Your Guide To Clean Eating Flour

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If you’ve ever had questions about this, I’ve created your guide to clean eating flour!

I get a lot of questions regarding clean eating flour and what constitutes a clean eating grain. Many people do not understand the difference between whole grains and processed grains, which leaves them lost and frustrated in the bread isle.

But it’s not as difficult as it may seem at first. This guide to clean eating flour will help you understand the basic concepts behind choosing things like breads and crackers when you shop.

A large, glass canister partially filled with whole grain flour in Your Guide To Clean Eating Flour

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YOUR GUIDE TO CLEAN EATING FLOUR

THE DIFFERENCE

Wheat is a grain. It is harvested, and then brought to a mill in its whole state.

At the mill, the wheat berries (which is the entire grain, minus the inedible, outside husk) can basically become one of two things:

  1. Whole wheat flour – This is simply the entire grain that has been harvested, ground up and put into a container or package as is. All the nutritious stuff is still in there because nothing was removed. It is the WHOLE wheat berry, therefore, it is listed as whole wheat, whole grain or whole meal.
  2. Wheat flour – The entire wheat berry is processed, most often bleached, and has all the good nutritious stuff removed. This creates a flour that makes baked goods very light and fluffy. It also converts to sugar much faster in the body. All the nutritious stuff has been removed. It has been processed (or altered), which is what clean eating avoids. This is most often listed as wheat flour, or even durum wheat semolina. If it doesn’t have the word “whole” in front of it, it’s not clean flour. That’s why you want to look for products that actually say “100% whole wheat/grain/meal” on the label.
READING LABELS

Labeling laws do not require all companies to label things the same way. It’s up to you to educate yourself enough to understand what each term means.

Refined – Has lost many nutritious components during processing.

Enriched or Fortified – Flour that has had all its nutritious components removed during processing and then has certain vitamins and/or minerals added back in. These are not as good as whole wheat or whole grains simply because the only vitamins and minerals added back in are the ones that are required by law to be replaced. This leaves out a wide range of other healthy nutrients that our bodies need and can get from whole grains.

Whole grain – Call it whole grain, whole wheat or whole meal. Regardless of the name you give it, it means that the entire grain has been used and you will receive the full amount of nutrient benefit that comes from the grain as mother nature intended it.

WHAT IS WHITE WHOLE WHEAT FLOUR?

Many people get confused when they see a bag of flour that says “White Whole Wheat Flour”. But don’t be confused. There are many different varieties of wheat available, even though we only find one predominantly in the market place. When a bag of flour is labeled as white whole wheat flour, it is still a whole grain flour. It’s just made from a different variety of wheat that is lighter in color and flavor. This is a fantastic “transition” grain if you are having trouble adjusting to eating whole grains. As long as the word “whole” is in the title, it’s clean.

WHAT IS WHOLE WHEAT PASTRY FLOUR?

This is mainly the only flour I use when I cook and bake. It is whole wheat flour made from spring wheat. It’s a finer “grind” and has a higher starch content and lower gluten content than regular whole wheat flour made from winter wheat. A finished muffin or other food item will have a tad bit less structure to it than it would if you use regular whole wheat flour, but it will be far less dense and coarse as well. This leaves you with something a little closer to a product made with regular white flour. It has more of that “fluffy” factor to it which is great for muffins and many baked goods.

WHAT IS  WHOLE WHEAT FLOUR?

This is the variety most folks can find when looking for whole grain flour. It’s pretty common and easy to find, even in most mainstream stores. It is made of a winter wheat and will produce a coarser, denser, “breadier” result in whatever you use it in, as compared to the pastry variety.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR WHEN YOU SHOP

If you are trying to eat clean, then you will want to purchase only those products that say 100% WHOLE grain/meal/flour.

Be sure to read the ingredient list because if it doesn’t say “100%” then it will most likely have whole grain flour AND regular wheat flour listed, typically one right after the other. This is not a clean product. The package MUST say “100% Whole grain/flour/meal” to be clean.

