To be totally honest, when I first began this website and was in the ‘fact finding’ portion of it, I really didn’t get what all the fuss was about regarding flours. I just steering away from ‘white’ products. But that was with the basic understanding that there were better choices out there.
What I DIDN’T know, however, was how truly harmful stripped white products actually were to me and my family!
I decided to dive a little deeper into this subject, and with all the different types of flours out there it’s no wonder people get confused.
Types of Flours:
- refined white flour
- cake flour
- self rising flours
- white whole wheat flour
- whole wheat
The list seems endless! Well today’s post is designed to help break down some of the confusion and educate you on what you should be looking for and what you should be avoiding.
Q – What are the different types of flours?
Let’s start with the one most familiar to everyone. The all purpose white flour. All Purpose flour is most commonly used in making cookies, cakes, muffins, and biscuits.
This type of flour comes bleached and unbleached.
- Unbleached flour is flour that is bleached naturally
- Bleached flour has been chemically treated
So let’s break this down… white flour is made from whole wheat grains. A whole grain of wheat has three layers.
- The Bran
- The Germ
- The Endosperm
The bran is where you’ll find most of the fiber.
The germ is the nutrient dense embryo that will sprout into a new wheat plant.
And the endosperm is the largest part of the grain.
White flour is made from the endosperm only. Old stone mills used to grind flour slowly, but today’s methods are mass produced and much faster. Even most of your whole wheat flour has lost a lot of nutrients due to this type of processing. They start by peeling off the husk and bran and crushing the grain. The husk and bran are the most nutritious parts. Refining food destroys nutrients. What’s remaining are pure carbohydrates or a form of sugar. For a more in depth look at the history of bleaching flour and Pilsbury visit Mercola’s site for a nice review. But for now we’ll move on.
Q – So how does the flour become bleached?
Bleached flour, as you may have guessed, is whiter than the unbleached flour. But how did it get that way? Well when flour is chemically bleached, it is similar to bleaching your clothes in the laundry!!! Flour bleaching agents are a food additive added to flour in order to make it appear whiter (source Wikipedia). A few of these toxic chemical bleaching agents used are:
Use of chlorine bromates and peroxides is not allowed in the European Union!
In Australia and Europe the use of azodicarbonamide as a food additive is not approved! (Source: Wikipedia.org) *The United States permits the use of azodicarbonamide at levels up to 45 parts per million (ppm). If other countries have seen the dangers in these toxic chemicals and banned them from use why won’t the United States follow suit?? This brings us to bromated flour …
Q – What is bromated flour?
Besides bleaching the flour another process is called bromating. Bromated flour is a flour that has been treated with potassium bromate to improve the doughs elasticity and produce a higher rise. Nearly all the flour in your supermarket has been bromated. Commercial bakers use it for it’s dependable rise.
Home bakers use it for the same reasons. The substance, in theory, is supposed to bake out as it cooks, but if any remains behind it can be very harmful. Did you know bromate is considered a category 2B carcinogen (possibly carcinogenic to humans) by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC)?
According to Wikipedia, bromate in drinking water is undesirable because it is a suspected human carcinogen. And as a matter of fact, its presence in Coca Cola’s Dansani bottled water forced an embarrassing recall of their water in the UK (click here to read that story)!
Bromate has been banned in most developed countries since 1994, including the UK and Canada! In addition, in 1991, California declared bromate a carcinogen under the state’s Proposition 65. Baked goods sold in California would have to bear a store level cancer warning if they contained more than a certain level of bromate.
As a result, most California bakers have switched to bromate-free process. In the US bromated flour is legal, however labeling is NOT required, although some states may require flour producers to label the flour if it has been bromated.
Q – What should I look for?
When buying flour unbleached unbromated is the way to go. Be a label reader! Avoid products with white flour or “enriched” flour in the ingredients. That includes breads, cookies, biscuits, donuts, pie crusts, rolls. Eat whole wheat breads, rye breads. Even better are sprouted breads.
Your best bet is to find a bakery that doesn’t use bromated flours. I found one within 5 miles of my house in our wonderful downtown . After a chat with the owner I was pleased to hear that their bread takes THREE DAYS to rise and it’s wonderful!!
Q- Where can I find non bromated flour?
Non bromated flours can be found pretty readily in most supermarkets. My go to is from Bob Mills.
