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Comparing the value of flours

In the previous post I explained the different stages of food processing and that the value of food diminishes with higher grades of processing. If you haven’t read the post Let’s define healthy food first, you might want to do so before reading on.

In this post I would like to take a closer look at grains and how their value is affected not only by the processing type, but also what effect the time between grinding and using the grains has.

Defining whole grains

Many people are aware of the health benefits of whole grains, so when they do their shopping or eat at a restaurant they are often looking for whole wheat options. But not very many people know that in Canada a product can be called ‘whole wheat’ although  “[…] up to 5 % of the kernel can be removed to help reduce rancidity and prolong the shelf life of whole wheat flour.” (see http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/nutrition/whole-grain-entiers-eng.php)

As you can see in the picture below, the germ, which is also the most valuable part of the grain, can be removed, as well as some of the bran to reach the 5 %. The germ with its lipids (fats), once it is ground and exposed to air, will make a grain product rancid because of oxidation. Such a product has basically no shelf-life and thus is undesirable in today’s world of food production and convenience.

Anatomy of grain

Refined flour is mostly made of the endosperm (starchy part). The government allows the food industry to enrich and fortify refined flours and give the impression that valuable nutrients were added back.

Enriched and fortified flour – a substitute for whole grains?

To understand why fortifying and enriching flour can in no way replace a truly whole grain flour, we need to acknowledge that every food has a very distinct amount of vital nutrients and this exact amount is needed in our bodies to properly metabolize that food. Once this fragile balance of nutrients is disturbed, there is no way to replicate it and inevitably, our bodies can’t metabolize food properly. In its inherent need of coping with what it has available, our body is looking the find the missing nutrients somewhere else (e.g. calcium is taken from places where it is present in the body, like teeth or bones), or simply can’t go through the proper stages of metabolism. Eventually, this will result in an illness. (e.g. in the case of calcium caries or osteoporosis can start to develop)

Here some percentages of minerals and vitamins that are being lost when refining whole grains:

Iron 84 %, copper 75 %, magnesium 52 %, manganese 71 %, potassium 76 %, calcium 50 %, vitamin B1 (thiamin) 86 %, vitamin B2 69 %, vitamin B3 (niacin ) 86 %, vitamin B6 50 %,  pantothenic acid 54 %, provitamin A 100 %, vitamin E 100 %, and fibre almost 100 %.

In my mind there is no doubt that the bad reputation carbohydrates suffer from, stems mainly from the fact that very rarely the distinction is made between whole grains and refined carbohydrates and that the majority of people in the Western world consume refined carbohydrates and not enough complex or whole grains.

Let’s add the time factor

Two scientists , Kühnau and Bernásek, did an interesting animal study. Five test groups of rats were fed 50 % of their normal food and the other 50 % were replaced by different flours. The scientists especially recorded the fertility of the animals with the following results:

offspring

1st generation

offspring

2nd generation

offspring

3rd generation

offspring

4th generation

Group 1 freshly ground whole grain flour 11.3 9.7 12.3 12.0
Group 2 bread made from freshly ground whole grain flour 12.3 9.5 9.3 11.6
Group3 14-day-old whole grain flour 9.5 4.5 3.2
Group 4 bread made from 14-day-old whole grain flour 8.0 3.5 2.0
Group 5 refined flour 8.0 4.0 1.2

It didn’t surprise me much that Group 5 wasn’t very fertile as other studies in which rats were being fed refined flour only, showed that they became ill and died within a few weeks.  Admittedly, I was not aware that whole grain flour would lose its value within 14 days to such a dramatic extent, that oxidation could destroy so much of the vital nutrients to render it basically useless after mere 14 days.

While I was attending a week-long food prep class during my training in Germany, we were taught to not mill any flour for storage, but rather use it within 4 hours of grinding.

What can you do?

