying on someone else’ writing and effort, but since this article does a great job of mentioning some of the most rampant myths in conventional wisdom regarding nutrition, that I have to POST IT HERE.

Kris Gunnars debunks the nutritional lies that say:

  • Eggs are unhealthy
  • Saturated fat is bad for you
  • Everybody should be eating grains
  • Eating a lot of protein is bad for your bones and kidneys
  • Low fat foods are good for you
  • You should eat many small meals throughout the day
  • Carbs should be your biggest source of calories
  • High omega-6 seed and vegetable oils are good for you
  • Low carbs diets are dangerous
  • Sugar is unhealthy because it contains “empty” calories
  • High fat foods will make you fat

Each of these items can be greatly expanded upon, of course, but this is a good starting point to share with those who are still afraid of eggs, fats, cholesterol and believe that they are eating healthy by making up most of their diet with processed, carb-heavy foods.

Following a diet based on eating whole foods and healthy fats (such as “Wheat Belly” by Dr. William Davis or the “Primal Blueprint” by Mark Sisson) are good places to begin reading to put these learnings into practice!

 

 

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Painfree and Painting Again!

Dear Readers and Supporters:

I just wanted to write an apology post to all of my wonderful followers (and to those whose blogs I follow and enjoy), to say that I’m sorry for being so quiet recently! I appreciate all of those who read and comment, and sincerely hope that you do continue to find value here in these pages, as I look forward to seeing what you have been up to in your kitchens and lives as well.

There are times when work and family just get too hectic for my mind to find the space to write here, even though it’s always in my thoughts (and in piles of ingredient notes in my kitchen from experiments!) I was working against an October deadline for some graphic work that pretty much consumed my energy on the computer, along with preparing for some remodeling projects around the home that now look like they will have to wait until Spring has Sprung… oh well! Can’t do it all at once  😉

Hand-painted distressed armoire

Hand-painted distressed armoire

That’s all wrapped up for now, and I have some other art projects on the horizon that promise to be interesting as well, as I venture back into painting murals and furniture again! I am sure that many of you are unaware that I was a decorative painter for more than 15 years, as I took a break the past few years mainly due to severe joint pain that seemed to get worse by the day. I actually went back to school and received a degree in Graphics/Digital Media Design because it interested me, and I felt that I needed to choose a new career that wasn’t so physical because climbing ladders and scaffold to paint walls and ceilings was completely overwhelming given the level of chronic pain I was experiencing!

Now, you may be guessing where I am going next… eliminating the wheat and grains over the past 6 months or so has changed my outlook and my ABILITY to work in a physical way! It was just a week into the Wheat Belly way of living that my joint pain was decreased by probably 80+%! No longer taking handfuls of Motrin every day or clenching my teeth and pushing through the painful haze, I feel like I did more than 15 years ago when I first started putting my designs on walls and furniture! It’s still amazing to me. Now, the pain isn’t chronic at all, and only shows itself when I actually physically stress my body. If I feel like accepting a commission to paint for a client, I now have that choice!

The inflammation from wheat was totally ruining the quality of my day-to-day life in the form of joint pain in my knees, hips, and sometimes my shoulders and elbows, in addition to having severe headaches 3-4 days a week, every week! Now that I am back up to par (without meds, thank you) it seems like there is so much catching up to do, and avenues to explore! But don’t fret, this blog remains one of the important things in my life that I am passionate about 🙂 Spreading the word about the grain-free lifestyle and helping others be able to pull it off in their own kitchens is very rewarding to me.

Hopefully you will indulge me if I post a picture here or there and let you know what I’m doing on a creative front in addition to posting recipes! A well-rounded life is much more achievable when our bodies are running clean and healthy!

 

 

I’d be interested to know what YOU are enjoying in life again (or newly enjoying) because you found renewed health by going wheat-free…. Feel free to post it in comments!