ONE LAST NOTE

It’s worth mentioning that the wheat we eat today is not at all the same wheat that our great grandmother’s ate. We now eat a hybrid wheat which has been often attributed to the epidemic of wheat and gluten intolerance we are seeing today. While GMO wheat has not been approved by the FDA (yet), it’s likely that it will be approved some time in the future, and illegal GMO wheat fields have been found, which leaves one to wonder about cross contamination. But the general wheat supply (as far as we’ve been told), is not GMO wheat. It’s a hybrid.

That being said, most grains are covered in Roundup just prior to harvest to make harvesting easier. So choosing organic is always the better choice.

But any way you look at it, it’s been tampered with and we are now seeing the effects in many, many people. So whether or not you view wheat as truly clean is up to you and your standards of clean eating. Just be advised that if you do give up wheat, most gluten free products on the market are not clean and definitely highly processed. You will have to learn to make a lot of your own foods if you wish to eat clean and gluten/wheat free.

Hope that helps! If you have any further questions, please leave a comment and I will do my best to answer. I hope you’ve enjoyed your guide to clean eating flour!

This article on clean eating flour is an original work and is copyright Tiffany McCauley. It may not be reproduced for any reason without written permission by the author. This INCLUDES bloggers! Please do not copy and paste (or add to tumblr) this article into your own blog. Simply write an introduction in your own words and provide a link back to this page. Thank you.

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84 Comments

  1. Thank-you for the WHOLE story on wheat! 🙂
    I appreciate that you made it simple.

    Question about other flours: Can you explain the Almond flour, Coconut flour, Spelt flour and is there significant benefits from using them?

    Thank-you. I appreciate the work you are doing.

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Ellan – I’m not sure about spelt flour, but almond and coconut flour are used a lot in gluten free baking. Spelt is a grain that is in the wheat family. It’s yummy, but not for those with gluten issues. Hope that helps!

    2. I’ve never tried the almond or cocoanut flour-nut allergies at our house. With the spelt make sure you get 100% whole spelt flour. It is sometimes “refined” like wheat flours. So if it just says spelt it is very likely devoid of bran and germ. What I get in the health food store is a little more grainy (like cornmeal) in texture, but makes wonderful biscuits and scones.

      1. The Gracious Pantry says:

        Jodi – Sounds fabulous! Thanks for the tip!

  2. Coco @ Opera Girl Cooks says:

    One other great whole-grain flour is made from teff — the grain itself is so fine that the whole-grain flour is nice and silky. Makes for beautiful (if extremely delicate) crepes!

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Coco – Really?? I’ve never seen it in the store. I’ll have to look for it. Thank you!!

  3. I’ve been checking out some of your postings and some of your recipes and most of them look wonderful. This one regarding whole grains I found particularly interesting. Why must these products be 100% natural..aren’t some of these additives beneficial at some times? In other words, wouldn’t it be better to judge just what these additives are and judge whether to buy based on that?

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Anne – I’m not sure I follow. The idea behind clean eating is to avoid processed foods. Foods that have been altered from their natural state. This would be the healthiest way to eat any food. But maybe you can clarify for me? What additives are you referring to?

  4. Riverbritts says:

    Thank you for the info.! I have always thought that all flour was processed and not clean. 🙂

    1. Anonymous says:

      Riverbritts – I guess that depends on your definition of “processed”. The flour itself must undergo a form of processing to change it from the berry into the flour. But that’s not the kind of processing that clean eaters typically avoid. As long as it’s the whole grain with nothing added, it’s usually considered clean.

  5. Well, whole wheat flour sold in stores here in Canada has had all of the wheat germ and most of the bran removed. Wheat germ is the nutritious part of the flour, but it has a very short shelf life. It turns rancid because it contains the oils of the wheat. Bran is the fiber of the wheat. So though it is labeled as 100% whole wheat there is much missng.

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Linda – How sad! I’m sure that has something to do with Canadian food regulations. These things often govern how our food is sold in stores.

