I get a lot of questions regarding 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 article will help you understand the basic concepts behind choosing things like breads and crackers when you shop.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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.
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