Yours in Health!
~ Gretchen

 
4 Comments

Posted by on November 2, 2012 in Article, Thankfulness

 

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When a Diet isn’t a Diet (Or how my husband and I have lost 44 lbs in 12 weeks)

What if I told you that by omitting ONE food, our overall health and weight are steadily improving? Would you think that going without one ingredient is something you could do if the health benefits were not only weight loss, but also improved overall health?

Do you struggle with any of the following? (Likely more than one…)

You might be thinking to yourself, “Well, of course I do! Who doesn’t?” Kind of like a disreputable psychic who makes general statements which are likely to apply to a wide range of people and situations, the list raises skepticism.  However, it is precisely BECAUSE these symptoms are so widespread that people should be more concerned about having them, not less. A widespread collection of symptoms might just point to a widespread contaminant or cause. Does that make sense?

There are countless over-the-counter drugs that one can buy to try to get a handle on these awful feelings. If you were to go to your doctor and complain about these symptoms, the likely result would be a prescription for a pharmaceutical to ease the symptom only. Maybe they would request a test or 3 first and then still write a prescription.

However, how many physicians really dig into the causes of these things, especially occurring together? How many ask what you are eating? How many ask whether you have tried to lose weight and whether any methods were successful? My bet is VERY FEW. Why? Because even the medical profession has accepted that these symptoms are normal or average in our society, and are signs of perhaps aging or the general stress of living, even though they occur in children and teens as well as adults! (Not to mention, who would purchase all the over-the-counter meds and prescription drugs if people were to fix these problems with DIET alone?)

Finding the “Key” to good health

As citizens of planet Earth, we are faced with countless health choices and challenges in our everyday living. Some rely solely on pharmaceutical solutions to manage their symptoms; some use a combination of meds and natural approaches. Many of us have been delving for years into the natural keys to our own personal health, trying to discover what makes us feel the best and what makes us hurt, deciding which foods are “golden” and which are damaging our body systems, which combination of foods and activities will help us to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight and fitness level. It matters to some of us, a whole lot. It seems like it can be so much work to keep up with the conflicting information and possible schools of thought, that it can be frustrating trying to make real and lasting changes for ourselves and our families.

It doesn’t help that the waters are muddied by corporate voices that speak with profit as a primary goal, rather than distributing critical health information. I have no intention of sounding extremist or alarmist when I discuss the state of human health, but I do think that many people, even those who believe they are eating “right” or “healthy” are instead eating themselves into clinics, hospitals and even graves. The worst part of it is that while some people have a casual disregard for health matters, there are many who have the very best intentions, and are unfortunately operating on misinformation, rather than apathy or ignorance.

If you are like me, you have been hoping that at some point the light would shine down, illuminating some “truth” that you missed, and things would click into place.  That there would be some key that makes so much sense that you can’t believe you didn’t figure it out sooner.

Well, I am happy to say, we have figured it out! (For us, anyway.) I’d like to think that it’s the same key that might work for you. I’m just thankful that I heard the message enough times from other people passing through my life that I actually tuned in, and investigated! People on gluten free diets were talking about the major positive health impact that one change has made…

We gave up WHEAT, and our health and weight is steadily improving!


I believe that most people have had, at the very least, an inkling that processed carbohydrates are “bad”, or that there are better choices out there than foods with “empty calories.”  Reaching for a cookie, cupcake, candy bar, or slice of pizza usually is met with delicious anticipation as well as a pang of guilt for many people.  We brush it aside and think, well, it’s just one… or we remember that we did have a salad for lunch, which was a healthy choice. Or maybe we think that it’s a whole grain bran muffin, or that it’s a whole wheat pizza crust… that has some merit, right? We are getting our daily allowance of grains (the government tells us we NEED whole grains!) along with our veggies, fruits, proteins…

Except that many common grains in the wheat family contain gluten, which wreaks havoc on our bodies! It is true that some people are more sensitive to it than others, there are a wide range of effects from gluten sensitivity to celiac disease, however, if you are suffering any of the symptoms on that list, there’s a chance that wheat could be impacting your health and your life. (Click HERE for an extensive list of diseases associated with wheat consumption) Also, carbohydrates, whether they are wheat-based or not, spike blood sugar and can cause visceral fat, insulin resistance and diabetes.

