On your quest to better eating, you’ve probably heard that it’s best to avoid white flour but—if you’re like most of us—you probably aren’t willing to swear off the bread, baked goods and pasta for good. Wheat flour is often touted as a good alternative to white flour, but is it actually better for you? By and large, it’s a smart idea to lessen your intake of the white version, opting instead for whole wheat flour that contains more nutrients. Let’s take a look at exactly why whole wheat is better and how much is appropriate in your diet.
The Difference Between White Flour and Wheat FlourBoth white and whole wheat flour are milled from soft wheat, red wheat, white spring wheat or another kind of wheat.The primary difference between white and wheat flour is that white flour is heavily processed and refined —hence why it’s often called “refined wheat”—whereas wheat flour retains its wholeness and has undergone little processing. By law in most states, refined wheat must be enriched with certain nutrients to restore some of the nutritional value. The B vitamins thiamine, riboflavin, niacin and folic acid, as well as iron and calcium, are often added.
- Organic Wheat Flour—Whole organic wheat flour is made from hulled red wheat grain (otherwise known as wheatberries) andretains its natural nutrients, including fiber, fatty acids, vitamins and minerals.It’s a good source of vitamins B1, B3 and B5, manganese, phosphorous, copper, folate and selenium. Studies show that the higher nutrient content is important for our long-term health and blood sugar response. Though slightly different in taste and texture, it makes a great alternative to white and self-rising flour in baking.
- White Flour—White flour has been stripped of most of its natural nutrients and therefore has a lower fiber content than whole wheat. About 30 nutrients are removed during processing of white wheat. While enriched flour adds some of the nutritional value back, the law only requires that five nutrients be returned to the flour. For a better version of white flour, try white whole wheat flour (also called whole white flour) that is milled from hard white wheat but hasn’t been refined or processed.