History Info – An international effort to start enriching flour was launched during the 1940s as a means to improve the health of the wartime populations of the British and United States while food was being rationed and alternative sources of the nutrients were scarce. The decision to choose flour for enrichment was based on its commonality in the diets of those wartime populations, ranging from the rich to the poor. A major factor in the switch to enriched flour in the United States was the U.S. Army’s restriction in 1942, that it would purchase only enriched flour.
During the industrial revolution in the nineteenth century, assembly-line techniques for mass-producing flour and bread were developed. Grinding stones were not fast enough for mass-production. High-speed, steel roller mills were invented, to produce flour very rapidly. Grain mills thus earned higher profits. High-speed mills do not grind the germ and the bran properly and it is ejected. Much of the original grain, including the most nutritious portion, is taken out and sold as “byproducts” for animals. Animals are often better nourished than people are. It’s been cynically observed that more profit can be made from healthy animals and sick people.
Process Info – Have you ever wondered how white flour is made? The website Healthy Eating Politics has an interesting article about the process.
Most commercial wheat production is, unfortunately, a “study in pesticide application,” beginning with the seeds being treated with fungicide. Once they become wheat, they are sprayed with hormones and pesticides. Even the bins in which the harvested wheat is stored have been coated with insecticides. If bugs appear on the wheat in storage, they fumigate the grain. Old time mills ground flour slowly, but today’s mills are designed for mass-production, using high-temperature, high-speed steel rollers. The resulting white flour is nearly all starch, and even much of today’s commercially processed whole wheat flour has lost a fair amount of nutritional value due to these aggressive processing methods.
White flour contains a small fraction of the nutrients of the original grain, with the heat of the steel rollers having destroyed what little nutrients remain. But then it is hit with another chemical insult–a chlorine gas bath (chlorine oxide). This serves as a whitener, as well as an “aging” agent.
Flour used to be aged with time, improving the gluten and thus improving the baking quality. Now, it is treated with chlorine to instantly produce similar qualities in the flour (with a disturbing lack of concern about adding another dose of chemicals to your food).
Why is the color of white bread so white when the flour taken from wheat is not?
It’s because the flour used to make white bread is chemically bleached, just like you bleach your clothes. So when you are eating white bread, you are also eating residual chemical bleach. Flour mills use different chemical bleaches, all of which are pretty bad. Here are a few of them: oxide of nitrogen, chlorine, chloride, nitrosyl and benzoyl peroxide mixed with various chemical salts.
One bleaching agent, chloride oxide, combined with whatever proteins are still left in the flour, produces alloxan. Alloxon is a poison and has been used to produce diabetes in laboratory animals. Alloxan causes diabetes because it spins up enormous amounts of free radicals in pancreatic beta cells, thus destroying them. Beta cells are the primary cell type in areas of your pancreas called islets of Langerhans, and they produce insulin; so if those are destroyed, you get diabetes. There is no other commercial application for alloxan — it is used exclusively in the medical research industry because it is so highly toxic.
Given the raging epidemic of diabetes and other chronic diseases in this country, can you afford to be complacent about a toxin such as this in your bread, even if it is present in small amounts?
Chemicals continue to be added to super-market breads in large numbers, despite increasing reports that similar chemicals previously thought to be safe are potential causes of cancer. More than 30 different chemicals are approved by the Food and Drug Administration for addition to bread. Deceptive marketing practices are widespread. Much of the bread now marketed as “whole-wheat bread” is the same old refined white bread with a little brown coloring added. That coloring is usually burnt sugar, listed on the label as caramel.”
Medical Info – The more refined foods a person eats (such as bleached, enriched white flour or products made with white flour), the more insulin must be produced to manage it. Insulin promotes the storage of fat, making way for rapid weight gain and elevated triglyceride levels, which can lead to heart disease. Over time, the pancreas gets so overworked that insulin production grinds to a halt, and hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) or diabetes sets in. Either way, the body is getting little or no fuel from the food you eat and tries to convert muscle and fat into energy.
Nutritional Info – Highly processed white flour (alias “enriched wheat flour” or “wheat flour”) is missing the two most nutritious and fiber-rich parts of the seed: the outside bran layer and the germ (embryo).
Besides, in the chemical process of making flour white, half of the good unsaturated fatty acids, that are high in food value, are lost in the milling process alone, and virtually all the vitamin E is lost with the removal of wheat germ and bran. As a result, the remaining flour in the white bread you buy, contains only poor quality proteins and fattening starch.
But that is not the whole story as to the loss of nutrients. About 50% of all calcium, 70% of phosphorus, 80% iron, 98% magnesium, 75% manganese, 50% potassium, and 65% of copper is destroyed. If that is not bad enough, about 80% thiamin, 60% of riboflavin, 75% of niacin, 50% of pantothenic acid, and about 50% of Pyridoxine is also lost.
When grain is made into refined white flour, more than 30 essential nutrients are largely removed. Only four of those nutrients are added back in a process called “enrichment.” Using this same logic, if a person were robbed of 30 dollars and the thief then returned 4 dollars to his victim for cab fare home, then that person should be considered “enriched” by 4 dollars, not robbed of 26 dollars. How would you feel in that situation? You should feel the same about “enriched” white flour and bread. If consumers would just educate themselves in the principles of good nutrition and show an educated preference at the checkout counter, the food industry would be forced to respond with more nutritious products.