I can only speak from my own perspective and on behalf of my own research and my family’s experience when I relate our stories in my articles and on my blog. As I say that, I am always hoping that the information strikes a chord with someone who is also looking for a health solution, and that they will give wheat-free and gluten-free living a try. (Buy Wheat Belly” by Dr. Davis, and the information will blow you away. And, if you are like me, it will spur you on to start reading even more, and question even more, and start following a path that seems to be more enlightening every day. Also, visit GreenMedInfo.com for a wealth of real research articles that will open your eyes!)

Back to the title, and why I say that this diet, isn’t a diet.

From what I have seen and read, I believe that our bodies have different norms in weight and shape, depending on how we eat. Our bodies adjust to a balance, and that balance can only be maintained by continuing to eat a certain way. If you change back to old eating habits, you will change back to your old weight and health status. It really is that simple. If you continue down a new food path (or “diet”), and stay there, your body will adjust to a new normal for that lifestyle, and that is where you will likely remain. To me, the term “diet” has the connotation of a temporary change to meet a weight loss or health goal. Maybe the word “program” would be better? No, programs tend to have a beginning and end as well. Hmmmm, I think “LIFESTYLE”, as it refers to a more holistic and long term approach or state of being. (Here is what Dr. Davis has to say about the diet not being a diet.)

At any rate, I am very interested to see where my own weight will stabilize, eating a gluten free diet, and very little sugar or processed carbohydrates. The things that we have deleted from our diet, we have no intention of ever eating again, because we know how bad they are for our health, not just our weight. That makes all the difference in the world!

There is a mental difference between mildly suspecting that a substance is harmful, and having evidence that it is. Between the research I have done, and the personal (anecdotal) experience, I am certain that wheat and sugar are extremely damaging to our bodily systems.

Since we are a real family, living in a real world with friends, family, co-workers and the like, and we will share meals with these people in our lives at times, it is natural that conversation about the way we choose to eat will be a recurring topic. The reactions from people vary from curiosity or support, to scorn, disbelief, or sort of shaking heads in pity that we are living our lives without the almighty grain, and even anger in some cases! At first it was a little disheartening, but now it evokes a sense of empathy in us, because we were where they are… and not so long ago. We know that it can sound alien to hear people talking about ridding their diets of wheat (specifically the gluten protein, gliadin) and people wonder if there is anything to our way of eating, or if it is merely another “fad” diet.

Well, for starters, we have never been fad dieters. We have always attempted to eat healthy as a primary goal, and have looked into information about real wellness and good foods to eat. Even though we have struggled with some excess weight over the years, and would be more than happy to lose it, our eating routines have mainly been formed with increased overall health in mind, not merely losing pounds.

At one point in the past we did engage in a low fat diet, where we ate lots of veggies, fruits, lean meats, and low fat snacks (carbs included), but avoided oils and fats like the plague. During that time, we did lose weight, but there was always this imminent sense that we couldn’t wait to reach our target weight, our goal, so that we could be done with this torturous process! We were often HUNGRY! (set up to FAIL)

Now, any of you who have dieted, probably understand that conflict. Even though we were trying to convince ourselves that the way we were eating was healthy, our bodies were in real need of the healthy fats that we were going without. Also, the carbohydrates that we were eating, we may have been burning off (I exercised a LOT), but they left us feeling hungry and unsatisfied… which leads to the yearning for the diet to end! The problem with waiting for a diet to end is that once it ends, eventually you will end up gaining weight back.

