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Know your flours


Rohini Diniz

Maize flour (makai ka atta): Maize flour is a coarse, yellow coloured flour with a sweetish taste that is prepared from corn kernels. It is the staple food in the state of Punjab and is especially consumed during winters in combination with sarson da saag, a gravy dish prepared using mustard leaves. Maize flour is a nutritious gluten free flour. In addition to starch and protein, it contains the yellow orange pigment beta carotene which gives corn kernels its golden yellow colour. Beta carotene gets converted into vitamin A within the body. It also contains zinc and iron which are essential minerals for the body and is a good source of dietary fibre, the indigestible type of carbohydrate that absorbs water in the gut and exerts various beneficial effects on health such as, providing satiety, controlling blood sugar and cholesterol levels, enhancing intestinal motility, reducing cancer risk and preventing constipation. Besides being used in India to make rotis, maize flour is used extensively in Mexican cuisine to make tortillas, tacos, nachos, etc.

Cornflour: Cornflour is prepared from the starch of maize kernels and is a white coloured flour with a very fine smooth texture. Nutritionally cornflour is high in carbohydrate and is used as a thickening agent in sauces and as a coating for deep fried foods.

Jowar flour: Jowar or sorghum flour is the staple food in many parts of India. Jowar flour has a creamy white or yellowish colour and a slightly coarser texture as compared to wheat flour. Jowar contains carbohydrates in the form of starch and sugars. The starch granules of jowar are slowly digested and absorbed and this slow digestible starch (SDS) is beneficial for the management of metabolic disorders such as diabetes and hyperlipidemia. Jowar is a good source of dietary fibre which is beneficial in the management of constipation, irritable bowel syndrome and obesity. It contains good amounts of protein and is an excellent source of potassium and B complex vitamins except for vitamin B12. It also contains adequate amounts of magnesium, iron, zinc and copper but is low in calcium and sodium. The flour obtained from yellow varieties of jowar is rich in beta carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin. Jowar is also an excellent source of antioxidant phytochemicals such as polyphenols, flavonoids and condensed tannins. Jowar flour is gluten free flour and is suitable for people who are allergic to wheat and gluten. Jowar flour is used to make Indian breads like bhakris (thick chapatis that are shaped into circles by hand) and thalipeeth. It can also be used to prepare a variety of Gujarati snacks like khichu, muthia, panki, etc, and porridges.

Bajra flour: A flour with a greyish colour and slightly nutty flavour, bajra flour is also consumed as a staple in many parts of India. Like jowar, it is also gluten free and contains carbohydrate in the form of starch and sugars. It contains good amount of protein and the protein of bajra contains higher amounts of the essential amino acids lysine, threonine, methionine, cystine and tryptophan as compared to other millets. Bajra has a high content of minerals like magnesium, phosphorus and zinc and is also rich in B vitamins. It is rich in dietary fibre which helps provide satiety, aids weight loss, reduces cholesterol levels, prevents spikes in blood sugar levels, and prevents gall stone formation and constipation. Bajra is highly alkaline by nature and helps prevent acidity and formation of ulcers in the stomach. Bajra flour is generally used to prepare bajra rotlas and bhakris. It can also be used in combination with other flours to prepare parathas, theplas, etc.


To be continued . . .


(Writer is a consultant nutritionist with 18 years of experience, practicing at Panaji and can be contacted on [email protected])