White Flour: The sneaky sugar twin
Our Dear Customers,
It’s only six weeks until Christmas, which I’m excited about. Beautiful and delicious Christmas products and gifts have landed on our shelves at Planet Organic. This is making me feel festive, so I’ve pulled out my menu and baking lists to consider what I feel like creating this year.
For Christmas baking, I use organic wholegrain spelt flour. There’s an old saying I like: ‘The whiter the bread, the quicker you’re dead.’ If you don’t already know this, it can be surprising and annoying to learn that white flour is bad for your health. It’s the mainstay of many people’s diets – and it’s not adding to health and wellbeing.
White flour is the other sugar.
Many people know that eating too much sugar can lead to blood sugar problems. Most people don’t know that white flour causes the same problems. As far as your blood sugar is concerned, your body can’t tell the difference between a spoonful of white flour and a spoonful of sugar. In fact, the Glycaemic Index of white flour is worse than granulated sugar.
When you eat refined grains - white flour cereals, bread, biscuits, snacks - your blood sugar levels shoot up. This is because the body assimilates it very quickly and it rapidly passes into the bloodstream as a simple sugar. This quick rise in blood sugar levels triggers a similarly rapid release of the body’s sugar-regulating hormone, insulin. This gives you the ‘lift’ followed by the ‘crash’, which makes you feel tired and down. To deal with prolonged high blood sugar, the body is forced to store the excess sugars as fat, causing weight gain.
You probably know this about sugar, but it’s the same with white flour. Consider that when you reach for a croissant or give your kids a bowl of white pasta.
If this happens over a long period of time, it may lead to thrombosis, high blood pressure, heart disease, hypoglycemia, type II diabetes, decreased immune function and/or adrenal stress.
What is white flour?
White flour is the white powder that is left after stripping all the nutrients and fiber out of a grain. Milling removes the best bits of the grain – the germ and the outer bran layer – so out go the vitamins, minerals and most of the dietary fiber. White flour contains 60 per cent of the whole grain – excluding the best part. You are left with poor quality proteins and nutrition empty starch.
But it’s ‘enriched’, which sounds good!
Yeah, don’t be fooled by that. Because of health problems created by eating white flour, in 1941, a law required the addition of a small amount of vitamins B1, B2, B3 and iron. ‘Enriched’ is not an accurate description. The synthetic vitamins and minerals that are added back in do not replace the thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pyridoxine, pantothenic acid, folic acid, vitamin E, calcium, phosphorus, zinc, copper, manganese, potassium, iron, magnesium and fiber that were lost or destroyed.
No white flour product provides anything near 100% of the original goodness in the grain.
In terms of its dietary benefits, eating mass-produced bread is like eating cardboard.
So why on earth do manufacturers use it/like it?
White flour is so stripped of goodness that there is virtually no living food substance in it to go rancid - which is great for manufacturers. I learned a long time ago that much of what happens in the food industry isn’t for your health, but for the convenience of the industry.
Other problems associated with white flour.
Eating too many products made with white flour can also contribute to constipation, because you aren’t getting lots of good fiber. This can trigger Crohn’s, Irritable Bowel Syndrome and cancer of the colon. White flour also slows down the body’s metabolism, which can create digestive problems and greater fat storage, so it is also associated with being overweight.
Why do people love it?
I ask myself this. I think there are a couple of reasons. One, I think it’s because, like sugar, white flour is addictive. Secondly, it could be conditioning. A lot of people grew up with the taste and the texture of white bread, so it’s what they’re used to. Also, wholegrain breads used to be heavy and stodgy but today, there are gorgeous wholegrain loaves available. (I make wholegrain spelt bread that people beg for.) As an American, I grew up on Wonderbread (argh), which now I couldn’t bring myself to eat, but I do occasionally love a white croissant.
Eat whole grains
The solution is simple – eat whole grains – most of the time. Nature, in its intelligence, has given us all the goodness and fibre we need in a grain if we eat the whole thing. If you’re not already, you can bake with better flour.
Eat well; live better,