That is precisely what is different about eating this way. We went through a period of getting off wheat, and processed foods (a couple weeks of cravings and detox), however once we were clean, our outlook felt “clean” as well! We don’t have those awful cravings; we get full and satisfied from our meals; we enjoy choosing healthful foods, because we know that they are fueling and nourishing our systems with the components they need. The fats in our diet are good for our organs and mind, feel satisfying, and are pretty much self-regulating when combined with all the healthy veggies we eat, as well as a wide variety of meats, nuts, some fruit, hard cheeses and some (low lactose) dairy. We have cut processed sugar out of our diet by at least 90%. Our teenage son will “cheat” with sugar, but he never cheats with wheat on purpose (that teen is a good label-reader!) I do use agave nectar now and then, even though it is a sugar (and not on the Wheat Belly program), because it absorbs more slowly into the blood stream, avoiding the spikes in blood sugar. This is an exception though and why I can’t say we’re 100% without sugars.

People ask if we are tempted to cheat… umm no. If we were feeling hungry and unsatisfied, we might be tempted, but since we feel good and have an awareness now of when we are full (no false signals from our brain, caused by the exorphins in wheat) we have no compulsive desire to eat wheat-containing foods. We know very well how wheat makes us feel!  (Chronic: migraines, joint and muscle pain, IBS digestive issues, and acid reflux are the most noticeable for us on a daily basis.)

My husband and I have lost 22 pounds EACH since the end of March (12 weeks) and the weight change just slowly continues to happen. When you start getting into those numbers, people start to notice, and the people who shook their heads before, are now beginning to get curious about what is happening, and why it’s working.  It’s like certain people are hoping to uncover some conspiracy or flaw in the thinking that allows them to dismiss our process because it makes them uncomfortable to believe wheat is unhealthy. No one wants to believe that their trusted dietary staple is bad for them. No one wants to think they are addicted.

The next paragraph is important.

Some point out that the lack of breads is leaving a calorie hole in our diet, so THAT is why we lose weight. (As if that statement is all-encompassing.) Well, there may be (or may not be) fewer calories, but if it was only due to decreased calories, wouldn’t the expected result be increased hunger?
Hmmmm. Think about that for a minute. That is what happened when we dropped fats on a low fat diet (and the calories that went with fats.) We did consume fewer calories, but we were always hungry and looking for ways to cope with that hunger. It was sabotaged before we ever reached our goal, because no one can be happy and healthy if they are always battling hunger.

This is totally different. We eat less because our bodies are satisfied, and our brains aren’t playing tricks on us and telling us that we need more, and SOON. We simply don’t need as much food as those who are still eating wheat (like we used to.) The healthy fats and lack of gliadin-induced hunger pangs make for a much easier way to live healthy and lose weight.

If we need a snack, we eat one… but to be honest, that doesn’t happen nearly as often as it once did, and the snacks we choose sit well with us, and a small amount is very satisfying. A couple bites of cheese, a few nuts and a piece of fruit, nut butter on a celery stalk, a smoothie, or maybe parmesan crackers, a piece of raspberry streusel or something else made with almond flour or coconut flour… Those are enough to give the body some fuel, and to help us stay on track. Our systems feel like they are running cleaner, and we enjoy our food even more than we did before.

Here is my hope

For those of you who not only want to lose weight, but want to feel better overall, and take a shot at addressing some chronic health problems that you may have been facing for most of your life, I urge you to give this LIFESTYLE a try. DELETE the WHEAT.

If you are curious, engage in a little web surfing. Visit the Wheat Belly Blog by Dr. Davis and friend Wheat Belly on Facebook. Explore GreenMedInfo.com… There are countless research articles which address gluten and wheat, and there are also countless success stories on blogs from people who are enjoying improved health. If you need tips and recipes, there are plenty of those too! People who are eating this way are vocal and excited, and want to share. This article is full of links to relevant information, but know that they are just the tip of the iceberg, and that there is much more information available to those who choose to look.

 

What do we eat? According to Dr. Davis, the basis of the Wheat Belly diet:

Eat real, natural foods such as eggs, raw nuts, plenty of vegetables, and fish, fowl, and meats. Use healthy oils like olive, walnut, and coconut liberally. Eat occasional fruit and plenty of avocado, olives, and use herbs and spices freely. Eat raw or least cooked whenever possible and certainly do not frequent fast food, processed snacks, or junk foods.

