In the previous post we kicked off with some general guidelines for choosing bread:
- The first ingredient should be whole grain.
- The bread should be 100% whole wheat.
- The fiber count should be 2 or more grams per ounce. sometimes that’s one slice, but not always.
- It should have a short ingredient list.
Today, we’ll take a look at whole grains and whole wheat.
What you need to know:
Whole grain includes 3 parts – endosperm (about 80% of the grain kernel), germ, and bran. Regular flour contains only the endosperm. it is finer, creates a more chewable bread, and unfortunately lacks in nutrients because most of them are in the bran and and germ.
Whole grains are wide and varied, with wheat being just one of them. There’s also oat, barley, spelt, kamut, rye, brown rice, and a few more. For bread though, wheat flour is the most popular and widely used grain. That is why you’ve heard and will continue to hear from us to look for 100% whole wheat.
So why is whole grain important?
Because it is the bran and the germ that contain the fiber, nutrients, and antioxidants that service our bodies. Enriched flour adds back just some of these nutrients, but not the fiber, and not hundreds of other nutrients.
The following adjectives are NOT indicators of whole grains:
Enriched – the flour is getting back what was lost when it was stripped of its whole grain-ness.Here’s what is added (mandated by the government) – Vitamin B1 (thiamin), Vitamin B2 (riboflavin), Vitamin B3 (niacin), folic acid, and iron.
Unbleached / bleached – indicates if the flour has been subjected to a whitening process or not. Bleached flour goes through more processing and chemicals, so you should prefer non-bleached flour. Whole grains are not bleached.
Multi-grain – simply indicates several types of grains have been used. For example, wheat and rye.
Organic – indicates how the wheat was grown, not if it was stripped of its
Unbromated / unbrominated - In the past, many bakeries used potassium bromate as a dough conditioner to improve the rising of the dough and the texture of the bread. Unfortunately, it is a carcinogen. It is not often used these days, and if it is, should appear on the ingredient list, regardless of its use as an adjective describing the flour.
More: durum, semolina, fine, high protein, plain , refined, stone ground, untreated, un-enriched, pumpernickel
100% any of the above – as in “100% refined wheat flour” (tricks the eye to think 100% whole wheat…)
OK. Got it?
Here’s a quick quiz. For each of the terms below please indicate if it is whole grain or not:
organic unbleached unenriched wheat flour
ground wheat flour
100% stone ground wheat flour
organic heirloom wheat flour
unbromated hard red spring wheat flour
Answer: none of the above are whole grains flours.
A manufacturer trick to look out for. Even if the product package boasts 100% Whole Wheat, you may be getting shortchanged. You see, manufacturers can add bran and germ to an ingredient list that kicks off with enriched flour. As long as the proportion of endosperm, bran, and germ is equal to what one would find naturally in a whole grain, the package claim “100% Whole Wheat” is technically correct. This is allowed by the FDA because the facts are correct. Again, reading the ingredient list quickly reveals the truth.
Confused? There’s more. An industry sponsored group called the Whole Grain Council has created a stamp that you may see on bread packages, depending if the manufacturer paid to be part of the program or not. Our advice – since not all products with whole grains have this marking, make the extra effort to read the ingredient list, regardless of the presence or not of the stamp.
What to do at the supermarket:
Take a look at the ingredient list and compare it to the health claims or product name. Remember, it’s the ingredient list that counts, not some confusing healthy headline.