Why Is Flour Fattening?

A chef adds flour to dough on a cutting board.
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While eating foods made with flour won't necessarily make you fat, overindulging in this or any other food will lead to weight gain. The type of flour you eat also matters, so choose wisely to help you stay lean and slim. The best options for your health as well as your waistline are whole-grain flours such as whole-wheat and whole rye.

Calorie Content

There's only one way to gain body fat: by eating more calories than you burn. Whether those calories come from flour or from any other food, your body stores any energy it doesn't need as fat. For every 3,500-calorie surplus, you gain about 1 pound. For perspective, 1 ounce of bread made with refined wheat flour contains about 77 calories, and 1 ounce of bread made with whole-wheat flour contains about 71 calories. Cakes, muffins and other flour products made with added sugar and fat contain far more calories; for example, a slice of chocolate cake may contain more than 500 calories -- but not because of the flour.

White-Flour Woes

Calorie count aside, white flour may contribute to weight gain by compelling you to eat more calories throughout the day. You digest refined grains rapidly, which causes a spike in blood sugar, followed by a crash. With blood sugar depleted, your body craves more fuel, so you may reach for more energy-rich food. Often, you're hungry for more refined carbs, leading to a vicious cycle that can spur weight gain, In contrast, whole grains are packed with fiber, which adds bulk for satiety and slows the absorption of sugars into the bloodstream.

Beating Belly Fat

Choosing whole flours over refined versions may also make a difference in belly fat, according to a study published in the "American Journal of Clinical Nutrition" in 2008. Researchers told one group of dieters to make all of their grains whole and another group to completely avoid whole grains. Although both groups lost weight, the whole-grain group lost more fat from the abdomen.

Flour in Your Diet

Carbohydrate sources such as flour are an important part of a balanced diet, so don't skimp on them for fear of getting fat. The U.S. Department of Agriculture's ChooseMyPlate guidelines recommend that you eat 6 ounces of grains each day. These may come from flour-based foods such as breads and pastas or from rice, popcorn or quinoa. Per ChooseMyPlate recommendations, at least half your grains should come from whole-grain sources.