  6. Thank you Thank you Thank you!!! I’ve been noticing a lot of clean recipes made with whole wheat flour (or yours with pastry flour) and wondered if it was clean and how it could be considered clean. Mystery solved! Thanks for your time in education us 🙂

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Amy – You’re welcome! I’m glad I could help!

  7. The Gracious Pantry says:

    Cici – Wonderful! Thanks for reading!

  8. Mrsstandleypr1 says:

    I recently was given a bread recipe that is simple & fabulous. Since my family is working on eating clean 100% I thought I could make the bread just by swapping out the white flour for Trader’s Joes whole white wheat as a start. But it doesn’t seem to be that simple since the bread seems to be more dense & needs longer to set & rise & bake. Is there more to know on making a recipe conversion or did I do it correctly & need to accept my version if clean is what I want over fluffy & fast?

    Ingredients: 2cp flour, 1/2 tsp yeast, 1/2 salt, 1cp water.

    As always I appreciate all that you do. You’re blog has kept me going!

    Thank you!

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Mrsstandleypr – I don’t generally bake with white whole wheat flour. If you want light and fluffy, you will need to use whole wheat pastry flour. White whole wheat flour is still coarse by comparison.

      Keep in mind however, that no matter what you substitute with, nothing will ever be as light and fluffy as white flour. It’s light and fluffy because there is nothing in it. But over time, you will get used to it and will most likely actually prefer the heavier breads. I know I do!

      Try it with the pastry flour and see what happens though. I think you’ll get a little closer to what you’re looking for.

    2. I use 100% whole white wheat as my “all purpose” flour. I have found when using it for things like cake and muffins that it works better to sift it before measuring. It is denser than the white refined flour, so the same volume would weigh more. (which is why professional bakers go by weight rather than volume) For yeast breads you probably do need to knead a bit more to develop the gluten-the bran in whole grains tends to break it up. Also the longer rising time is because the yeast “eat” the sugars in the flour and produce carbon dioxide gas. This is what gives the bread its texture and the gluten strands support the structure. White flour is pretty much just starch, sugar and gluten so the sugars are more accessable to the yeast so they digest it faster. i hope this is not TMI.

      1. The Gracious Pantry says:

        No, it’s great! Thanks! That’s why I love the whole wheat pastry flour. It seems to get pretty close to the same textures as using AP flour. Love that stuff!

  9. Hey Tiffany – this is a great article and it’s definitely helped me better understand my flour! But I still feel really confused when I read ingredients like “durum” or “semolina” or “spelt” or grains/rice that reference times of year; or any other fancy word for different types of grains. Do you have a reference (or know of one somewhere online) to help decode all of this and figure out if what I’m eating is clean or not?

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Nicole – To the best of my understanding, durum, semolina and spelt are just different types of wheat. Much like there are different types of tomatoes. It would be the same with rice and grains. The main thing is to be sure that it’s whole grain. That’s the important part. Hope that helps!

  10. The Gracious Pantry says:

    Woolism – You would have to have a grain mill. I do not have one myself, but have thought about getting one.

  11. The Gracious Pantry says:

    Aundy – It depends on the recipe. Some will, some won’t.

  12. graciouspantry says:

    Marcy – I get mine at whole foods. Bob’s Redmill is the most popular brand. You might try their web site to find out where they sell in your area. Amazon.com sells it as well.

  13. Kristi Waggoner says:

    Have you ever tried the Einkorn flour? It is ancient wheat – the way wheat was meant to be grown and not hybridized like most wheat in the US. After reading about hybridized wheat, it’s what led me to your site. You can buy Einkorn flour from Jovial (I haven’t found any stores around that sell it – I have to buy it online). I’m just starting on the clean eating but I can’t wait – although it does seem overwhelming at first.

    1. graciouspantry says:

      Kristi – No, I’ve never heard of it. Sounds interesting though. Might have to check that out. Thanks for the tip! You’ll do great at clean eating. Just take it one step at a time. 🙂

  14. graciouspantry says:

    Joyce – Let me know how it turns out!

  15. graciouspantry says:

    Kristi – Please do!

