When the average person first reads the list of ingredients on a loaf of white bread he can not help but think that it is healthy to eat. Unfortunately, this is not the case. The white flour of today is so processed that any product made using it should be avoided and considered nutritionally worthless, or better yet, potentially harmful to your health! In this edition of “Green Gossip” by Florida Herb House we will set the record straight on foods made from whole wheat flour versus those same products made with enriched white flour and show the reasons why anything made with enriched flour is best to avoid.
Before we get started, do you know what flour really is? Flour is a major part of our food chain and without it many of the simple foods we eat every day (e.g., bread, cereal, cake, cookies, etc.) would not exist. Flour is nothing more than the milled parts of a particular seed, nut, vegetable, fruit, or grain. Next time you whip up a batch of those tasty instant mashed potatoes check the ingredients. You just sampled a taste of potato flour. Flour can be made from so many different foods, but the majority of flour that is used for food production here in the U.S. is made from milled wheat kernels. These little kernels are harvested from the wheat plant and then ground up and processed into flour. So what’s wrong with that? Sounds healthy to eat huh? Sure, if flour was made the way it used to be made then it would be healthy as can be. In fact, wheat kernels are packed with loads of nutrients including vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that our body thrives on. But do you think that all those essential nutrients are going to be wasted flour? Heck no!
There are three main parts of a wheat kernel; the bran, the germ, and the endosperm. These three parts collectively supply impressive amounts of essential nutrients such as vitamin B1 (thiamin), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), E, folate (folic acid), and minerals including calcium, magnesium, iron, selenium, and zinc. The whole wheat kernel also provides a wealth of phyto-nutrients (i.e., plant nutrients) such as beta-glucan, lignins, tocotrienols, phytoestrogens, and phytic acid. These natural disease fighters double as powerful antioxidants to help keep one’s immune system strong. Unfortunately though, when you see the words “Enriched Wheat Flour” or “Enriched Flour” as the main ingredient of any food, the endosperm of the wheat kernel is the only part being used to make the flour. The bran and germ are completely removed from all flour labeled as “enriched”. Unless you are carefully buying your breads, cereals, and baked goods made with “Whole Wheat” or “Whole Grain”, then you are missing out on these other two healthy parts of the wheat plant. The food companies are not being nave here either – they are multiplying their profits by selling the wheat bran and wheat germ as an entirely separate food. Don’t think for one minute that these big food companies care about you getting your essential nutrients every day either – they don’t!
When wheat grains are sent to the processing plant, the highly nutritious “bran” and “germ” parts of the kernel are mechanically removed and sold separately by the food manufacturers. The “endosperm” part of the kernel, which is all that is left, is then bleached using eco-unfriendly and hazardous chemicals like benzoyl peroxide or acetone peroxide. In fact, the white flour that is left over is so depleted and nutritionally worthless that the FDA made it mandatory for the flour to be enriched with some of the missing vitamins and minerals. Even so, the resulting enriched quality of white flour is still vastly lacking in nutrition. To put the icing on the cake, another risk not known to many is the growing problem of acrylmahide found mainly in processed “white” foods such as white rice and white flour. Acrylamahide, a harmful carcinogen, accumulates inside the body and can cause serious health problems over a period of time. Scientists are still not sure why this chemical is associated mainly with the processing of white foods and many studies are being conducted to gather more data on this alarming statistic.
It is simple to see which piece of bread offers the best nutritional bang for the buck. Additionally, the above nutritional analysis does not include the benefits from the many phyto-nutrients that are also present in all flour made with whole wheat. Purchasing only products made using “whole wheat” and “whole grains” will give the added health benefits from these powerful free radical scavengers. Phyto-nutrients are the newest class of nutrients that are being researched by scientists around the world. These natural chemicals found in plants have been proving to be powerful antioxidants and shed new light on the war against cancer and other devastating diseases. Make the switch over to “whole wheat flour” or “whole grain flour” products today and get some extra life insurance for you and your family.