Your Facebook questions answered: whole wheat flour

Flickr photo - derek.zon

Flickr photo – derek.zon

“Flour! It used to be simple but now I’m seeing white whole wheat flour products.  What is that? And I bake a lot of healthy muffins, cookies, pizza dough etc and use whole wheat flour, but as I try to buy whole grain breads, I was thinking that my whole wheat baking isn’t whole grain. Can I just add wheat germ to my baking to make it whole grain? Does it even matter?” asks Enlightened Eater Facebook fan Linda Searle McCarthy.

Linda, as you know, what is allowed to be called whole wheat in Canada is certainly one of my big complaints with Health Canada.    For those of you who are unaware of the issue, even though it can be called whole wheat, assorted whole wheat  products including breads and flour  in Canada  may not be whole grain.

A whole grain consists of the entire kernel of the grain which includes three parts – the outer bran, the endosperm and the inner germ. Research is linking whole grains to a decreased risk of  a range of illnesses including heart disease and stroke and diabetes along with easier weight management.

In Canada, outdated legislation (from 1963) allows for up to 70 per cent of the germ to be removed and the product can still be called whole wheat.  You might think that if you select a 100 % whole wheat bread,    you would be  getting whole grain but it’s very likely that you would be wrong.

Back when these regulations were introduced, science had not yet revealed the health perks of consuming the whole grain. The bran was thought to be the key component of a grain.  Removing most of the germ also yielded a longer shelf life for products, something the baking industry would  definitely like to maintain.

The government thinks that anyone looking for a whole grain wheat should know to look for “whole grain whole wheat”.  I am not alone in thinking this is ridiculous.

Whole should mean whole or entire.

That being said, white whole wheat is simply a particular variety of wheat that does not contain the traditional brownish colour  in its bran or outer coating.  It has been called an albino wheat by some but apparently contains the same nutritional profile as regular whole wheat.

But as with other whole wheat, if you are looking for a whole grain, look for whole grain white whole wheat – quite a mouthful!

As for baking with whole wheat flour, there are a few whole grain brands which can purchase in Canada. Rogers is a Canadian brand but not as widely available as those standard brands that have much of the germ removed. Bob’s Red Mill, a specialty American company, is also available  here in smaller packages.

When you’re baking with regular whole wheat flour, adding wheat germ may change the texture of your finished product so I would try processing the wheat germ in your food processor to yield a finer texture. Then I would experiment with substituting  only small amounts to start with and increase the quantity if you find the results appealing. Muffins, cookies and pizza dough would likely all turn out well.

If you don’t want to experiment, opting to  regular whole wheat flour will still  offer more nutrition than white flour.

But wouldn’t it be nice to be like the rest of the world where whole wheat means whole grain?

What are your thoughts on  looking for whole grain whole wheat? Have you experimented with wheat germ and whole wheat flour?  Please share in the comment section below.

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Categories: Rosie's Rants, Your Questions Answered

Author:Rosie Schwartz

Rosie Schwartz is a Toronto-based consulting dietitian and writer.

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