Indian bread or roti is an integral part of a number of cuisines. To prepare different dishes, a variety of flours are used. In general, incorporating different types of flour adds variety to the diet and makes the food appetizing and nutritionally balanced. 

In a country like India, wheat flour is one of the most popularly used varieties of flour. However various other varieties of flours are also used for regular cooking. Through this article, let’s explore different types of flour readily available in India along with their health benefits.

Varieties of Flour

  • Wheat Flour

Whole wheat flour, or chakki atta is one of the most widely used varieties of flour. Indian cooking is generally considered incomplete without chapati or roti which is typically prepared out of wheat atta. 

The traditional grinding process is used to prepare authentic whole wheat flour. Typically wheat atta contains dietary fiber, protein, vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, and a pretty good amount of gluten. Those who are gluten sensitive or gluten intolerant can not digest wheat flour and are recommended to avoid this variety of flour.

  • Khapli Wheat Flour 

Khapli wheat is a variety of wheat grains that is extremely nutritious and is a healthier alternative to regular wheat flour. Traditionally cultivated in rural areas of Karnataka and South India, Emmer wheat or khapli wheat is extensively consumed in all parts of India. 

Emmer wheat grains in clay pots

Compared to normal wheat flour, the protein and fiber content of khapli wheat flour is high. Plus, khapli wheat flour is also safe for people with mild gluten intolerance. Technically, khapli wheat flour contains gluten but the content of gluten is extremely low as compared to regular wheat flour. 

Khapli wheat is a better version of regular wheat, that is loaded with not just carbohydrates but crucial vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, dietary fiber, and phytonutrients. Vegans can rely on khapli wheat flour for fulfilling their nutritional requirements, particularly protein. 

Unlike normal wheat flour, khapli wheat is also suitable for people who are diabetic. The glycemic index and glycemic load of khapli wheat flour is low as compared to regular wheat flour. Plus, the good fat content in khapli flour is high, this helps to reduce bad fat or cholesterol in the blood, making it suitable for people with cardiac complaints too!

  • Bajra Flour

Bajra, also known as pearl millet, is one of the most widely grown varieties of millet.  India is the leading producer of Bajra in the world with 85% of it being produced in Rajasthan. 

Bajra is one of the most versatile ingredients ever known. It is exceptionally rich in B-vitamins, minerals, protein, antioxidants, and phytochemicals that are prerequisites for mental and physical well being

Bajra is fun and all-around ingredient that swiftly folds with any or all of the dishes you can think of. However, some of the recipes that are extremely popular amongst fitness freaks include bajra chapati, cheela, dosa, cutlets, and porridge.  

For pure vegans or vegetarians, bajra is a great source of clean or plant-based protein. Those who lack one or more nutrients should frequently incorporate bajra to their diet. This can bring promising changes in the nutritional status. Pure Bajra Atta is perfect for everyone and anyone irrespective of age. It is easy to digest and Voila! It’s pocket friendly. 

  • Maize Flour

half-cut corns and corn flour in a bowl

Makkai ka atta or corn flour is another variety of flour widely used as a key ingredient in preparing many dishes. To prepare maize flour, high-quality corn is dried and milled to a coarse powder. 

Makkai ki roti with sarso ka saag is a popular winter delicacy that is not just mouth-watering but extremely nutrient dense too!

Loaded with antioxidants, protein, high fiber, vitamin C, K, A, B, and minerals like selenium, zinc, and copper, maize flour is a healthy alternative to regular flour. Those who are health conscious or aim to lose weight should definitely incorporate maize flour into their diet. Additionally, maize has a medium-ranked glycemic index, making it suitable for diabetics.  

  • Jowar Flour

Jowar atta or sorghum flour is a gluten-free flour that is most commonly used to prepare cheela, dosa, roti, and bhakri. Traditionally, Jowar flour has been a part of authentic Indian cooking and is considered a superfood as it can fulfill nutritional requirements and cater to all health needs. 

Jowar is nutritionally rich in powerful antioxidants. These work specifically at body cleansing by neutralizing the negative effects of free radicals and toxins that accumulate in the internal organs over time. This detoxification helps to keep the body clean, light, and robust. 

Compared to barley, jowar flour contains a much higher concentration of dietary fiber that helps to keep the GUT healthy and immunity strong. People with high blood glucose levels should incorporate jowar flour into the diet as it does not spike blood insulin levels by taking more time to release glucose into the blood. This keeps the blood sugar in control. 

  • Ragi Flour

Ragi, also known as finger millet, is one of the most popular and nutrient-dense varieties of millet flour. India is the leading producer of Ragi in the world. In many regions of India, ragi is considered the staple food choice.

The calcium content of Ragi is enormously high. It is in fact the best non-dairy source of calcium. Clinical studies prove that lack of calcium is one of the most serious complaints among women and men equally. Experts recommend incorporating ragi flour in the diet regularly to strengthen bones, cartilages, ligaments, and muscles. 

Unlike wheat, ragi flour contains a good amount of fiber, B-vitamins, zinc, phosphorus, complex carbs, and other nutrients that provide nourishment to the body and not just empty calories. This is crucial for those aiming to reduce weight and burn stubborn fat. 

Ragi flour is perfect for everyone and anyone, be it kids, adults, or the elderly. It is a versatile ingredient, quick to cook, and easy to digest.

  • Gram Flour (Besan)

Chickpea flour or besan is a type of flour that is prepared by grinding dried chickpeas, particularly split brown chickpeas. In Indian cooking, besan is widely used to prepare a variety of gluten-free dishes. It is easy to digest and exceptionally loaded with protein and micronutrients. 

The fiber content of besan is also high, it is for this reason health experts recommend besan for relieving irregular bowel movements or delayed GUT cleansing. Gram flour is also loaded with calcium and iron, both of which play an important role in the production of red blood cells. This makes gram flour an important cooking ingredient for those dealing with anemia. 

whole chickpeas and chickpea flour in a bowl

 From cleansing GUT to building rock-strong immunity, gram flour can cater to all health needs of people of all age groups. Plus, it is readily available, versatile, and tastes great! Apart from health benefits, besan is one such flour that is used as an important skin exfoliating and brightening ingredient. 

Being naturally alkaline in nature, gram flour controls oil secretion and helps balance the pH level of the skin. This naturally enhances beauty. 

  • Buckwheat Flour

Buckwheat flour or kuttu atta is a gluten-free flour that is commonly consumed in India during seasons of fasting or religious offerings. Nutritionally, buckwheat flour is power packed with micronutrients, antioxidants, carbohydrates, and digestible plant protein. 

The powerful antioxidants present in buckwheat flour help in the body’s detoxification. This is why on the days of fasting, kuttu atta is a go-to choice. 

Poor eating habits or an inactive lifestyle can build up high cholesterol levels (bad fat) in the blood. This can clog the blood flow resulting in high blood pressure and other cardiovascular conditions. However, regular intake of buckwheat flour keeps the arteries clean by reducing high cholesterol levels through its high fiber and good fat (HDL) content present naturally. 

Summing Up:

Be it everyday cooking or occasional baking, Flour is a pantry essential. Thankfully, varieties of flour are available. Depending upon taste, preference, ease of availability, and budget, you can choose flour. 

Flours like jowar, besan, buckwheat, maize, bajra, and ragi are gluten-free and are safe for people who are gluten sensitive or gluten intolerant. Adding a variety of flour to the diet makes the diet interesting and nutritious. Plus, these flours are affordable, quick to cook, and easy to digest. 

These flours are the real superfoods. Give them a shelf in your kitchen and turn your nutritionally deficient food into wholesome yet yummilicious meals!