Wheat has been the most important staple grain for thousands of years. It is used in a variety of products, and the most popular one is flour.
Wheat is best suited for bread making and other baked products, due to its high gluten content. Gluten gives wheat flour elasticity and strength, making it suitable for baking.
However, many people are allergic or intolerant to gluten, which can cause a wheat allergy or celiac disease.
A wheat allergy produces an immediate immune system response to a protein found in wheat, which can cause symptoms like chronic gastrointestinal disturbances, infections, asthma, eczema, acne, joint pains, fatigue and migraines.
On the other hand, celiac disease is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system mistakes gluten as an allergen and causes symptoms like a decreased appetite, chronic diarrhea, chronic constipation, vomiting, fatigue and irritability.
People suffering from a wheat allergy or celiac disease must follow a gluten-free diet and avoid wheat in any form.
Fortunately, there are many wheat alternatives that you can easily include in your diet.
Here are the top 10 alternatives to wheat and wheat flour.
Another wheat alternative is quinoa, a pseudo-cereal, which means it is a seed that is prepared and consumed like a grain. As it is gluten-free, it can be enjoyed by people who are sensitive to gluten or wheat.
Pure quinoa is safe for people with celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity.
Quinoa is a complete protein source, as it contains all the essential amino acids. Some other important vitamins and minerals in quinoa are manganese, phosphorus, copper, folate, iron, magnesium and zinc.
Quinoa has a crunchy texture and nutty flavor that make it very popular among both children and adults.
Quinoa needs to be boiled, then it can be consumed as a side dish or breakfast porridge. Boiled quinoa can also be added to salads or soups. You can even grind the seeds to make quinoa flour.
Buckwheat is another seed that is mistakenly considered a grain and has a nutty, earthy taste.
As buckwheat is neither a grain nor related to wheat, it is gluten-free and can be safely consumed by people with celiac disease and gluten sensitivities.
High in fiber and protein, buckwheat is also rich in iron, zinc, manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, and copper. It is also a good source of several B vitamins like B6, pantothenic acid, niacin, folate, thiamin and choline.
As the buckwheat seeds are packed with antioxidants like rutin, tannins and catechins, they are often called superfoods.
Buckwheat is easy to include in your diet plan. It comes in the form of groats, seeds, noodles and flour. The groats can be used to make hot or cold cereal. In noodle form, it can be used in soups and stir-fries. Buckwheat flour can be used for making muffins, cookies, breads and other snacks.
Having a sweet, nutty flavor, millet is considered to be one of the most non-allergenic grains available. It is one of the few grains that are alkalizing to the body, which makes it easy to digest.
These gluten-free, grain-like seeds are full of nutrients like magnesium, calcium, manganese, tryptophan, phosphorus, fiber and several B vitamins. They also have antioxidant power.
You can make breakfast porridge with cooked millet and add your favorite nuts and fruits as healthy toppings. You can also add millet to salads and soups.
Its brown rice-like texture makes it a perfect ingredient to use in pilafs, casseroles and most Asian dishes.
Ground millet can also be used in bread, biscuits and muffin recipes as a substitute for refined flour.
Amaranth is another popular seed that can be included in the list of gluten-free grains. Cultivated by the Aztecs 8,000 years ago, it is a staple food of the Aztecs and Mayans.
Amaranth is a complete protein and high-fiber food, making it filling and good for your digestive health. It is also a good source of many essential vitamins, including A, C, E, K, B5, B6, folate, niacin, and riboflavin.
In addition, it contains calcium, magnesium, copper, zinc, potassium and phosphorus.
Plus, it works as a powerful antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting agent.
The light, nutty or peppery-crunchy texture and flavor of amaranth makes it a perfect grain to use to make healthy snacks. Its flour can be used to thicken soups, sauces, stews and even jellies.
Oats are one of the most popular whole grains worldwide, and for good reason. They are considered safe for those with a gluten allergy and make a great alternative to wheat.