This is a very simplified summary, taken from the FAQs on his blog (The diet also allows real cultured cheeses.) You can find more information about specifics on the Wheat Belly blog and in his book.

What’s in it for me? Why do people like me take the time to tell others about this? Why am I writing articles and posting recipes to get people to think more deeply and to make the switch to gluten free eating easier? Because when you make a personal health discovery, it is hard to stay quiet about it! Because I wish that I had known this, decades ago! Because I know you love your families as much as I love mine, and want to make healthy choices, especially ones that will have a real impact!

~Good luck to you in your health quest, and Cheers!

 

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Tuscan Shrimp, Full of Flavor!

Tuscan Shrimp, Full of Flavor!
Tuscan Shrimp and Veggies over Spaghetti Squash

Tuscan Shrimp and Veggies over Spaghetti Squash

Back in the pasta days, it was the norm for me to whip up a pan-full of something yummy every so often to dish out over the top of linguine or penne, but even then, it was all about the concoction on top, and the pasta was very much secondary. Luckily for us, this translates well to gluten free eating and using a base of spaghetti squash. This is one of those Tossed-Together dishes, where I was cooking on the fly, and really didn’t measure anything at all, but I have tried to recap as accurately as I can.. though there is plenty of room for improvisation here.

Tuscan Shrimp and Veggies

Tuscan Shrimp and Veggies

Shrimp with loads of healthy veggies over a bed of spaghetti squash… what’s not to like?? Well, according to my son, the shrimp and spaghetti squash, ha, so I made two different versions of this dish 😉 I have to say that the flavors were absolutely stunning together, and it was one of those meals that kept giving us flashbacks later, wishing like crazy that we had some leftovers! I guess I’ll just have to make it again, SOON.

Tuscan Shrimp and Veggies over Spaghetti Squash

Cook your spaghetti squash ahead of time, I did mine the day before.
I used a good amount of coconut oil (maybe 3 Tb) to saute the following veggies until tender:

  • Sauteing brussles sprouts and vidalias

    Sauteing brussels sprouts and vidalias

    1/2 lb brussels sprouts, trimmed and quartered. I add these first because they take longer to cook

  • 1 slivered vidalia onion, added next
  • 1/4C soft sundried tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/4 of a large yellow bell pepper, thinly sliced

When the veggies are tender, remove to a dish and set aside. Saute the following over medium heat, stirring occasionally:

  • 1lb large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste

When the shrimp are nearly done, about 5 minutes, add:

  • handful of fresh herbs, chopped. I used mostly fresh basil, with some oregano and savory added in
  • 1/4 C pinenuts
  • 1-2 tsp black sesame seeds
  • 2 tsp balsamic vinegar, or to taste

Heat through and then add the veggies back in. Add more coconut oil or butter as needed during cooking to keep from sticking. Serve immediately over a bed of spaghetti squash.

Veggies (no shrimp) over seasoned beans for the kidlet

Vegetarian version: Veggies (no shrimp) over seasoned beans for the teen

We are big fans of veggies at our house, and this dish was a major hit. It would be fantastic even without the succulent shrimp (vegetarian) or wonderful using chicken breast as well. The meatiness of the shrimp and brussels sprouts were well matched, and the sundried tomato and balsamic added a little zing. The sesame seeds were pretty in black, but the white ones would work just as well. My son is not a fan of food that swims, so his was shrimpless and served over a small serving of northern beans that I heated in butter and seasoned with salt, pepper and garlic powder.

 

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FLOUR CHART: How Gluten Free Flours Compare for Carbs and Protein Content

Flour Comparison Chart for Carbs and Protein Content

The figures above are based on a serving size of 1/4 cup (4 Tb).   **You are welcome to borrow this chart and information for your site, please just link back here, thanks!

Are you running out of room for your gluten free flours?
Confused about which are healthiest?

