“Choose whole wheat flours and bran!” How many time we heard that? This motto propagates from nutritional to fashion magazines, it’s an evergreen that always works and, as black color, never goes out of style.
However, by comparing the nutritional labels of a whole wheat and of a refine wheat pasta, you might notice the amount of calories are about the same.
Are there actually advantages in selecting whole wheat products over refined ones? And if so, what are the benefits?
Let’s take as example a very popular food: wheat flour. As you know, wheat flour, as any kind of flour after all, is obtained from the milling of wheat seeds, which I mentioned in this post. The first milling product is a whole wheat flour that contains bran and germs. In the refining process, the flour is sifted to separate bran and germs from it. White wheat flours consist only of the endosperm that is rich in starches and proteins.
Bran and germ contain however vitamins, fibers and antioxidants, which play an important role in our nutrition. Therefore, a refined flour is nutritionally inferior compared to a whole one.
To give you an example, the concentration of vitamins of the B-group is in whole wheat flour is about 9 mg for 100 g of product. It is a significant level, considering the amount of wheat products we eat every day (I do not know you, but my portion of pasta is around 100 g ;)).
Before starting a war against refined flours, I propose a little reflection. Our nutrition has drastically improved compared to the beginning of the XX century. At least in developed countries, we have so much abundance and selection over the food that, by following a balanced diet, we can introduce vitamins from other sources than wheat or cereals (fruit, vegetables, pulses, eggs, milk…) and avoid vitamin deficiencies (very rare, nowadays!) Seemingly, our fiber intake can come from fruit and vegetables. So, whole wheat offers evident benefits, but if it’s not your thing, you have options to compensate.
On the other hand, think when the food availability was limited and people fed on one single type of food, as corn flour (sadly, you might remember how much pellagra was diffused). Unfortunately, these conditions are still the reality on developing countries, where vitamin deficiencies and related diseases are common. How lucky we are to have choices! And when we choose, let’s be guided by facts and not by the fad diets of the moment.
How did you like this post? I am planning to write more article with a nutritional twist, let me know if the idea intrigues you :)
K. Masisi et al., Food Chem., 2016, 196, 90-97
L. Stevenson, Int. J. Food Sci Nutr., 2012, 63, 1001–1013