The Amateur Food Detective

The Amateur Food Detective
Bluebird Acres Farm in Friendship, NY

Friday, May 21, 2010

Whole Grain? 100% Wheat? What's That Mean?

Here's an interesting tidbit for those of us who look for whole wheat products on grocery shelves.

First, let's discuss what constitutes a whole grain. According to www.wheatfoods.com, when a wheat germ keeps its germ, bran and endosperm in its entirety, it's considered a whole grain.

The bran and the germ are separated out to make all-purpose flour, and instead the endosperm is left, ground into a fine powder. (I dare you to visit a neighbor and ask to borrow a cup of ground endosperm.)

Enriched all-purpose flour has iron, thiamin, niacin, riboflavin and folic acid added to it, and bleached flour has been whitened through a chlorinating process. This process has been shown to bring about a better final product (http://www.ars.usda.gov/research/publications/publications.htm?seq_no_115=198716), but also has some people crying that it creates yet another carcinogen. Although I can find little to prove this, and nothing with enough credibility for me to comment about it. But bleaching flour is a chemical process. As those of you who have been reading this blog already know, I whole-heartedly believe chemical processing alters food in a negative way. See this site: http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2009/03/26/The-Little-Known-Secrets-about-Bleached-Flour.aspx for interesting thoughts on bleached flour.

Unbleached all-purpose flour is bleached by oxygen over a period of months. Because of this, unbleached flour tends to be more expensive then bleached flour, which is much quicker to process.

Rolled oats and quick oats are considered a whole grain because they contain the essential parts of the grain: the bran, the germ and the endosperm. Graham flour is another name for whole wheat flour.

Here's what I find interesting. The FDA recommends that wheat flour not be listed as a whole wheat or whole grain because wheat flour does not contain all parts of the grain. Manufacturers can list "10 grams of whole grains" though, for example. I'd like to know what, exactly, does 10 grams mean? I can't measure that when I make my sandwich, so I can't tell if most of the product is "filler."

Even something labeled "stone-ground" or "multi-grain" might not have the same nutritional value of whole grain bread. Would you have known that if you saw a loaf on a shelf, a lovely drawing of a wheat field across its molasses-dyed slices? Of course not. You'd think, "Gee, this bread is perfect. Rich in fiber. And multi-grain, so it must contain more than endosperm."

There aren't enough regulations to help consumers choose their bread wisely. It's easy to be fooled when most of us think wheat bread means...well...wheat bread, germ and all. But if you want to choose the healthiest alternative, go for the one that lists whole grain first thing in the ingredients. And then look for one that doesn't contain high fructose corn syrup. We've all heard about the negative effects of that stuff.

Ah, but that's another day, another post.

4 comments:

  1. What do you think of the soft whole wheat and the white whole grain wegmans sells?
    I'll have to look at the ingredients.

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  2. Great question, Christine. The soft whole wheat is the bread I primarily purchase for my family in part because it is sweetened with honey and minimal sugar...no high fructose corn syrup hiding in there. It's also made with stoneground whole wheat flour and whole wheat flour. It does contain soy lecithin, though, and some people have food sensitivities to that ingredient. But I also like that it's preserved with raisin juice concentrate and vinegar...no chemicals! I haven't checked into the white whole grain, but my guess is it doesn't contain the raisin juice. I have a feeling that's in part what makes the bread I use "brown."

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  3. I think there are too many regs, not too few. What we need are more market-driven sources of information--like this!--to help educate the consumer. Nice post on wheat bread.

    Keep writing! I'm in one of your WD groups and got the email alert.

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  4. Thanks, Laura. I appreciate your comment! You may be right...there might be too many regulations when you think about all the hoops companies have to jump through to put a product out in the marketplace. And it's not always with the consumer's interests in mind. I think it's in part to keep lawyers off industry's back.

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