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Cereal Flour is a common ingredient in many cuisines. It is the main ingredient of bread which is staple food of many countries.In India, wheat is the main cereal crop. Wheat Flour is the main ingredient of the staple food of India, “Roti”. (eaten with stew).Wheat flour and white wheat flour (Maida) have been very prominent in our cuisine. They are used in everyday meals.
Despite wheat being very nutritious, Wheat Flour has been increasingly blamed for many health problems. The wheat flour that we use contains high percentage of gluten in it which is resultant to problems like obesity, digestive problems, heart disease, celiac disorders and more. Also, the white wheat flour (maida) is often subjected to problems like weight gain and constipation.
It's about time that we start experimenting with our meals to make them healthier. There are many alternatives to wheat flour. Flours like Barley, Buckwheat, Jowar are healthier and more nutritious than wheat.
Some of these flours are described in detail below :
1) Buckwheat Flour
Buckwheat belongs to the family of pseudocereals. Pseudocereals are a group of grains that are eaten like cereals but they don't belong to the grass family. The seeds of buckwheat are dried completely and then ground along with the outer bran to make buckwheat flour.
Buckwheat flour is known as "kuttu ka atta" in India.It is brown in color. It has a rich nutty and earthy flavor. It is used for preparation for holy dishes during rituals and festivities in India.
Buckwheat flour can be a great alternative for people who are advised against gluten.They contain most of the nutrients that people miss out due to the lower intake of whole grains containing gluten.
Nutrition: Buckwheat is a highly nutritious whole grain. Buckwheat flour is rich in protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals and, anti-oxidants. It contains essentials vitamins like B-vitamins and minerals like iron, folate, magnesium, zinc and, manganese.
Health Benefits: Being nutritionally rich, buckwheat flour has many health benefits as well.
Buckwheat flour may improve heart health and lower the bad cholesterol level. The flavonoids present in Buckwheat flour helps with insulin-resistant diseases like diabetes. The fiber and protein present in it helps with weight loss. Buckwheat flour also has anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory effects.
Recipes: Buckwheat flour can be used with another flour for making bread. It can be used to make muffins, paranthas, dry snacks like baked buckwheat puri and buckwheat roti.
2) Corn Flour
Corn flour is a very finely ground version of cornmeal. Cornmeal is ground from dried whole corn kernels. It contains the hull, germ and, endosperm of the corn. Corn flour, known as “Makki ka atta” in India, is typically yellow but it also comes in a white variety. The texture of corn flour is smooth and it has an earthy and sweet flavor.
Corn flour is generally used as a binding agent and often combined with eggs to provide structure to baked goods and desserts. Corn flour is popularly used in desserts to make gluten-free pastries, cakes and, confectionery items.
Nutrition: Corn flour is rich in fiber, starch, vitamins and, minerals. It has a high source of vitamins like Vitamin B6, thiamine, manganese and magnesium. Antioxidants like selenium are also found in a good amount.
Health benefits: Corn flour can improve eye health and reduces the risk of cataracts. It may help in preventing chronic illnesses such as heart diseases. It is also really good for skin and hair.
Recipes: Corn flour is extremely versatile. It is often used as a thickener for puddings, soups and, sauces. It is used both in savory and sweet dishes. You can make dishes like the pizza crust, tortillas, muffins, waffles and more.
3) Jowar Flour
Jowar or sorghum is a hardy crop. It is an ancient cereal that has been cultivated for about thousands of years. Jowar grains are milled to make the Jowar flour, which is further used in many preparations.
Jowar flour has a light color and texture. It has a mildly sweet flavor and is naturally gluten-free. It lacks the elasticity that of wheat flour but it can be used with other gluten-free flours to make a varied range of dishes.
Jowar flour is common in Indian households, especially rural areas. It contributes to making wholesome meals, the kind that makes you feel active and not over-stuffed.
Nutrition: Jowar flour is a powerhouse of nutrients. It is a high source of protein, calcium and dietary fiber. It contains an abundance of minerals like iron and phosphorus and vitamins like vitamin B. It is also loaded with antioxidants.
Health benefits: Jowar Flour is a fiber-rich food which can help slow the sugar absorption, hence it is good for diabetic patients. The antioxidants present, helps you fight inflammation and prevent cancerous diseases. It can also lower the risk of cardiovascular disease and coronary heart disease.
Recipes: Jowar flour can be mixed with other flours to make pooris, muthias (steamed dumplings),khakhra, thalipeeth (Maharashtrian spiced pancakes), and paranthas. It is also used for making cakes, cookies and bread.
4) Barley Flour
Barley is also a cereal grain, just like wheat and oats but it is much healthier. Barley is dried and ground to make barley flour. It is slightly chewy and nutty in taste. They are two types of Barley flour: Coarse barley Flour and Fine barley Flour.
Barley groats are milled to make coarse barley flour, and pearl barley millet is milled to make fine barley flour.Barley flour proves to be a good binder and thickener. It only contains 5 to 8% of gluten as opposed to wheat that has high amount of gluten.
Nutrition: Barley Flour is also a rich source of B vitamins including niacin, thiamine, riboflavin and vitamin B-6. Barley flour is also a good source of minerals like potassium, iron, magnesium and, selenium.
Health benefits: Barley flour is rich in B vitamins which is essential for maintaining cell health and proper cell formation. Barley flour contains negligible cholesterol. Its regular consumption can be good for heart health and proper cardiovascular function. Barley flour is easily digestible and also helps in maintaining the proper function of the immune system.
Recipes: Barley flour can be used in making many healthy and tasty dishes like barley idli, barley cookies, barley parantha, barley bread, barley cheela, barley Soup, barley tart, barley uttapam.
5) Bajra flour
Bajra, also known as pearl millet is the most widely grown type of millet. The bajra grains are dried and milled into flour. The bajra Flour is greyish and has a nutty flavor. “Bajra Roti” is made of bajra Flour. It is a thick bread that you eat with stews. It is very popular in the northern and western regions of India.
It is specially made in the winter season since bajra is a heat-producing Ingredient. Bajra is often referred to as a poor man's staple food, as it's cheap and makes you feel fuller.
Nutrition: Bajra Flour is rich in protein and fiber. It is rich in minerals like phosphorus, iron, zinc, and vitamins like vitamin A, vitamin B1.
Health Benefits: Bajra Flour is a good source of energy. It can combat Acidity easily because of its alkaline presence. It is also good for heart, lowers blood pressure, relieves constipation and helps with digestion.
Recipes: Bajra Flour is popularly used in making a Gujarati dish “Rotla”. It is kind of chapati but thick. “Bajra's Rotla” is very popular in Gujarat. Bajra flour is used to make bread, chappati, khakhras, roti, thalipeet, dhosa.
Summing it up.
It's important for us to analyse our lifestyle choices and try to be better by opting healthier options.
As Indians, wheat is very functional in our diet. Although, that doesn't mean we can take small steps to cut back its proportion from our meals and go for more healtheir option.
The alternative flours mentioned above are nutritious, and when worked together they can make some lip-smacking dishes.