6 bread recipes that are low-carb and gluten-free
It seems that a gluten-free diet is becoming more popular every day, but what’s the deal with the gluten frenzy? Gluten is found in bread, cakes and cookies, even a number of sauces, so you would think people are just fine leaving it in. However, with the ubiquitous presence of gluten, people are starting to wonder what negative health effects gluten may have on people with or without gluten sensitivity or Celiac disease. Research does not lean heavily on the side of gluten. That aside, most gluten-free breads are also low-carb, and reducing carbohydrate intake is shown to be very effective at controlling weight and blood sugar.
Once we learn about why gluten should be avoided and how gluten-free, low-carb breads can be part of a lifestyle change, we’ll take a look at some interesting recipes with a variety of ingredients and flavors. Some of these breads can be used in place of more traditional gluten-filled breads, while others are unique in texture and flavor.
What’s wrong with gluten?
Gluten is the name of the protein that keeps bread together. It acts as an adhesive, which is why a struggle for many gluten-free baked goods is finding a way to keep them from crumbling. While many people enjoy eating foods that contain gluten, it’s becoming clear that gluten is simply bad for people in general. It’s often argued that only those with Celiac disease should be on a gluten-free diet, but most people are now thought to be sensitive to gluten in some fashion, and even those with neither of these conditions are thought to have adverse reactions to gluten, though this is still being supported by research.
The problem with gluten is that your body attacks it while in your digestive tract, causing a multitude of problems, like inflammation, some of which can be dangerous or even fatal. Gluten is connected to more than digestive disorders as well. Some research connects it with schizophrenia and something known as cerebellar ataxia, which is when your nervous system has impaired control over your movements. While this is difficult to nail down, the idea is that continuous ingestion of gluten over a lifetime can damage the body irreparably, and since this process is so very long, we can’t pin down cause and effect relationships as easily[3,4].
Carbs and diabetes
Diets low in carbohydrates have been shown to be much more effective in managing weight, a key part of living with diabetes. Carbs are also metabolized into sugar, so bread or other starchy foods can drastically and dangerously increase blood sugar even in otherwise healthy people. This makes traditional bread (white wheat flour) one of the biggest offenders, since white bread is low in nutrients and higher in sugar and carbs than other forms of bread[5,6].
While gluten is a problem on its own, the simple fact of high-carb meals being unhealthy for many makes the bread recipes below very valuable for people who enjoy bread but also enjoy being alive and healthy. Combine high-carb content with the fact that most breads include additional sweeteners and flavors, and you have a nasty cocktail for a potentially lethal blood sugar spike[7,8,9].
Phytic acid is an interesting compound that is found in some grains, but especially wheat. Classified as an antioxidant, phytic acid has the effect of impeding the body’s ability to absorb certain nutrients, with iron, zinc, and calcium being chief among them. This means a diet high in wheat breads not only exacerbates gluten sensitivity and diabetes, but can also worsen anemia, osteoporosis, and other chronic problems. While phytic acid may be good for some purposes, the common presence of wheat breads and other products can often lead to an unintentionally high phytic acid concentration, which can lower bone density and iron[10,11,12].
Phytic acid is a phosphorous compound (phosphorous being another essential nutrient) that binds with certain elements to create unusable salts that cannot be digested and simply sit inside the body until passed. In fact, this is true even of whole grain wheat breads[13,14,15].
Whole grains are often advertised as the “healthy” solution to white bread and white flour products. Indeed, they are usually higher in fiber and protein, and lower in calories, but whole grains still can’t compare to the nutrient density of other types of bread. Whole grains can help lower cholesterol, but there are so many brands that it’s hard to make a conclusive statement about whether every brand or product can do it. Also not mentioned in whole grain ads are the added colors, flavors, and sugars to make them palatable. This means that some “whole grain” breads are really nothing more than glorified white breads, and contain all the same issues[16,17,18].
If you find a whole grain bread that works for you, there’s no reason to make a sacrifice you can’t deal with. If you really do prefer wheat bread, whole grain breads that stay true to form still contain higher amounts of nutrients than regular white bread[19,20,21]. A mildly better change is far healthier than no change at all.
