When purchasing breads, cereals, or crackers, about 95% of the time you will see “enriched," "bleached," and/or "unbleached" flour. Well, on the front of a Triscuit box it says it’s a “good source of fiber and low calorie,” so it has to be good, right? Wrong! It’s a good source of fiber because they pump the grain with fiber and other vitamins since they took away the secret ingredient – the outer shell of the grain. Make sense? I'll explain.
This is a flour with specific nutrients pumped back into it that were lost when it was prepared. It was produced many years ago because it was said to be a “healthier” alternative. It didn’t grow mold, thus sickness and diseases were reduced.
This is a flour that contains an additive to make it appear white. It’s been said that “bleaching” flour increases the volume of the loaf and yields a higher grain. However, for those with sensitive palates, it can taste a little bitter, almost like stale rye bread.
This is a flour that is bleached naturally. As it ages, the color grows duller. It contains more protein than bleached flour and is best when used for baking yeast breads, pastries, cookies, pancakes, pie crusts, etc. This flour doesn’t have the same attributes as bleached flour; the volume will not look as appetizing, but the taste is better than the bleached.
So which is better?
Neither, actually. All of the flours contain oxidizing agents to maintain flavor. Also, most are pumped with vitamins and minerals to replace what was lost. They do this because of flavor and the loaf volume. Instead of focusing on the quality, it’s all about the quantity. Granted, agriculture has come a long way over the years. The human population has increased dramatically, so we’re trying to figure out ways to produce food in large numbers. However, the ways they’re going about it are causing obesity, allergies, diabetes, and other diseases. And this isn’t just from breads, but from foods today, in general.
What type of grain should you aim for?
Whole wheat flour, whole rolled oats, and/or whole grains (the grains are still intact, not refined). There should not be any type of enriched, bleached, or unbleached ingredients on the ingredients list. Also, the more pure and organic, the better – the grains were grown on grounds without pesticides.
Spelt flour is a subspecies of wheat. So, those who are allergic to wheat (like my husband and I) should be able to digest the grain fine. However, I would not recommend it for those who are severely allergic to wheat as it does contain a small amount of gluten.
When reading labels for breads, make sure that the things I listed above are the first ingredient. Ingredients are listed in order of importance. So, if the next ingredient is unenriched, bleached, etc., don’t get it. It’s processed. The same goes for any added sugars or other ingredients that you’ve never heard of. Keep in mind to look for the whole. Just because something says “wheat flour” on the cover doesn’t mean it’s pure. It can be mixed with refined white flours and other additives
Steer clear of:
• Wheat flour • Unbleached wheat flour • Enriched white flour • Enriched wheat flour • Stone-ground wheat flour • Multi grain • 5 or 7 grains • 100% wheat flour • Bran
Watch out for unhealthy fats. If anything is high in trans or saturated fats, it’s not worth it. Also, make sure that there are no hydrogenated oils or shortenings on your ingredient list.
As for sugars, be sure that there are no added sugars like high fructose corn syrup, refined sugars, or any type of coloring.
The shorter the ingredients list, the better. Just make sure that there are at least 3g of fiber per slice, 100 calories or less per slice, 2-3 grams of protein per slice, and it must contain less than 175mg of sodium per slice. Many of us don’t realize that a lot of the breads we’re eating are rather high in sodium -- be sure to read your labels!
If you can make your own bread, that’s great. You know what you’re putting in it, and it’s fresh and healthy!
Pastas and rice
The same rule of thumb goes for pastas and rice. Once the grain is taken away, it’s lost all of its nutritional value. Rice-based pastas are great. They also don’t take as long to cook. So, make sure to read the labels with your rice and pastas, read the fiber/protein content, watch the sodium, and look over the caloric intake.
Same thing goes for cereals. Cereals are so packed with sugar and oils it’s disgusting. It also makes me furious to see Lucky Charms claim to be “an excellent source of fiber and whole grains!” That’s bull. Here’s the exact ingredient list:
Whole Grain Oats, Marshmallows (Sugar, Modified Corn Starch, Corn Syrup, Dextrose, Gelatin, Calcium Carbonate, Yellows 5&6, Blue 1, Red 40, Artificial Flavor), Sugar, Oat Flour, Corn Syrup, Corn Starch, Salt, Trisodium Phosphate, Color Added, Natural and Artificial Flavor. Vitamin E (Mixed Tocopherols) Added to Preserve Freshness. Vitamins and Minerals: Calcium Carbonate, Zinc and Iron (Mineral Nutrients), Vitamin C (Sodium Ascorbate), a B Vitamin (Niacinamide), Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine Hydrochloride), Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin), Vitamin B1 (Thiamin Mononitrate), Vitamin A (Palmitate), a B Vitamin (Folic Acid), Vitamin B12, Vitamin D3.
Yes, it has whole grains, but in order for it to be considered whole grain, it must have 3-4g of fiber per serving. This cereal has 1g. Pretty misleading. Any parent who buys this cereal and says, “My child is eating a cereal he/she loves and is also getting whole grains!” is misinformed. Read the labels, people! What they put on the box can be misleading!
In conclusion, the more pure, the better. If you don’t understand the ingredients, you probably shouldn’t be eating it.
Here’s to happy, healthy eating!
Photo by Tony Frantz