Whole Wheat and Health

The health benefits of wheat depend entirely on the form in which you eat it. These benefits will be few if you select wheat that has been processed into 60% extraction, bleached white flour. 60% extraction-the standard for most wheat products in the United States, including breads, noodles and pastas, baked goods like rolls or biscuits, and cookies-means that 40% of the original wheat grain was removed, and only 60% is left. Unfortunately, the 40% that gets removed includes the bran and the germ of the wheat grain-its most nutrient-rich parts. In the process of making 60% extraction flour, over half of the vitamin B1, B2, B3, E, folic acid, calcium, phosphorus, zinc, copper, iron, and fiber are lost.

Since 1941, laws in the United States have required “enrichment” of processed wheat flour with vitamins B1, B2, B3 and iron in response to the problems created by 60% extraction. Since not nearly as much of these B vitamins and iron are replaced as are removed from 60% extraction flour, “enriched” seems an odd word to describe this process.

If you select 100% whole wheat products, however, the bran and the germ of the wheat will remain in your meals, and the health benefits will be impressive! Our food ranking qualified whole wheat (in its original non-enriched form) as a very good source of dietary fiber and manganese, and as a good source of magnesium.

The many benefits of whole wheat products are being recognized more and more by consumers. Even though many health-conscious individuals have been cutting back on their intake of total carbs and refined wheat products (by about 10% between 1997-2007), the demand for whole wheat products has actually increased during that same time period.