- International Agency for Research on Cancer
This is one of the best article one has to read on the internet this days. Your way forward “Eat whole graine bread” is the perfect words and it took me back to the good old days.
So I am from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and in here we could easily and readily buy the wheat grain from any local stores not further than 10 miniutes walk. We also have a lot of local small scale grain miller’s (who often sell the grains anf mill too).
I am now 38 years old going to 39 my mom NEVER used a processed or bleached flour to make us a bread even if she could buy it easy and cheap. We grow eating a bread baked from whole grain wheat flour bought from her long time local Miller. The other point is she always preserve her own “Yest” from her previous dough and I didn’t remember she useing baking soda or purchased yeast.
That makes her bread special to me and to this datr I never experianced a bread that could match her’s even in a 4 star hotels.
Thank you for bringing this up and I am now your regular follower. Good night.
thank you for adding to the conversation Teshager!
Very interesting. But I for one can’t digest brans, whole wheat nor certain high fiber vegetables. I have seen GI doctors and have done various tests. One of the doctors explained to me that many people have this problem. A dietitian also told me that people who are very sensitive ro these fibers should stay away from them because it can only make my problems worse. I for many years was a fiber nut and vegetables. When I explained this to my doctor he let me know that too much of a good thing can also be damaging to some. He went on to explain that many fibers have a rough scrubbing effect on the GI that after a while people sensitive become worse and not better. My daughter had the same problem. Every doctor and nutritionist told her to look for these healthy products and just eat these and nothing bleached and etc. My daughter ended up in the hospital after a few years of following this “healthy “ diets. Finally she went to see an ND and he stripped her of all of these things. He changed her diet. Healthy but low on fibers, brans, etc. Today she has gained weight, which she had lost tremendously, and feels great and so do I. So it not fair to us that have these problems to say we are eating products that are killers because those products that are considered healthy were killing us and spending a lot of money in doctors and other health professionals.
Thank you for this short but very informative article. As a rule I avoid white flours and stick w/sprouted grains, also bake treats with Almond & Coconut flours, it takes practice, of course also replacing sugar with Monk fruit, honey, bananas and the like. The healthier you ingest the better you feel & your body will thank you. Again thank you.
You said ” I had heard whole grain or whole wheat was better. But what I DIDN’T know was how truly harmful they actually were to me and my family!” Then later you said “Eat whole wheat breads, rye breads.” Can you explain why it is harmful, but yet you advise they are the best to eat?
Thank you. I like to bake but been using king Arthur’s flour because it does not contain all those harsh chemical. I also stop using sugars, eggs in my cakes but instead use natural sweets. I try very hard to stick with natural ingredients that God created because he created me and kniws whats better for my body. I am no longer over weight and feel so much better health wise. Thank you again for posting this ino.
I believe in all this. But you’ve got to take it one step further to make the whole grain / whole wheat flour useful. If you will use natural yeast (the stuff mankind has used for centuries to make bread and other good stuff from good flour) instead of this horrific baker’s yeast which does NOT fully process the gluten and fully develop the whole wheat four… you will get bread most anyone can eat. Allergies to wheat flour will go away. Natural yeast… often referred to as a sour dough start… doesn’t have to have that extreme tang. You can bake very mild bread, fully developed with whole wheat flour. The best stuff I’ve ever tasted.
That is the way my mom bake a bread to this day. She preserve her yeast from her previous dough. The taste is special. Thank you.
Awesome piece! Very helpful.
Wow! I had no idea about how flour is processed. I will share this with everyone I know! Thank you.
Not everyone can digest the bran and germ, especially people with D-prominent irritable bowel syndrome. I will say look for alternatives e.g. tapioca flour etc, I’m not a chef so I don’t know if it works though,
Thank you, this was a very helpful article but can you clarify whether it is only bromated white flour that kills bugs or all white flour?
i’m from africa we have a root plant called cassava that is good to make flour out of but what chemical is best to use to whiten the flour because i do not want to harm my people.
Fantastic….I have been wanting to read read about these types of flour. We hardly eat refined white flour. We always take whole wheat flour as per tradition. But it’s time to eat less refined food. We are switching Oils, Flours, Sugars etc. I will be switching to unbleached unbromated whole wheat flour.
Thanks for your guidance.
thank you for your comment 🙂
Thank you for sharing your findings. It is really disturbing and my stomach churned as I was reading.
wow! This is very interesting! Thank you for writing this article. It will help a lot with my science project.