  16. graciouspantry says:

    Sleach – You are absolutely correct. The wheat we have these days is a “Franken wheat”. I’m absolutely convinced that that is the reason that so many people are now gluten intolerant. You can only screw with nature so much before you start to feel the effects. The wheat industry may feel they are feeding more people, but in the long run, they are killing off their profits by creating gluten intolerant people. The sad thing is that once everyone is gluten intolerant, they will simply move on to the next grain.

  17. graciouspantry says:

    That’s an excellent question. I don’t have an answer. I’ll see if I can research it a bit though.

  18. graciouspantry says:

    It might be, I’m not sure. I’ve never tried.

  19. graciouspantry says:

    Yes, isn’t it also a difference between winter and spring wheat? Or am I thinking of something else…

  20. graciouspantry says:

    It will be just slightly less dense than regular whole wheat flour as it’s a different type of wheat.

  21. graciouspantry says:

    Whole foods does carry it, or  you can order it from Amazon.com. The brand they sell is Bob’s Redmill. If you have to settle for something else, the next best thing is WHITE whole wheat flour. I believe walmart does carry that.

  22. Have you read “Wheat Belly”? It explaines how wheat was taken from its original state and genetically change, the wheat we ate 20 years ago is not the wheat we eat today. So I am not sure, organic or not, you can ever say wheat is “clean” …..just food for thought

  23. “Wheat Belly” says that we should stay away from ALL today’s wheat. It does not differentiate between Whole or processed. I’ve personally embraced coconut flour.

  24. I am just starting to try to cook clean and some friends were talking about “splet” flour. They say it does not affect the glycemic index as much. Do you know if this is true? When I went to by this at my local Natural Foods Market, I was overwhelmed at the “whole grain flour” choice. I guess I am feeling confuses. I want a nice smooth flour.

    Also, how do you feel about xylitol or erthytol as sugar substitutes?

    Thanks!

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      If you can find it, whole wheat pastry flour is a great option. After that would be white whole wheat flour. Spelt is a wonderful grain too though. Just depends on what you want to make.

      I don’t consider xylitol clean, but many people do. So it’s a personal choice. Not sure about the erthytol (sp?)

  25. Hi!

    What are your thoughts on the new “super grains” becoming available? Including Teff, Millet, and Kamut? I saw these mentioned on doctor Oz and want to give them a try but also stay within the Clean Eating Lifestyle.

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      As long as they are whole grain, which I think they are, they are clean.

  26. hi amy! can you give me a strait answer on almond flour? clean or not? i keep getting loads of mixed answers. i want to bake with just almond and coconut flour. thank you

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      As far as I know, it’s perfectly clean providing the only thing in the ingredient list is almonds. But you can also make it yourself. I have a recipes for it here on my blog. 🙂

  27. ** Tiffany, I’m sorry

  28. Emma Madison says:

    This is one of the best explanations of what really constitutes the proper wheat flour that I’ve ever read. It’s amazing how deceptive some of the labeling is. You’re right….you really have to read carefully and know what you’re looking for to make sure you buy the proper type. So much of the stuff we buy has all the fiber stripped out of it!

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Emma – Thanks. Glad you found it useful. 🙂

  29. Liz Caruso says:

    I was looking at a recipe that calls for wholemeal spelt flour. Can I sub for 100% whole grain flour?

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Liz – Yes, it should work fine. Depends on the recipe though as spelt is a little different than the regular wheat we have now.

  30. Hi Kristi ,
    Yes ,I switched to einkorn flour few months ago , I also use kamut flour and spelt , as they belong to the family of ancient wheat .since I’ve read Wiliam Davis’ book “Wheat Belly” ,I realized how modern wheat is the reason of many health problems.
    As I live in Canada I was not able to order einkorn from Jovial , luckily I discovered a farm located in Saskatchewan, Prime Grains Canada.Now, I bake all my favorite recipes the clean way.I feel great.

  31. I have gone to the Paleo diet, using no grains. There are many wonderful recipes for breads using Almond and or Coconut Flour! Costco just started carrying Honeyville’s Almond Flour.

