If you’re like most people, you probably think “wheat flour” is the same thing as whole-grain wheat flour.
Like most people, you’re wrong. And that’s just what food manufacturers want. “Wheat bread” is made of refined, processed wheat that’s stripped of its nutrition. It has virtually no resemblance to whole-grain wheat. A “wheat flour” or “enriched wheat flour” ingredient is technically no different than white flour. Manufacturers take whole-grain wheat, strip out 11 vitamins and minerals, then add synthetic chemicals that represent only four vitamins and one mineral.
Here’s the nutritional math: Whole-grain wheat – 11 nutrients + 5 nutrients = “Enriched”
Thus, “enriched” wheat products are missing the original, naturally occurring vitamins and minerals found in whole-grain wheat!
With consumers increasingly aware of the detrimental health consequences of consuming processed, milled grains (like white flour), food companies and bread manufacturers have been steadily shifting away from using the term “white flour” and instead using “wheat flour” on their products. It’s one of the most common tricks used by food manufacturers trying to jump on the whole-grain bandwagon. They display “made with whole grains!” on the front of the package while, in reality, the whole-grain ingredient may only represent 5 percent of the total finished product. (Companies blend whole grains with refined grains in order to make the product cheaper while still justifying the whole grains claim.)
Sadly, this hoax seems to be working. New research from one popular pastry manufacturer shows that an astonishing 73 percent of mothers mistakenly believe “wheat flour” is the same as whole-grain wheat flour.
Thus, by exploiting this consumer confusion, food manufacturing companies are able to reposition cheap, refined grain products with low nutritional value as “healthy-sounding” foods because they’re made with “wheat flour.”
For a flour or flour-based product to be truly whole-grain, it must explicitly list “whole-grain wheat flour” as a primary ingredient. Bottom line: Avoid the following ingredients:
- Enriched wheat flour.
- Wheat flour.
- White flour.
- All-purpose flour.
- Bleached flour.
- Cake flour.
- Bread flour.
If you want the best nutrition from a wheat-based ingredient, shop only for whole-grain wheat, not enriched wheat flour or simply “wheat flour.” Watch out for tricks and traps set for consumers by food manufacturers, and don’t trust what you read on the front of the label — always check the actual ingredients list to verify what you’re getting.