If you’ve ever traveled around Switzerland or Germany, you may have seen “high protein” breads in almost every grocery chain. Unlike their US counterparts, these breads generally contain seeds and are high in fat and fiber. They are also lower carb and, in my view, tastier and have better texture than the US equivalent. So much so that I generally try to bring some back home with me when I leave those countries, though the loaves can really weigh down a carry on!
In the US, manufacturers of bread and related products are experimenting with lower-carb ingredients such as lentils, cauliflower, egg whites, hemp and sprouted grain instead of processed grains, though breads that contain a high content of these are not easy to come by. Even so, why aren’t these ingredients being incorporated into sweets and desserts at these same bakeries or grocery stores?
A peek at any grocery store’s bakery section—the area you are incidentally most likely to be drawn to by its smell, especially if you dared to shop while hungry—shows most sweets have traditional, high-carb ingredients and sometimes have labels that take up half a cake box and are filled with things like dyes and preservatives. The sugar-free options are no different and in some cases are actually misleading regarding carbs. Yet even in the ice cream section of major grocery stores, you can see manufacturers have been racing to produce lower-carb versions of their products. I’ve even recently been to in-store tastings for these. But it’s still pretty much impossible to find any low-carb baked sweets: you have to buy these from a cottage businesses making keto goodies, or buy something through the mail.
Alas, when it comes to baked sweets, alternative flours are largely MIA, though they are in fact the key to meeting the needs of people with (pre)diabetes as well as consumers’ growing demand for less sugary products in general. And some of these flours, like lupin, show great promise for not only low-carb baking but for reducing chronic disease risk markers, likely because of its protein, dietary fiber and bioactive compounds.
Is cost really the only issue here? It’s true that nut (almond) and coconut flours are more expensive than wheat flours. However, there are a host of other healthier nut and seed flours that can serve as functional foods in sweets and desserts—such as amaranth, flax, soy, chia and quinoa (as well as flours like spelt, teff and buckwheat that are lower on the GI index than wheat) —and as consumers become more educated and have the chance to taste and chose more nutritious alternatives, this should help with competitive pricing. In the meantime, how can we truly know what the response will be when there is no way to access or sample these alternatives? Their omission seems glaring given that groceries are now promoting health and that a growing number are offering health related services/store tours, and producing educational materials to help communities eat healthier.