For as long as wheat flour has been used for food, a small number of people have been allergic to the gluten in it. These celiac disease sufferers experience stomach pain, nausea and even intestinal damage. More recently, gluten-free food became a new diet craze and while it was ridiculous biologically, it turned gluten-free food into a diverse $4 billion market, which was good for the celiac community.

Flour can now be made from banana peels, almonds and various grains and new work adds sweet potatoes into the mix.

Recent work prepared samples of orange sweet potatoes (Ipomoea batatas) dried at either 122 or 176 F then ground once or twice. The team investigated many parameters for each sample, comparing them to store-bought sweet potato flour and a traditional wheat one. Regardless of drying temperature, grinding once damaged just enough of the starch to make it ideal for fermented products, such as gluten-free breads while grinding twice further disrupted the starch’s crystallinity, producing thickening agents ideal for porridges or sauces.

Ipomoea batatas have pretty flowers as well. Credit: University of Wisconsin.

When baked into a loaf of bread, the high-temperature-dried, single-ground sample featured higher antioxidant capacity than both the store-bought version and the wheat flour. The researchers say that these findings could help expand the applications for orange sweet potato flour, both for home cooks and the packaged food industry.