Alternative Bread Flours: Wheat Flour vs. Oat Flour vs. Barley Flour vs. Rye Flour vs. Spelt Flour

Alternative Bread Flours: Wheat Flour vs. Oat Flour vs. Barley Flour vs. Rye Flour vs. Spelt Flour

Posted on: Bread, Healthy Eating

By Rikki Hoffman, RDN, CDN

Wildgrain is the first bake-from-frozen subscription box for sourdough breads, fresh pastas, and artisanal pastries.

Bread is a staple in our diets. As people become more health conscious, we are always looking to find out more about the ingredients we use in our foods and to make sure they are the healthiest they can be. In this article, we discuss some healthy bread flours.

What are alternative flours for baking bread? Are there healthy substitutes for all-purpose flour in bread?

Some common flours that are used in baking bread include flours made from wheat, oat, barley, rye, and spelt. Any of these flours can be refined (e.g. white flour) or whole grain. Whole grain flour is made using the entire grain, which means the nutrients remain intact. White flour is stripped of the nutritious parts of the grain and is generally considered to be less healthy. All-purpose flour is made using wheat that has been refined and is considered to be white flour. When used in their whole grain form, wheat, oat, barley, rye, and spelt are all healthy substitutes for all-purpose flour in bread.

What is the difference between wheat flour vs. oat flour vs. barley flour vs. rye flour vs. spelt flour?

Each of these grains contain a different mix of nutrients. Whole grain rye flour contains the least calories and the most fiber of the above flours, but also contains more carbs, less protein, and less iron than the other flours.Whole grain oat, wheat, and spelt flours are the most similar flours and contain similar nutrient compositions. Whole grain barley is a lower-calorie flour, but also contains less protein, less iron, and less folate than the other flours. Despite their subtle differences, all of these grains contain a good amount of nutrients, and all are considered healthy flours.

What’s the best substitute for regular white flour in bread: wheat flour or barley flour or oat flour or rye flour or spelt flour?

Whole grain wheat, barley, oat, rye, and spelt flours are all wonderful substitutes for regular white flour. These whole grain flours all contain large amounts of antioxidants, essential vitamins and minerals, and significant amounts of fiber and protein. Whole grain wheat flour, barley flour, oat flour, rye flour, and spelt flour have been shown in studies to help lower cholesterol, keep blood sugar more stable in diabetics, keep you feeling full longer, and aid in weight loss when compared with regular white flour.

What is the healthiest bread flour for you: rye or barley or spelt or oat or wheat flour?

The healthiest bread flour is 100% whole grain flour. Whole grain flour could be rye, barley, spelt, oat, or wheat flour - the key is that the flour is made from 100% whole grains. Whole grain breads provide essential nutrients that are lacking in bread made from white flour. To make sure your bread is made with mostly whole grains, look for “whole” in the first ingredient (or the second ingredient after water).

Which substitute bread flour is best for diabetics and glycemic index?

Oat flour may be the best bread flour for diabetics. Oats contain a type of fiber called beta glucans, which has been shown to help lower blood sugar in diabetics. The glycemic index rates foods that contain carbohydrates with a number corresponding to how that food affects a diabetic’s blood sugar. Oats have a low glycemic index, often making whole grain oat flour a good choice for diabetics.

Can substitute bread flours help you lose weight or keep a diet?

Choosing bread with whole grain flour instead of white (or refined) flour can be helpful when you are trying to lose weight or keep to a diet. Whether it is made from wheat, rye, barley, spelt, or oats, whole grain flour contains fiber. Fiber helps keep you full longer, which makes it easier to stick to a diet.

Wildgrain: Try Healthy Breads

Interested in trying new baked goods made with healthy wheat flours? Wildgrain is the first bake-from-frozen delivery subscription service for breads, pastries and fresh pastas. Some of our more popular breads include Whole Wheat Flour Sourdough, Sourdough Rye Loaf, and Sourdough 7-Grain Loaf. Learn more about Wildgrain and our artisanal baking methods.


About the Author

Rikki Hoffman, RDN, CDN has been a registered dietitian for ten years, working primarily with patients who have kidney disease. She also has a private practice which focuses on helping clients achieve lifestyle and weight loss goals. She graduated with a Bachelor's in Dietetics from Rutgers University and did her Dietetic Internship at Montclair State University.


This content is for informational use only and does not replace professional nutrition and/or medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It is not a substitute for and should not be relied upon for specific nutrition and/or medical recommendations. Please talk with your doctor about any questions or concerns.