This is an article that I have been intending to write for quite some time to help gluten free cooks and bakers make smart choices when it comes to navigating the wide world of flours! There is no question that there are more flours available now, commercially, than at any other time. People are not only interested in expanding home cooking and culinary adventures, but are savvier when it comes to nutrition and the benefits of food-based wellness. Many of us are learning how to cater to food intolerances in our home kitchens and taking responsibility for eating well. There are an almost overwhelming variety of flours, starches and meals which can be combined or used alone to bake, thicken and coat. You may think that flour is flour and that some are merely gluten free or grain free, but the truth runs deeper than that.

There is some confusion about flours versus starches. In some cases (such as with tapioca flour/starch) they are one and the same, perhaps because tapioca is virtually all starch to begin with. In general though, the difference between starches and flours seems to be that flours are made from dried and ground grains (or tubers or nuts) and have the protein and fiber intact, whereas the starches have the fiber and protein removed, leaving nearly pure carbohydrates. Starches are excellent for smoothly thickening sauces and gravies, and are often ingredients in gluten free baking mixtures. However, people who are aiming for a low-carb diet, either for weight loss or because they are diabetic (or want to avoid BECOMING diabetic) will find that starches and certain flours quickly topple the daily allowances and spike blood sugars.

Flours and meals are not created equally (since all foods are not created equally) and flours are merely ground up versions of the food as a whole. You will notice that the flours made from nuts and legumes are in the top of my chart, having the lowest net carbs and highest protein counts. Starches and rice flours which are often used in gluten free baking are at the bottom of my chart because they have such high carb counts and very little protein.

You can also see by the placement of traditional flours that even if you are not on a gluten free diet, wheat flours are far from the healthiest of choices! For instance, even whole wheat flour (which seems to be the darling of the grain industry), has more than SIX times the net carbs of almond flour. Pastry flour which is found in many commercial baked goods has NINE times as much. All those carbs convert to sugar, which spikes insulin… repeated insulin spikes lead to insulin resistance, which in turn can lead to diabetes, visceral fat, inflammation and obesity.

While it is true that the healthiest alternative flours require different methods of preparation and even to some degree their very own recipes, it is well worth the effort to learn to bake with them. My personal favorite flours are almond flour, coconut flour, garbanzo bean flour, flax meal and occasionally buckwheat flour. I am open to learning more, always, and that list very well may expand in the near future!

ABOUT THIS CHART:  I have created the chart above to summarize some of the common (and uncommon) flours that are frequently used in gluten free baking, as well as to compare them to the old standards (in red, not gluten free.) This chart uses Bob’s Red Mill products nutritional information as a source because it was readily available online; however, this is not a specific endorsement of their products. I do use Bob’s Red Mill occasionally, but I also use Nuts.com as well other specialty brands and bulk products.  Other manufacturers may vary somewhat, but because the flours are derived from the same sources, the numbers should be similar, and the spot checking I did to compare to other brands showed the exact same results.  The ratings are my own opinion only, based on net carbs and protein.

Serving size in the chart above is ¼ cup (4TB).  Number values represent grams (other than calories.) Note that Net Carbs is equal to Total Carbs minus Fiber, which is why flax meal can have a net carb count of zero.  Low Net Carbs and high Proteins are the best choices when looking to keep blood sugar levels balanced; even though that may mean the flour is higher in calories, it also means that it is much more filling, and it doesn’t drive cravings. While this chart may be a good starting point, obviously these numbers don’t tell the whole story, and different flours have different nutritional benefits unique to their source, and I hope to highlight some of my favorites in upcoming articles. When choosing flours, personal taste is also a major factor, as the flavors can be quite different from the wheat flours we have been conditioned to eat.

I hope that this answers some questions that you may have had about why I, or other gluten free bloggers, choose the flours that we do, and helps you to make good choices in your own kitchen! Stay tuned for a super delicious PIZZA recipe featuring garbanzo bean flour very soon 🙂  This is a socca style done in a pan or on a griddle, and met with rave reviews from the guys…

 

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