The keto diet has become incredibly popular in recent years as a way to lose weight, improve health, and simplify eating. This low-carb, high-fat diet focuses on eating plenty of healthy fats and protein while severely restricting carbs to get the body into ketosis – a metabolic state where the body burns fat for energy instead of carbs.
Many keto dieters aim to eat less than 50 grams of net carbs per day to maintain ketosis. This means finding low-carb substitutes for common high-carb foods like bread, pasta, rice, etc. Gluten-free flours made from almond meal, coconut flour, and other nut/seed flours are often used in keto baking recipes. But what about gluten flour? Let’s take a closer look at whether gluten flour can fit into a keto lifestyle.
What is gluten flour?
Gluten flour, sometimes called vital wheat gluten, is a powdered gluten product extracted from wheat flour. To make it, wheat flour is mixed with water and kneaded to form an elastic dough. This dough is then further processed to remove the starch and bran until only the gluten remains.
Vital wheat gluten contains 75-80% protein, mostly in the form of gluten. Gluten is the protein primarily responsible for giving bread its chewy texture and helping it rise. Gluten flour has very little starch or sugars compared to regular wheat flour.
Because vital wheat gluten is nearly pure protein, it’s often added to bread and baked goods to boost the protein content. It helps create a chewier texture and improves the rise. Gluten flour is commonly found in products like bread, pizza dough, bagels, and wheat-based veggie burgers.
Nutrition facts of gluten flour
A 2 tablespoon (14g) serving of vital wheat gluten contains:
As you can see, gluten flour is very low in carbs and high in protein compared to regular flour. Just 2 tablespoons provides nearly half the protein of a large egg.
However, the small amount of carbohydrates in vital wheat gluten come entirely from gluten, not fiber or sugars. The keto diet aims to restrict net carbs (total carbs minus fiber). So the 2g of carbs from gluten flour would need to fit into your daily carb target.
Is gluten keto-friendly?
Plain gluten flour does not contain sugar or starch so it’s lower in net carbs than regular flour. But is it low enough to fit into a keto diet?
It depends on how strictly you follow your macros and what your personal carb tolerance is. Some keto dieters aim for under 20 net grams of carbs per day while others may go up to 50.
At just 2g net carbs per 2 tablespoons, vital wheat gluten can likely fit into a more moderate low-carb diet with 50g daily carbs. However, on a strict keto diet with under 20g of carbs, it may be too high.
It’s also important to consider gluten sensitivities. Some people may experience inflammation, digestive issues, or other adverse reactions from gluten-containing foods. People with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity should avoid gluten flour entirely.
So in summary:
– Gluten flour is high in protein and low in carbs compared to regular flour. But it still contains some carbohydrates, unlike nut/seed flours.
– The small amount of carbs may fit into a moderate low-carb or keto diet around 50g net carbs. But it may be too high for a very strict keto diet under 20g net carbs per day.
– Those with gluten intolerances or celiac disease should avoid gluten flour on a keto diet due to its high gluten content.
Uses for gluten flour on keto
Here are some potential uses for vital wheat gluten on a keto diet for those who can tolerate gluten:
– Adding structure and chewiness to keto bread recipes. Use around 1-2 tablespoons per loaf.
– Helping homemade veggie or meatballs hold together better
– Adding to keto seitan to give it a meat-like texture (seitan is made from vital wheat gluten)
– Making homemade wheat-based veggie burgers
– Adding binding and structure to homemade keto protein/granola bars
– Helping provide elasticity in low-carb pizza crust dough
– Improving the rise and structure of keto bagels, doughnuts, or other baked goods
Keep in mind that gluten flour contains 2g net carbs per 2 tablespoons. So you’ll need to account for those carbs in your daily totals if using it. Start with small amounts.
Low-carb flours for keto baking
If you follow a strict keto diet or need to avoid gluten, there are several great alternatives to use in place of gluten flour:
Almond flour – Very low in carbs at just 3g net carbs per 1/4 cup. Made from ground almonds. Provides nutty flavor and protein. Absorbs moisture so best used in combination with other flours.
Coconut flour – Also low carb with about 5g net carbs per 2 tablespoons. Made from dried, defatted coconut meat. High in fiber so can help meet fiber goals. Requires more eggs or liquid than other flours.
Flax meal – Made from ground flaxseeds so provides fiber and healthy fats. Use 1-3 tablespoons per recipe.
Chia flour – Made from ground chia seeds. Only 1g net carb per tablespoon.
Psyllium husk powder – Nearly zero net carbs. Adds structure and fiber to baked goods. Use very sparingly.
Xanthan gum or guar gum – Thickeners and binders to help improve texture. Carb-free.
Nut meals – Grind your own low carb nuts like pecans or macadamia nuts into flour.
Combining almond flour, coconut flour, flax meal, and a binder like xanthan gum makes a great gluten-free, low-carb flour blend for keto baking needs. The possibilities are endless!
Is gluten flour necessary on keto?
Gluten flour is not an essential ingredient on a keto diet. There are many delicious keto recipes that don’t require any wheat or gluten products at all.
By using low-carb nut and seed flours, healthy oils, eggs, protein powder, and natural sweeteners if desired, you can create amazing keto breads, cakes, cookies, and more that keep carbs low without gluten flour.
The only instance where vital wheat gluten would be required in keto cooking is if you specifically want to make seitan, wheat-based veggie meat, or baked goods with a classic gluten-containing chewy texture.
