The hidden truths about refined, white and enriched flour

Another post about refined carbs, sorry. I don’t really want to come across as a crusader, but the things I’ve been reading about are worth telling. As food and nutrition talk are wont to be, it won’t necessarily be 100% accurate, but there will definitely be more than a germ (pun intended) of truth in it.

I’m going to talk about flour, plain white flour.

Modern refined flour is the result of industrial capitalism

Flour in the past was ground using traditional mills – windmills, waterwheel mills, donkey mills – they ground whole grain into flour. Whole flour, so to speak.

In the 19th century, when the industrial revolution reached the flour market, modern mechanical mills were introduced. Mill faster = more money to be made. But there was a problem. Mechanical mills produced a lot of heat, which caused the flour to spoil faster. Specifically the germ or embryo of the wheat seed would start to turn rancid once exposed to air, and heat accelerated the spoiling. At that time, little was known about the core nutritional sources of grain, so the industrial millers did the logical thing – they removed the germ from the seed. Thus the nutrients are gone.

Although we now know that a “whole” grain is more nutritious than a stripped or “refined” grain, people continue to buy and consume what they are familiar with since the industrial era: the “original” refined version. Deliberate ignorance? Stubborn habit? You decide.

Refined flour and rice are defined as “refined” because their nutrients are defined as “impurities”.

Thus, you should now begin to understand that the term “refined”, when used in reference to these products, is a bit of a lie. Processed flour has been stripped of the only nutritious component of the grain – the outer bran layers and the germ within. All that’s left is starch, simple carbohydrates.  If you look at the marketing spiel and ingredients list of food products and see nice words like “refined XXX” – you need to think: what exactly have they “refined” away?

“Enriched flour” is enriched because flour is nutrient-empty in the first place.

Similarly for “enriched”. It’s “enriched” because in the first place, it has been de-riched! The logic is as simple as it is ridiculous. To make flour, the naturally occuring nutrients are stripped from the grain. After stripping the nutrients, in order to make the flour “nutritious”, artificial nutrients are added back. Don’t be impressed by the list of vitamins and minerals – they are probably about as beneficial as they are pronounceable.

Neither flour nor white bread are naturally white – they are bleached.

If that doesn’t bother you yet, consider that neither flour nor white bread, when they come out of whatever machine has made them, are naturally white. To achieve that whiteness, they are, again, artificially modified. They are bleached – many different chemicals can be used, including chlorine.

Need I go on? (I can – but you can also read from the list of links below).

What I think is saddening is that people have long accepted that eating bad food (i.e. white bread, refined flour) is a norm. It seems completely irrational that people are so bothered by the colour of already bad refined flour and bread, that it is acceptable for it to be artifically whitened.

Or perhaps it is a simple case of ignorance. If so, all I can say is – be aware, and make your own decisions.


Futher Reading:

Wikipedia: – The Ugly Truths about White Flour

Global Healing Center – The Hidden Truth about Enriched White Flour – Modern Bread – The Broken Staff of Life – The Danger of Refined Carbohydrates



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