Dear Hallee: Whole Wheat vs. Unbleached Flour
Hello again, I know I always message you with cooking questions but I feel like you’re the only one who has the answer I am looking for. So here is my new question…What is unbleached flour? I understand the difference between wheat and white flour. With in the next year I am going to do my to try and make as much of every food my family will be eating. But I don’t quite know which flour I should be working with. Thank you so much…Melissa
White flour is actually bleached – they bleach it so that it will be whiter. Unbleached flour is what it sounds like – unbleached.
Here’s the thing about flour: Wheat in its original state has a perfect preserving form. The exterior shell (which is full of nutrition) protects the interior — in the Bible we even read of Joseph storing grain for 14 years. But, once that shell is cracked, the oils and nutrients inside dissipate quickly and it spoils and becomes rancid. 24 hours after grinding wheat into flour, you’ve lost 40% of its nutrients; within 72 hours, you’ve lost 90%. The outer shell – the bran – is full of nutrients as well. But, “white” flour is just the endosperm from the inside, with the bran and germ removed.
Prior to the 20th century, local mills only ground enough grain to meet the demands of the area on a daily basis. People would purchase enough flour just to get them through a few days, because once it was ground, it didn’t stay fresh and would actually become rancid. So, until then, people used flour that for the most part contained most of its natural ingredients.
Today, manufactured flour is “enriched” with vitamins and nutrients — added back into the flour. Fresh ground whole wheat contains 25 nutrients; “enriched” flour contains just a few vitamins that get added back in.
All that said, store-bought whole wheat four and unbleached flour aren’t too different nutritionally because of the loss of nutrients in the milling process. When wheat is ground for commercial flour sales, the bran is first removed and the germ and oil are removed because they are what cause the flour to spoil and become rancid. The remaining endosperm is then finely ground, leaving white flour. In order to market “whole-wheat flour,” a small percentage of the bran is returned to the product.
I use fresh ground, WHOLE wheat, and I use it as soon as it’s ground, which allows my family to benefit from all of the nutrients in the wheat given to us by God. All of my recipes that contain whole wheat are made with fresh ground wheat. My friends who have talked to me about the recipes that they make and how the results are not the same as mine, have used store-bought whole wheat. It’s dense, heavy, and doesn’t have any more health benefit than unbleached flour — other than some added fiber.
If it were me, I’d cook with unbleached flour — and I would use organic unbleached flour like Hodgsons Mill or King Arthur. I realize that is more expensive than just plain white flour, but your family will benefit more from it.
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