When you are new to clean eating, one of the things that might feel a little confusing is trying to get a handle on what is and is not clean when it comes to flour, grain, bread. What’s a clean grain? Its important to have an understanding of the difference between whole grains and processed grains. Then making the right choices all becomes much easier.
Wheat is a grain. After it is harvested it is sent to the mill in its whole state (its still a “whole grain” at that point).
At the mill, the wheat can either be processed into whole wheat flour or wheat flour:
- Whole wheat flour – This is the entire harvested grain that has been ground up and then packaged for sale. Nothing has been removed. All of the nutrution as nature intended it is still. It is the WHOLE wheat – with nothing removed, therefore it is labelled as whole wheat, whole grain or whole meal.
- Wheat flour – The harvested grain is processed, which often involves bleaching, and all of the real value of the grain, the nutrition, has been stripped away and discarded. This is done to create a flour that gives baked items a light and fluffy texture. It has very little nutritional value and because all of the healthy fiber that was once contained in the grain has been removed, when consumed it converts to sugar much faster in the body, putting it higher on glycemic index scale. This fast conversion to sugar is non-optimal because. You’ll see this type of heavily processed flour listed as “wheat flour” or “durum wheat semolina” as opposed to “whole wheat”. Because it has been so heavily processed, with all of the actual food valye stripped away, it is not a clean food. Look for products labelled as “100% whole wheat” on the label – not just “whole wheat, it must say 100% whole wheat. Manufacturers often list a product as whole wheat even if it contains just a very small amount of whole wheat and the bulk of it is heavily processed. Be aware of those tricks and watch for them. You want only 100% whole wheat.
Know how to interpret what you see on the label:
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.
Terms like “multigrain” and “wheat” don’t cut it. When you’re shopping for any whole-grain product, look at the ingredients and make sure the whole grain is at or near the top of the list. Each serving should contain at least 2 or 3 grams of fiber.
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!