Oats are a good source of fiber and nutrients like iron, magnesium, potassium, selenium, folate and even plant-based protein. They also have small amounts of essential fats. Moreover, they contain powerful phytonutrients and antioxidants that are good for your health.
As some oatmeal brands on the market today contain a tiny amount of wheat, barley and rye, you must check the label thoroughly before buying one.
Oatmeal is usually eaten for breakfast, but it can be enjoyed any time of the day. You can add honey, maple syrup, cinnamon, nutmeg, butter, brown sugar, agave nectar, vanilla or molasses to it for added flavor and health benefits.
You can also find oat flour in the market, which has similar nutritional benefits as oats. When cooking with oat flour, bear in mind that it needs other flours and starches to work in a recipe.
6. Cassava Flour
This gluten-free flour made from the cassava root (also known as yuca or manioc) works as a pretty close replacement for wheat flour. It is made by grating and drying the fibrous cassava root.
Cassava flour is rich in fiber and protein. It also has vitamins B6, C and K, manganese, potassium, folate, thiamine, magnesium, copper, niacin, riboflavin, phosphorus and zinc.
It has a nice, smooth texture and mild taste that make it very versatile to use in different recipes.
Cassava flour works as a great thickener for sauces, gravy, soups and so on. You can also use this flour in small amounts along with other flours in baking. Starch extracted from cassava root, called tapioca, also works as a great alternative to wheat.
7. Coconut Flour
If you are looking for a healthy substitute for refined flour to use in baking, coconut flour is a perfect choice.
This flour is excellent for people with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity. The flour is derived from grating the meat of fresh coconuts, which is then dehydrated and defatted. The ultimate result is a fine powder that looks and feels similar to wheat or grain flours.
Coconut flour is a great source of fiber, protein, manganese, calcium, selenium, phosphorus and potassium. It also contains vitamins, including vitamin B6 and C, folate and niacin.
In addition, this flour has the benefits of anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antibacterial and antifungal properties.
You can use coconut flour in place of wheat flour in all kinds of recipes — from breads to muffins to cookies. It can also be used to make homemade grain-free pizza.
8. Almond Flour
If you use wheat flour for baking, one of the best alternatives is almond flour.
This flour, made of very finely ground almonds, can be used for baking cakes, biscuits, muffins, breads and so on. It can also be used as breading for fried or baked foods.
Almond flour has all the benefits of a handful of almonds. This flour is gluten-free, low in carbohydrates, high in fiber and a high source of protein. It is also rich in vitamins and minerals, including iron, riboflavin, magnesium, potassium, calcium and vitamin E.
You can find this flour in both blanched and natural versions, and you can use either of them depending upon your need. However, due to its fatty acid content, it has a short shelf life. So, it is recommended to grind your own almonds in a food processor just prior to use.
9. Brown Rice Flour
Brown rice flour is safe for people who suffer from celiac disease. It is milled from unpolished brown rice, so it has a higher nutritional value.
This flour is a wonderful source of fiber and a great source of healthy carbohydrates. It is also high in protein, iron and vitamin B. Plus, it is rich in manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, copper, calcium and potassium.
It has a nuttier flavor and is heavier than its relative, white rice flour. It can be used in baking cakes and cookies. It also works well in bread recipes. You can also use it to thicken sauces or for coating fish and other proteins.
Corn, whether consumed as corn meal or flour, is gluten-free. Both corn meal and corn flour are made from dried corn kernels.
Corn meal and corn flour are great sources of healthy carbohydrates as well as fiber. They are also rich in antioxidants like lutein and zeaxanthin that promote good health, especially for your eyes.
In terms of baking, corn flour imparts a sweet, grainy flavor to baked goods. The flour can also be made into polentas and porridges, and used as breading.
It also works well for thickening liquids and sauces.
When buying corn meal or flour, check the label thoroughly. Opt for organic varieties and avoid GMO corn.
There are several more alternatives to wheat and wheat flour including sorghum, sorghum flour, chickpea flour, soy flour, hemp flour, chia flour, potato flour, and potato startch flour.