Refined Flour

Refined flour is used in conventional white breads found at most large supermarkets.  In refined flours, the bran and the germ have been separated from the endosperm.  This produces a finer, whiter flour but also removes the vast majority of its nutritive substances.  The Food and Drug Administration requires that all bread flours that have been refined must contain added niacin, riboflavin, thiamine, and iron.  Since these four substances have been removed by the refining process, manufacturers must add them to the flour all over again!

Most refined flour used in breads available in conventional supermarkets has been bleached and bromated.  Natural bleaching occurs as the flour sits in storage and ages.  We want flours to bleach (or age) because this process produces a richer, more mature flavor and it makes the gluten become stronger.  But it takes time.  Conventional flour manufacturers have found that they can speed up the process by adding artificial ingredients.  Refined flour for commercial breads contains most of the following ingredients: benzoyl peroxide, chlorine dioxide, and acetone peroxide. These substances destroy the Vitamin E that occurs naturally in wheat.  They are also potentially hazardous to our health.

Manufacturers have also learned that adding certain oxidizers like potassium bromate makes a finer-grained flour that produces a springier, softer textured dough.  The FDA has approved bromating bread flour but the substance has been banned in California and Germany because it may cause cancer.

So what can you do to avoid eating such chemically-laden and nutritionally deficient flour?  Look for whole wheat bread and check the label to make sure it is actually made from whole wheat flour.  If it just says ‘wheat flour’, then it is not truly whole wheat.  It is more likely to be white bread with added coloring (more chemicals!).  If you are buying your own flour to make baked goods, look for flour that is unbleached and unbromated.  There are good white flours out there if you take the time to read the packaging.  There is also a product called ‘white whole wheat’ that is supposed to be just as good as whole wheat flour nutritionally, but more closely resembles the white flour that we are all used to eating.