It’s the great dinner table debate, one that may never be settled: sweet potatoes or white potatoes?
Whether they’re fried, mashed or baked, opinions about the orange, starchy tubers abound. Now, there’s something else to consider: Sweet potatoes can be mass-produced into antioxidant-packed, gluten-free flour for baking or other cooking.
Recent findings from the American Chemical Society describe how sweet potatoes can be handled and processed into flour in large quantities. That’s good news for people with gluten intolerance or celiac disease, which causes stomach distress due to the proteins in wheat flour.
To make flour that can be produced on a large scale, experts set out to develop an optimal process for drying and grinding sweet potatoes. The researchers made many attempts, varying things like grinding methods and drying temperatures.
Understanding the effects of grinding was, well, a grind. A single grind produced sweet potato flour that is ideal for gluten-free breads. Grinding it a second time further disrupted its crystal structure, producing thickening agents for stews and soups.
Eventually, the researchers had an edible eureka moment: Sweet potatoes that were dried at a higher temperature, and ground once, produced a loaf of bread that had more antioxidants than wheat flour or currently available sweet potato flour.
While sweet potato flour is already on the market, it’s harder to find and more expensive than wheat flour. The researchers hope their findings will open the proverbial pantry door, giving sweet potato flour a spot alongside its wheat flour cousin.