Before completely leaving the topic of whole grains, an honorable mention must be made for Ezekiel bread. Ezekiel bread is different from other whole grain breads in that it is made using sprouted grains of multiple types outside of just wheat. While it does still contain wheat, sprouted wheat is far, far healthier than the wheat typically used in baking. Sprouted wheat has more protein and less phytic acid than regular wheat, and the variety of other grains rounds out Ezekiel bread’s protein profile[22,23,24,25].
Ezekiel bread is made using natural techniques, and has very little added to it. That being said, it’s still intolerable for those with Celiac disease as it contains gluten anyway. However, for the wheat bread lover who is trying to make a gradual change, Ezekiel bread is the best type out there[26,27,28]. But enough about wheat; it’s finally time to get to some low-carb, gluten-free bread recipes!
Almond flour is a great replacement for wheat flour, and is usually used in desserts because of its naturally sweet flavor and the fact that it mixes well with vanilla bean or extract. As a fun side note, a bit of almond extract vastly enhances vanilla’s flavor, similar to how coffee enhances chocolate. Most Americans are used to sweetened bread, so almond flour bread can recreate not only the soft and chewy consistency of wheat bread, but also the slight sweetness of white bread. The recipe we chose to represent almond flour is as follows:
- 2 1/2 cups almond flour
- 1/2 cup oat fiber
- 1/4 cup unflavoured whey protein powder
- 1 tablespoon granulated erythritol
- 2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon xanthan gum
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 6 oz Greek yogurt
- 6 tablespoon butter, softened
- 4 large eggs
- 6 tablespoon almond milk
Some of those ingredients may seem strange, but they’re natural ways to make up for the loss of gluten from a bread. Xanthan gum in particular is helpful for binding the ingredients together. This almond flour bread is great for French toast or simply to be eaten on its own. It slices well and holds together, and is definitely one of the easier recipes to adjust your palate to[29,30,31].
Coconuts are a seemingly endless source of awesome uses and health benefits. Coconut flour is no exception, being another great way to replace wheat flour. Despite being made of coconut, this type of flour is quite often seen being used to make flatbreads. These flatbreads stay soft even after cooking, and can make an extra chewy grilled cheese or become the base for a delicious spinach, feta, and grilled chicken topping[32,33]. To try it yourself, here’s a simple one:
- 1 large egg
- 1 tablespoon coconut flour
- 1 tablespoon parmesan cheese (optional)
- 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/8 teaspoon baking powder
- 2 pinches of sea salt or any herbs you want!
- 2 tablespoon any kind of milk
Coconut flour flatbreads are open to a lot of customization in terms of flavor. While some wheat bread alternatives need carefully concocted recipes to hold together, coconut flatbread is simple and versatile.
Like many great foods, oopsie bread was made on accident, yet became a sensation among people who recognized its value[34,35]. Oopsie bread contains no flour and has surprisingly few ingredients. For those aiming for a low-carb, but high fat and high protein diet, oopsie rolls work out perfectly. Observe:
- 3 large eggs
- ⅛ teaspoon cream of tartar
- 3 ounces (100 grams) full-fat cream cheese, cold, cubed
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
The protein in the eggs and the fat in the cream cheese combine to create a surprisingly bread-like consistency. Seasoned bakers may have already guessed this, but many people are surprised at how you can stretch and alter the properties of foods that were previously understood to have a set number of uses[36,37]. Of course, these replacement ingredients don’t work for everyone, but I’m more than sure at least a few of you are excited to know you don’t even need flour to make good bread!
Buns or rolls are great sides or simple breakfasts with a bit of jam or butter. Finding a reasonable replacement for the dinner roll while going low-carb and gluten-free is no easy feat. Still, a few recipes can be found, like this:
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil or butter, melted
- 1 egg, slightly beaten
- 1 tablespoon coconut milk
- 1 tablespoon almond meal, packed
- 1 tablespoon coconut flour, packed
- 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
- Sesame seeds for topping, optional
This recipe is similar in taste and texture to a hamburger bun[38,39]. The above recipe is for one bun, but multiply it and you can make low-carb, gluten-free burgers for your friends and family to enjoy!
