Is Gluten Free Flour Paleo?

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The current popularity of gluten-free diets including the Paleo diet has created demand for gluten-free flours. These products are sold as single ingredient flours or as blends of several flours some of which contain additional ingredients such as sugar and milk powder. Clearly, just because it’s gluten-free doesn’t mean its Paleo! How do you know which gluten-free flours are Paleo and which are not? Keep reading to find out.

Nutritional Value of Gluten-Free Flour

Let’s start with gluten-free flour blends which generally combine varying amounts of grains, legumes, tubors and sometimes, additional ingredients. For comparison, lets take a look at Bob’s Red Mill, Gluten Free All Purpose Baking Flour, and Cup 4 Cup Gluten Free Flour.

Bob’s Red Mill, All Purpose Baking Flour, Gluten Free

Ingredients: Garbanzo Bean Flour, Potato Starch, Tapioca Flour, White Sorghum Flour, Fava Bean Flour

Serving Size: ¼ cup

  • Calories: 100
  • Total Fat: 1g
  • Saturated Fat: 0g
  • Trans Fat: 0g
  • Cholesterol 0mg
  • Sodium: 0mg
  • Total Carbohydrate: 22g
  • Fiber: 3g
  • Protein: 3g

Cup 4 Cup Gluten Free Flour

Ingredients: Cornstarch, white rice flour, brown rice flour, milk powder, tapioca flour, potato starch, xanthan gum

Serving Size: ¼ cup

  • Calories: 120
  • Total Fat: 0g
  • Saturated Fat: 0g
  • Trans Fat: 0g
  • Cholesterol: 0mg
  • Sodium: 15mg
  • Total Carbohydrate: 26mg
  • Fiber: 0g
  • Protein: 2g

As you can see, the nutritional values are similar and neither Bob’s Red Mill nor Cup 4 Cup’s gluten-free flours are Paleo as they contain legumes, as well as grains and dairy respectively. Now let’s take a look at two single ingredient gluten-free flours; Bob’s Red Mill All Natural Arrowroot Starch/Flour and Tropical Traditions Organic Coconut Flour.

Bob’s Red Mill All Natural Arrowroot Starch/Flour

Ingredients: arrowroot starch

Serving size: ¼ cup

  • Calories: 110
  • Total Fat: 0g
  • Saturated Fat: 0g
  • Trans Fat: 0g
  • Cholesterol: 0g
  • Sodium: 0mg
  • Carbohydrate: 28g
  • Fiber: 1g
  • Protein: 0g

Tropical Traditions Organic Coconut Flour

Ingredients: Organic coconut

Serving size: ¼ cup (values have been converted from the 100g serving size listed on the package)

  • Calories: 140
  • Total Fat: 4g
  • Saturated Fat: 3g
  • Trans Fat: 0g
  • Cholesterol: 0mg
  • Sodium: 30mg
  • Carbohydrate: 22g
  • Fiber: 13g
  • Protein: 7g

Although the nutrient values are strikingly different due to the fact that these flours are from very different sources (arrowroot flour is from a root and coconut flour is from a drupe) both of these flours are Paleo because they are free of grains, legumes, dairy and other adulterations.  Tropical Traditions Coconut flour doesn’t carry the gluten-free claim on its label but it doesn’t need to because the only ingredient is coconut and coconuts do not contain gluten.

Health Benefits of Gluten-Free Flour

Gluten is a protein that gives bread and baked products their springy, pliant consistency. It’s found in wheat, including kamut, spelt, and graham flour, as well as rye, barley, and triticale, a hybrid of wheat and rye. Other grains such as oats are often contaminated with gluten. Unfortunately, gluten is a problematic protein for many of us. It’s estimated that 1 in 133 people has celiac disease that results when the immune system forms antibodies to gluten and then attacks the intestinal lining. Many more people have autoimmune diseases that are likely related to gluten sensitivity such as multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis to name a few.

Gluten intolerance that does not involve the immune system may create symptoms similar to those experienced in autoimmune diseases but that are less severe such as weight gain, water retention, heartburn, brain fog, anxiety, depression, joint pain, numbness in fingers, arms and legs and more.   If you have autoimmune disease or suspect you are intolerant to gluten, going gluten-free may be the only way to resolve your symptoms. Conventional cooking and baking often calls for the use of wheat and other gluten containing flours. Gluten-free flours provide the cook and baker with gluten-free alternatives.

Where To Buy Gluten-Free Flour

Gluten-free flours can be purchased year round in large supermarkets natural food stores and on-line.  Stored in a cool, dry place, most gluten-free flours will last 4 to 6 months after opening. Check package directions for specific instructions.

Is Gluten-Free Flour Paleo?

Read labels carefully! Only grain-free, legume-free, sugar-free, dairy-free, and otherwise unadulterated gluten-free flours are Paleo. Paleo flours may, or may not claim to be gluten-free and gluten-free flours may or may not be Paleo, so you have to be your own judge. There are actually many options out there. Here’s a list of Paleo-friendly gluten-free flours:

How To Make Paleo Gluten-Free Flour

If you’d like to make your own gluten-free Paleo flour, you’ll need a blender or a food processor, and an oven or a food dehydrator. For nut flours, simply grind them up in a blender or food processor according to your recipe or the directions that come with your equipment. For dehydrating vegetables in the oven, you’ll need to set the temperature to 140 degrees Fahrenheit and prop the oven door open two to six inches for air circulation. You can use fresh or frozen vegetables. If you’re using fresh vegetables and you’re planning on storing them before using as flour, it’s recommended that you blanch them in order to preserve their colors, flavors and textures. This is optional as it destroys enzymes and will undoubtedly lead to some nutrient loss. (To blanch vegetables, grate, slice or chop them and boil or steam for about 4 minutes and then plunge into ice water to stop the cooking process.) Place your produce on metal cooling racks covered with cheesecloth or cookie trays covered with parchment. For the cookie tray method, turn vegetables once or twice during drying. Oven drying can take anywhere from 2 to 24 hours. When your produce is dry to the touch and cooled, place in a blender or food processor and blend into flour.   Store in a tightly sealed container in cool dry place. Freezing extends shelf life. Do not use flours that look or smell bad.

Food dehydrators may have quicker drying times than ovens and can be purchased in home stores, department stores, some natural food markets and supermarkets as well as on-line.

Sally Barden Johnson

Sally Johnson, RDN, LD is a registered and licensed dietitian and health coach. She is an avid CrossFitter and enjoys working with clients to find the best nutritional solutions within a Paleo/Primal framework to solve their health issues. She also enjoys spending time with her family. She can be found on Instagram at instagram.com/sallyjohnsonrd.