You might wonder now if you need to buy a grain mill to grind whole grain kernels and make your own bread. In an ideal world, yes, that’s what you should do. Of course I understand that not everybody has the resources – time and money – to do so. But you can get started with a coffee grinder. (That’s what I did, too!) Maybe you have one at home or you buy one for $15-$20. At the heart of the nutrition rich in vital nutrients that I promote, is a fresh, raw whole grain muesli, which I also call power porridge. It is a very good start to make a small change towards healthier eating habits. If you eat about 50 grams of raw whole grains a day, you get all the vital nutrients from grains you need, and as a big bonus also sufficient unheated protein. Now, why this is very important, I will need to explain in my next blog post. For the power porridge recipe please go here. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to let me know!

Stay healthy,

Martina

 

Let’s define healthy food first

If I asked 10 people to define healthy food, I would get 10 different answers. Some of the comments would surely include the following:

“Fruit and veggies”, “Whole wheat bread”, “Plenty of milk for calcium”, “Canada’s food guide”, “Supplements”, “Organic”, “Non-GMO”, “Homemade”, “Pasture-raised animal meats”, “Unprocessed”, “Smoothies”, Raw”, “Vegan”, “Vegetarian”, “Low-Fat”, “Gluten-Free”,..

Healthy food is food that gives our bodies all the vital nutrients it needs to metabolize it properly.

In other words, we need to eat food that is whole and alive! Through processing food loses value. There are different types of processing that destroy the value of food to different degrees.

What are the different processing types and stages of value?

I will give you an example to illustrate this:

Let’s take some fruit.

Stage 1: You take that fruit as a whole and eat it, that is the most natural state it comes in.

Stage 2: We start with cutting the fruit into slices or cubes. The cut surfaces  are exposed to air and oxidation will start. With some fruits this can be seen very easily, e.g. an apple turns brown. We could also juice the fruit and as long as we keep the fibre including the peel in the juice, not much is lost. (That doesn’t mean we should drink a lot of juice!) (mechanically changed)

Stage 3 : The juice we can ferment, which some people then call cider. (fermentatively changed)

Stage 4: Let’s take some of the fruit slices and cook them which will result in fruit sauce. (At this stage most people would have gotten rid off the peel of fruits like apples, pears, grapes.) (heated)

Stage 5: The fruit sauce we may can or make jam. (preserved)

Stage 6: When a company takes apple sauce, or any other puréed fruit, adds some flavour and thickening agent, and dries it, voilà, it becomes a strip of fruit leather, that is called fruit to go! (Processed!)

The fruit bar in the picture is from strawberries. The bar weighs 14 g, of which 11 g are “naturally occurring fruit sugars”. 100 grams of fresh strawberries have 4.9 grams of natural sugar. Well? I am sure you can see what is wrong with this picture! Not only is the ratio of total weight to sugar out of balance, but because of the processing, the vital nutrients that were originally present in the fruit, like vitamins (lots of vitamin C in Strawberries!), minerals, enzymes, etc., are gone. This means that this piece of food-like substance cannot be metabolized properly. You might as well just give your child a spoonful of any sugar! I know, this sounds harsh, but the truth is not always convenient.

Often it is not quite as clear cut as my examples, and the reason is that we don’t know what has been done to the food before it hits the supermarket shelves. Big corporations won’t and don’t have to disclose everything they do. Food labels tell only half the story, if at all.

The consequences of eating processed food

Prof. Dr. Werner Kollath, a food scientist, created a chart that shows the value of food according to its vitality. His advice:

“Eat food which is as close to nature as possible.”

What happens when we don’t do that? When we buy oily fruits (e.g. olives) and seeds (e.g. sunflower) that were turned into artificial fats like margarine? When we buy once whole grains that have become white refined flour? When raw milk is made into milk powder (e.g. baby formula)? When we buy dead food? I am sure you can guess: dead food cannot keep our bodies healthy and alive. Sooner or later, depending on the overall amount of processed foods we eat, we will become ill. Scientists Cleave and Campbell found out that it takes roughly 20 years for most of the diseases that are prevalent in the Western World to develop. That is why so many people don’t see the connection between today’s ailments and illnesses and their eating habits from decades ago.

BTW,  it says on the juice container that you get 2 servings of fruit per 250 ml. Really? I bet you won’t buy into this kind of deceit anymore…

Questions? Would you like to get Prof. Kollath’s chart and start evaluating your food? Email me at healthinstigator@gmail.com.