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Leta – Yes, but you have to be careful with almond flour too. Heating it causes chemical changes in the flour that are not good for us in high amounts. I would not rely on that as a constant source of bread. Occasionally is okay, but not on a daily basis. Coconut flour, however is fabulous stuff. It is a very different animal compared to other flours though. Takes some getting used to.

  32. What about King Arthur’s unbleached all purpose flour? It says its milled from 100% wheat. Is it considered clean?

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Brooke – No. And here’s why… All purpose flour is white, processed flour. The only thing that “100% wheat” statement is telling you (if that’s the exact wording) is that they didn’t mix in any corn or oats or any other ingredients with it. So it’s completely, 100% wheat, but it’s still white, processed wheat. Now, if it said, “100% WHOLE wheat”, that would be different. That would be clean.

  33. Would you consider trader joes 100% white whole wheat flour clean?

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Brianne – Yes.

  34. Clean Eating -- It's a Lifestyle says:

    Hi! I just sent this article to my sister in the comments and noticed someone asking about whole wheat flour and why it is so dense. You are right, you get used to the different texture and, just as you do, I have learned to prefer. She might be able to add vital wheat gluten for a puffier bread, though.

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      CEIAL – Good point! I forgot about that.

  35. Hi Gracious Pantry,

    I have been following and cooking your recipes now for the past 6 months, however i would love to make these pretzels. I am in Australia and for the life of me i can not get my hands on whole wheat pastry flour, this there anything else i can use?

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Tina – The next step would be White Whole Wheat Flour. Can you find some of that?

  36. jeannette says:

    I cannot find any info on what patent flour is. I am new to clean eating. I bought bread at the farmers market called sourdough whole wheat. the ingredients are organic whole wheat flour, organic patent flour, organic whole rye flour, sea salt, filtered water.

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Jeannette – “Straight flour is used to make patent, clear, and low-grade flours”. I don’t know a lot about it, but it doesn’t sound clean to me.

  37. Anna Peska says:

    Some dietician recommend not to eat any flour because it’s processed and therefore not good for you I just want to find unprocessed flour What brands you suggest and where can I purchase them .
    Thank you
    Anna

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Anna – All flour is processed. They have to process it from the wheat berries into the flour. But the process is basically just grinding. Something you would do at home if you grew your own wheat. The big deal is to avoid white flour because that is processed in more unnatural ways. They bleach it and so all sorts of things to it. Typically, whole grain flour is what you want. You can ask your dietitian about this to be sure, but I think that may be what he/she was referring to.

  38. Is adding vital wheat gluten considered clean? I thought we were going for WHOLE foods here.

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Ashley – I’m pretty sure vital wheat gluten is okay for clean eating, though I’d have to research it a bit more.

  39. Thank you for this info on flour. I have two questions though: 1.) what exactly is the difference between all purpose white flour and all purpose sapphire flour? Is sapphire a bit better? 2.) is white whole wheat flour the same or close to whole wheat pastry flour? I don’t always keep white whole wheat on hand, but I do have wwp. Thanks!

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Rachel – I have never heard of sapphire flour. Sorry.

  40. I have a question on different flours…….probably the answer is already posted somewhere, but can’t seem to find. I am trying to figure out which flour to try using more for baking breads and sweet stuff, like cookies and brownies. So, going between white whole wheat flour and whole wheat pastry flour. Also, I have noticed with switching to all this whole grains, someone might be a little sensitive….don’t think need gluten free, just seeing if one of these might be better on the tummy while switching over to more whole grains over all the yucky processed stuff. Thank you!

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Nicole – If you have access to whole wheat pastry flour, I have found that to give the best result in baking. However, I have no idea what the tummy issues are about or what would be better for that. Your best bet is to contact your doctor or a registered dietitian.

  41. Why are so many people so against whole wheat flour? If it’s healthy and clean, what is wrong with it? Some people I know use sourdough for bread. I always thought whole wheat was great, but now I’m wondering if there’s something wrong with it too! Each to their own guess.