This next recipe was specifically created by and for people who practice the paleo lifestyle, which is a diet committed to consuming more raw foods and less carbs and sugar. Despite this, paleo bread is made with healthy gluten-free ingredients and can be incorporated into more lifestyles than just paleo. The paleo bread stacks up well when compared to other breads mentioned, and is also easy to make:
- 1/2 cup coconut flour
- 1 1/4 cups almond flour
- 1/4 cup ground chia seeds or flaxseeds
- 5 eggs
- 4 tablespoons melted coconut oil
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
This bread has a higher protein content than a lot of the other low-carb breads available, thanks in part to the added seeds. This makes it fantastic for the paleo diet obviously, but vegans and vegetarians looking to include more protein might consider making sandwiches with this recipe (and switch out the eggs for a vegetarian-friendly alternative).
Flaxseeds are one of the best types of seeds to consume, being high in antioxidants, protein, and fiber. Flaxseeds are also helpful for giving gluten-free bread an interesting flavor and texture. This next recipe mimics the popular focaccia bread, and it’s rare to find quality replacements for wheat bread. Try this out for yourself, and see what you think:
- 2 cups flax seed meal
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 to 2 tablespoons sugar
- 5 eggs, beaten
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/3 cup oil
Focaccia is a good toast or sandwich bread, and the same rings true for this low-carb imitation. This recipe is ideal for dieters looking to switch to a gluten-free diet, and serves as a healthy alternative which can blend seamlessly into your gluten-free lifestyle change[46,47,48,49,50].
Other low-carb, gluten-free bread recipes
These recipes did not include instructions, because the goal was to create an understanding of how healthy ingredients can be combined and recombined again to imitate or completely replace glutinous bread options. Following the recipe links will list instructions in further detail, but a glance at the ingredients and their measurements is certain to aid you in choosing the gluten-free, low-carb bread that works best for you.
It is highly recommended to do your own research, because there are so many great recipes we didn’t have time to get to! There are healthy replacements for all kinds of bread, from cornbread and pita bread to cheesy garlic bread. Alternatively, there are also better replacements for traditional wheat bread aside from Ezekiel bread and multigrain options. Sourdough bread is made using fermented grain, which promotes healthy gut flora populations and cuts out a lot of the negative health problems. Ancient grains (meaning grains that have been mostly unchanged for centuries) are also healthy replacements, many of them with surprising health benefits.
Problems with the gluten-free diet
As always, it’s important to address the problems with trying a gluten-free diet. First, let’s discuss outside factors. Contamination is a problem with most mass produced food. You’ve probably seen “this product is made in a factory that also uses milk and soy” or some such. The reason this is included is that extremely low amounts of allergens or irritants (think parts per million) can be dangerous and even lethal to those sensitive to them. This also means that you’re probably eating more gluten than you think you are, even when attempting a gluten-free diet. Since your intake of any substance, or lack thereof, can influence how your body reacts, you may inadvertently irritate your digestive tract by attempting to help it. This is why talking to a physician is always one of the first steps of a lifestyle change.
Regarding internal factors, you must understand that we still don’t know everything. While most people in the health community now agree that gluten can cause a number of problems, there’s also evidence that it helps certain people at about the same rate it harms others. Also, the protein gluten may have unexplored health properties, like boosting immune response.
The sati line
At the end of the day, only you can decide which one of these many options is right for you. While it is strongly recommend you avoid white bread and wheat flour, there are still ways to keep wheat bread in your diet without sacrificing your health. But for those of you who are interested in going low-carb and gluten-free, there are certainly reasons to do it. Going gluten-free and maintaining a low-carb diet aids in weight loss and diabetes management. Many of the replacement breads are higher in plant protein and essential nutrients, as well as dietary fiber. But also, hopefully the recipes above have shown you that going healthy doesn’t have to mean sacrificing your favorite meals or flavors, but instead is about making conscious choices and substitutions with plenty of information on hand.
For those of you who wish to start or maintain a gluten-free diet, this article is just one step of many toward a healthier future. But don’t feel bad if you still enjoy glutinous foods: there’s no reason to jump the gun just yet. Just try to find the best options available to you.
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