Have you ever wondered what’s actually in your food, or as we’ll discover, what isn’t in your food? This has been something we have become increasingly aware of lately. In this article we will talk about flour, bread, baked goods and why you should eat whole wheat. I’ll try to keep this short, but there’s so much I want to share with you.
Is whole wheat bread good for you
The short answer is, it can be. Bread used to be a huge staple in our diets. It used to be that bread was made by each family as needed. The flour would be milled in the home, or by a local miller using a stone mill, and it would be made into bread, within a few days to preserve the freshness of the flour.
How is white flour made
In the late 1800’s, someone came up with a new milling process. A great invention they thought, because it created a long lasting, shelf stable flour. This style of mill would roll the grain, then sift it to separate the grain into 3 different parts. Those parts are the bran, the outside protective layer. The endosperm, the starch and protein. Then, there's the germ, the inside part that will sprout if planted. The bran and germ are sifted out leaving white flour. After that, there's some oil remaining that turns yellow over time, so they decided to bleach the flour with a chlorine derivative to keep it white. This is still done today.
As white flour became widely used health problems started to develop. There were 3 diseases that became almost epidemic. Those were Beriberi, Pellagra, and Anemia. Health officials traced the cause back to the new white flour, without the nutrients. They tried to get the millers to put the bran and germ back in the flour, but they refused (they were now selling it for animal feed). A few years later, the government mandated that they do something. At this point, they chose instead to fortify, or enrich the flour with five essential vitamins and minerals to prevent these diseases. This is crazy, considering, there are over twenty-five nutrients that are lost by this process. The vitamins and minerals used to fortify the flour are synthetic, and difficult to digest.
Since then, America's health has steadily declined. In 1900, 93 countries were surveyed, and America was considered the healthiest. Today, we are considered the leader in chronic sickness, disease, and obesity. We have an alarming rate of people with diabetes and heart disease. Constipation has become normal (it's not normal, by the way). So, what can we do about it?
All purpose flour vs whole wheat flour
We can make better choices with our food. It’s a known fact that we need more fiber, and whole grains are one of the best sources of fiber. One big difference between whole wheat flour, and plain white flour is the fiber content. Whole wheat flour naturally contains five times the amount of fiber found in all purpose flour. Most of the fiber has been stripped away during production.
Whole wheat flour is very nutrient dense. It offers us a complete package of health benefits, because it includes the bran and the germ, the parts of the wheat berry with the most nutrients and fiber. Baking with whole wheat flour gives you the added benefit of more vitamins and minerals, and in a way your body can absorb. Whole Wheat flour digests slower, keeping blood sugar more stable, and leaving you feeling more satisfied than white flour. We have heard many stories of people curing their health issues, by changing to a diet full of whole foods, like, whole wheat. Switching to whole wheat, they were still able to enjoy many breads and baked goods.
Nutritional facts about wheat
Each section of the wheat berry houses health-promoting nutrients. See the comparison chart for wheat vs white flour. Let’s look at some of the benefits.
- The Bran: The fiber-rich outer layer that supplies B vitamins, iron, copper, zinc, magnesium, antioxidants, and phytochemicals.
Fiber is an integral part of our diet, because it can prevent constipation, helps control blood sugar, reduces the chance of heart diseases, and can help manage weight. It may help lower cholesterol, as well as, move waste through the digestive tract. It can also help prevent the formation of small blood clots that can trigger heart attacks or strokes.There are two kinds of fiber that we need. One, is soluble fiber, the kind in fruits and vegetables, that gets broken down in the stomach. The other is insoluble fiber, it does not get broken down in the stomach, instead it goes to the large intestine, and the vitamins are extracted there. This fiber also adds bulk to the stool helping to move things along and prevent constipation.
- The Germ: The core of the seed where growth occurs. It is rich in healthy fats, vitamin E, B vitamins, phytochemicals, and antioxidants.
Phytochemicals (which cannot be replaced with fortification) are natural chemical compounds in plants that have been researched for their role in disease prevention. They also slow the breakdown of starch into glucose, thus maintaining steady blood sugar rather than causing sharp spikes. See diabetic story below.
Vitamin E is important for cell protection, it can also help protect against viruses.
- The Endosperm: The interior layer that holds carbohydrates, protein, some B vitamins, and minerals.
We need carbohydrates for our bodies to get the energy they need to function in a healthy way. Whole wheat flour also contains as much as 15% more protein than white flour.
Whole wheat flour is rich in vitamins B-1, B-3, B-5, riboflavin, and folate as well as more iron, calcium, protein, and other nutritional elements than white flour. If you want to consume a well-balanced and nutritious diet, including food made with whole wheat flour, is a great place to start.
Baking with whole wheat flour
Because the bran and germ can get in the way of gluten formation, whole-wheat flour has a bad rap for making baked goods dense and dry. We’re here to tell you, with a little technique change it doesn't have to be that way.
I found this interesting bit of information from Cotsworld Flour
“In a blind test to compare the difference in texture of bars made with whole wheat flour and plain white flour, participants in the test described the bar made out of whole wheat flour as “crumbly,” “less smooth,” “fluffier,” and “sweeter.” More, the participants described the bar made out of white flour as “sticky” and “doughy.” -Matthew Cotsworld Flour”
So, now you know what's not in white flour. Better, you know what is in whole wheat flour and the goodness you can get from it! Are you ready to start baking?
My boyfriend, who is a type 1 diabetic, says the muffins I make with fresh milled, whole wheat flour don’t give him sharp sugar spikes, like muffins made with white flour would. Later, he told me the whole wheat bread I am making gives him a nice slow carbohydrate release, helping to maintain his blood sugar levels. This can be different for everyone though. See what works for you. Consult your physician before making any changes to your diet.
Wheat has been villainized the last few years, causing a lot of people to go gluten free. While Whole Wheat flour is not gluten free, some people who are gluten intolerant, report they can eat whole grain flour. So, if you are gluten intolerant, you may be able to eat whole wheat, especially heirloom varieties and have your symptoms disappear. The problem with gluten comes when the rest of the wheat berry (bran & germ) aren’t present to help our digestive system process the gluten properly. There are many people who are self-diagnosed with gluten intolerances.
Those with celiac, which is a genetic disorder, will always have to avoid wheat and gluten, because they cannot digest it. Studies show it’s less than 1% of the population.
We’re not doctors, this is from our own experience and the experiences of others. So please make sure to do your research, consult your doctor if needed. Take it slow if you are gluten free and want to make the switch to whole wheat.
If you want learn more about the benefits of eating whole wheat then this video from Bread Beckers is a great resource.