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Rachel – There is nothing wrong with whole wheat flour. It’s perfectly clean. I just don’t use it a lot simply because of the coarse texture it creates in baked goods. For baking, whole wheat pastry flour is best.

  42. Started clean eating abit six years, I’m 51 and I just picked up my first 5lb of Bob’s (this will be long) Organically grown& certified Unbromated Unbleached white flour. The reason is because of my new addiction for making my breads! It started out three weeks ago making banana bread. My neighbor, she had turned me onto a cheat mix made for Chiquita. Reading the ingredients,I decided I wanna see for myself just how “difficult, time consuming” from scratch really is. NOT at all.. but gold medal is not the cleanest either! Can’t wait to try this flour from Bob’s red mill! Let me back up, these past six years, my “bread” intake has been the Ezekiel sprouted millit grains product. Two slices of this is a meal all by itself! Glad I found this site Tiffany, THANK YOU and long live the old way! Be well y’all!

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Danny – That’s great! But are you sure you got the right stuff? If it’s white flour, it’s processed and therefor not clean.

  43. I started earlier this year with trying to eat cleaner. I am not completely there yet. I have been using a “White Whole Wheat Flour” for anything I need flour in. I have not seen a difference until this week. I found out that the “White Whole Wheat Flour” will not work in a Cream Cheese Pound Cake. It turned out terrible. I went ahead and got some all purpose flour and made the cake again. I was making the cake to send to my Son (in the Army) for Christmas. I thought about if there was any difference before I made the first cake. I should of known better. I will keep using the White Whole Wheat Flour and keep the all purpose in the freezer for cakes if needed.

    I have to tell you that I have enjoyed your web site very much. Our Pastors wife has breast cancer and we set up to take them meals and she wanted Organic everything because that is the way she has always eaten. I was able to get them a meal with advise from your web site that they enjoyed very much. Thank you again.

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Tammy B – Well I’m honored I could be there to help in that way! 😀 I hope she’ll have a speedy recovery.

  44. Hi Tiffany.

    I am a bit stuck as regards tritamyl flour… Its gluten free I know but is it processed at all or considered clean?

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Rebecca – I had to look it up as I’m not familiar with it. But after reading the ingredients, it’s safe to say it’s not clean. Sorry!

  45. Hi There! I have asked you this question before (can’t find or remember your answer) & took your advice by purchasing organic 100% whole wheat pastry flour. I make bread in my bread machine. In any bread recipes, do I replace the recipe flour 1:1 with the pastry flour? If so, do I need to alter anything else, like yeast?

    Thanks so much! (sorry, I realize that this thread is older, but your my Go To Cleaning Eating Mentor!) Thanks for the awesome info, always!

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Yvonne – No worries! I’m happy to help! I always substitute 1:1. That being said, I’m not sure if a bread machine would change anything as I don’t have one to test this out on. So you may have to experiment just a bit. I would not adjust the yeast at all. Let me know how it works out!

  46. Dotti Regier says:

    Thank you for the information. Is there a wheat that you can purchase and grind yourself that would be closer to the real original wheat that is good?

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Dotti – Spelt flour would be the closest, I believe. But you can buy that already ground. 🙂

  47. Thank you for this very clear explanation on flours. I’m about to begin some holiday baking, mostly cookies, but I try to always use clean flour. Basically I’ve used imported European flours for the last few years, but they are not as easy to find this year. Anyway at least I know what I should be looking for.

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Crissi – I’m so happy it helped! 🙂

  48. So if I’m using whole wheat berries and/or white wheat berries, how much gluten will be in my bread, if any. That’s what I’m confused about…what has gluten and what doesn’t.

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Paula – Any type of wheat has gluten. Gluten is a component of wheat. That being said, if you are celiac or allergic, there is a lot of cross contamination with wheat. So some products that do not have wheat in them still have gluten. Usually because they were processed at a plant that also processes wheat. You need to purchase gluten free certified products to totally avoid it.

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