Do you really know what all the fuss is about white flour? To be honest with you – we didn’t. So, we decided to investigate and got surprised how truly harmful refined flour actually was. Don’t get confused with the terminology: white flour, refined flour, refined white flour, cake flour, all-purpose white flour, self-rising flours, wheat flour – all are the same.
White flour is made from wheat grain, also known as the wheatberry (botanically it is actually a berry), that contains the germ, endosperm, and bran:
- Bran – is the hard outer layers of the grain where you’ll find most of the fibre
- Germ – is the embryo of the grain, its reproductive part, that will sprout into a new wheat plant
- Endosperm – is the largest part of the grain, a tissue that surrounds the germ and provides nutrition in the form of starch, though it can also contain oils and protein.
White flour is made from the endosperm only. The excessive consumption of white bread and other processed forms of grain products can lead to obesity, allergies, asthma, diabetes, heart disease, gluten intolerance and celiac disease, vitamin deficiencies and related health problems. Let’s move on and see why.
Chemicals during crops growing
Let’s start with grain production. It begins with the seeds being treated with fungicide. Once they become wheat, they are sprayed with hormones and pesticides. Even the bins in which the harvested wheat is stored have been coated with insecticides. All these chemicals residues increase a level of human’s toxic load and can cause many different diseases or complicate the existing health conditions.
16 Pesticide residues found by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) pesticide data program in wheat flour, just to mention a few:
- Malathion – 49.4% of analyzed wheat flour contained this pesticide which is neurotoxin and honeybee toxin
- Chlorpyrifos methyl – 20.7% – neurotoxin and honeybee toxin
- Methoxychlor p,p – 2.9% – suspected hormone disruptor
- Piperonyl butoxide – 2.6% – suspected hormone disruptor
- Pirimiphos methyl – 2.1% – neurotoxin and honeybee toxin
- Trifluralin – 1.4% – suspected hormone disruptor
Flour making process
In old good times mills ground grains nice and easy, slowly. Now, mills are designed for mass-production, using high-temperature, high-speed steel rollers. The bran and the germ layers have been removed (and set aside) from the whole wheat berry (an entire wheat kernel composed of the bran, germ, and endosperm) as part of the flour grinding process. This milling process can give white flour a longer shelf life by removing the natural oils from the whole grain to avoid potential rancidity.
Also, the bran provides the fiber that is typically found in the whole grain, but when it is taken out of the wheat flour it creates a softer, lighter texture. This is why bread from whole-wheat flour is often heavier and denser.
The next step is bleaching by the use of chemicals such as potassium bromate, azodicarbonamide, or chlorine dioxide gas to remove any slight, natural yellow shade and make its baking properties more predictable. Some flour bleaching agents such as chlorine, bromates, and peroxides are banned from use in some countries.
Thus, refined white flour contains almost no natural minerals and vitamins. Actually, during the refining process, 14 different vitamins, 10 different minerals, and protein are lost from the whole wheat. The enriching process of refined flour only adds 4 vitamins and nothing else.
Canadian requirements: Prohibition against the sale of unenriched white flour and products with it
Flour is a widespread food consumed regularly by a large majority of the population. The mandatory enrichment of white flour with B vitamins, iron and folic acid is a cornerstone of Canada’s fortification program aimed at helping to prevent nutrient deficiencies and maintain or improve the nutritional quality of the food supply. All white flour and foods containing white flour that are sold or intended for sale in Canada, both imported and domestically produced, are expected to be in compliance with the enrichment requirements for white flour. Any products in violation of the Food and Drugs Act and Regulations may be subject to enforcement and compliance action by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). The sale of unenriched white flour or its use is not permitted in Canada.