1. Whole-wheat flour
Best for: While whole-wheat flour still spikes your blood sugar, it’s a good sub for all-purpose flour. It’s richer in essential nutrients like iron, which helps make red blood cells, and fiber, which will leave you feeling full (and help you in the bathroom). And with 16g of protein per cup, it’s a great addition to protein pancakes.
Buyer beware: Toby Amidor, M.S., R.D., nutrition expert and author of The Greek Yogurt Kitchen, warns that baking or cooking with only whole-wheat flour will make a dish dense and tasteless, so combine it with all-purpose flour.
2. Chickpea flour
Best for: Boasting 21g of protein per cup, 25% of the daily recommended dose of iron, and a whole lot of calcium, this flour is a muscle- and bone-builder. For best results, replace up to half the amount of all-purpose flour in a recipe with chickpea flour, but mix it with other flours like rice flour and bean flour.
Buyer beware: For athletes who are counting carbs, chickpea flour contains 53g per cup.
3. Brown rice flour
Best for: Brown rice flour provides 50% of the daily recommended amounts of key vitamins and minerals like B-complex vitamins, which convert food into fuel, and three times the daily recommended amount of manganese, which helps the body form connective tissue and bones. It’s best used as breading and to thicken sauces.
Buyer beware: Like chickpea flour, this is another carb-heavy choice. According to Amidor, one cup of brown rice flour contains 574 calories, 121g of carbohydrates, and only 11g of protein.
4. Soy flour
Best for: Relax, soy won’t give you moobs. Which is good news, as soy flour is a great alternative for cooking and can be used to replace up to 30% of all-purpose flour. It’s packed with 29g of protein per cup and is also a rich source of calcium, B-complex vitamins, and vitamin K, which is essential for bone strength and heart disease prevention.
Buyer beware: According to the American Nutrition Association, raw soybeans contain several antinutrients that can damage your ability to absorb protein, which processing helps reduce but doesn’t eliminate.
5. Coconut flour
Best for: This grainless flour has the lowest score on the glycemic index—a scale of 0 to 100 that measures how drastically food spikes your blood sugar—with a score of 45. (Below 55 is considered low.) Coconut flour is also gluten-free. You should use it to replace up to 20% of the flour called for in a recipe.
Buyer beware: You’ll want to sub in coconut flour for grain-based flours in a 1-to-1 ratio, as it’s dry and needs to be used with plenty of eggs or pureed fruits for moisture. If using it for frying or sautéing, also employ a 1-to-1 ratio.