But otherwise, there are plenty of other great options for keto baking and cooking with just 5g net carbs or less per serving.
If you do decide to work small amounts of vital wheat gluten into your keto diet, be sure to count the carbs and watch your portion sizes carefully.
Possible issues with gluten flour on keto
Here are some potential drawbacks of using gluten flour on a keto diet:
– Contains 2g net carbs per serving. Could easily kick you out of ketosis or use up a large portion of your daily carb limit, especially if over-consumed.
– Can cause inflammation, digestive distress, and other issues for those with gluten intolerance or celiac disease. Avoid entirely if you have a gluten sensitivity.
– May trigger cravings or an inflammatory response in some individuals that makes sticking to keto more difficult.
– Not compatible for those doing primal, paleo, or grain-free styles of keto due to containing gluten from wheat.
– Can cause bloating, gas, or constipation due to lack of fiber and high gluten content compared to other keto flours
– Provides no beneficial nutrients, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants like flours made from nuts, seeds, and coconut
– Not necessary for keto baking and cooking. There are many great alternatives with similar binding and rising abilities.
If you do choose to include it, use gluten flour sparingly in keto recipes and be mindful of any adverse reactions. Focus on healthier, low-carb flours to meet your keto macros instead.
Healthier substitutes for gluten flour
Here are some healthier flour substitute options to consider instead of vital wheat gluten on keto:
– Almond flour – Loaded with nutrients like magnesium, manganese, vitamin E
– Coconut flour – High in fiber, healthy fats, electrolytes
– Flax meal – Provides fiber and anti-inflammatory omega-3s
– Chia flour – Packed with fiber, protein, and minerals like calcium
– Psyllium husk – Almost zero net carbs and provides soluble fiber
– Xanthan or guar gum – Used sparingly, these can bind and add rise
– Nut meals – Grind your own from pecans, walnuts, macadamias, etc
– Protein powder – Add collagen powder or whey protein for an extra protein boost
– Puffy seed flours – Make your own from sunflower, pumpkin, or hemp seeds
Any combination of these healthy low-carb flours can replicate the binding abilities of vital wheat gluten in keto recipes while providing important nutrients and fiber.
Tips for using gluten flour on keto
If you want to work a small amount of vital wheat gluten into a keto recipe, here are some tips:
– Start with just 1-2 tablespoons per recipe. Any more will add too many carbs.
– Substitute only 25-50% of the total flour in a recipe with gluten flour. Combine with lower carb flours.
– Make sure to count the 2g net carbs per serving towards your daily total. Be mindful of portions.
– Avoid entirely if sensitive or allergic to gluten. Stick to gluten-free options.
– Prepare to potentially feel bloated or gassy. Gluten flour is not easily digested.
– Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated since gluten absorbs a lot of moisture.
– Consider psyllium husk powder too. This provides some binding without the carbs.
– No need to use xanthan or guar gum in recipes with gluten flour – it already helps bind.
– Watch the oven carefully. Gluten flour browns faster than other flours.
Used sparingly in combination with nut/seed flours, gluten flour can add some rise and chew to keto baked goods for those who aren’t gluten sensitive. But gluten-free flours make excellent substitutes.
Is xanthan gum a good substitute for vital wheat gluten?
Xanthan gum is a popular ingredient used in many gluten-free baking recipes. Like gluten, it can provide binding, moisture, elasticity, and structure to baked goods. But how does it compare as a substitute for vital wheat gluten?
Some key differences between xanthan gum and gluten flour:
– Xanthan gum is carbohydrate-free while vital wheat gluten contains 2g net carbs per serving. This makes xanthan gum the better keto choice.
– Gluten flour adds chewiness while xanthan gum only helps provide rise and bind ingredients. Xanthan gum won’t replicate the stretchy texture of gluten.
– Vital wheat gluten contains protein. Xanthan gum has none. So gluten flour also boosts the protein content of recipes.
– Xanthan gum acts as a thickener and emulsifier. Gluten doesn’t provide these properties.
– People with gluten sensitivities can safely use xanthan gum. They must avoid gluten flour.
The verdict: Xanthan gum can mimic some binding and rising abilities of gluten flour when used sparingly. But it won’t provide the same dense, chewy texture. Xanthan gum is the better choice for keto and gluten-free diets. For best results, use xanthan gum in combination with protein powder and low-carb flours like almond or coconut flour rather than trying to directly sub it for vital wheat gluten.
Vital wheat gluten flour provides chewiness and structure to baked goods thanks to its high gluten content. But it still contains carbohydrates, unlike other keto-friendly flours.
A small amount may fit into some ketogenic diets depending on individual carb tolerance. However, gluten flour is unnecessary for keto baking. There are many great substitutes that mimic its binding abilities without the carbs or gluten.
Healthier, gluten-free alternatives provide nutrients and fiber missing from isolated gluten flour. Options like almond flour, coconut flour, flax meal, xanthan gum and more make excellent substitutes.
Using these low-carb flours along with eggs, healthy fats, protein powder, and natural sweeteners allows you to bake delicious keto breads, treats, and more without gluten flour.
For those with gluten sensitivities or on very low-carb keto, vital wheat gluten should be avoided altogether. But even moderate keto dieters may want to minimize use due to potential digestive issues and inflammation.
Gluten flour is not essential for success with the keto diet. Stick to nutritious, low-carb flours instead for the best results.