Why is fresh flour better?
First of all, what is fresh flour? Most simply, fresh flour is 100% unsifted, whole grain flour that is milled at the time of use. For this, it's really important to understand what makes up a "whole grain." There are three main parts: the bran, the endosperm, and the germ. Each part has its own nutritional characteristics.
Milling is required to change the whole grain into a flour. The specific milling process utilized determines whether the flour is a complex carb (Unsifted fresh flour) or a simple carb (refined flour). The table below illustrates key factors that make flour able to be considered "fresh." Don't be fooled by labeling on pre-packaged, commercial flours. Anyone can advertise a product as "fresh flour," but if it doesn't meet the qualifiers below, you may want to think twice.
Is fresh flour really that different, nutritionally, from commercial flour? In short, yes. There is a significant advantage to using fresh flour. Don't just take our word for it, though. Look at the U.S. Department of Agriculture's data below. The only nutrients found higher in refined flour are those that the government mandates be added back due to the population's nutrient deficiencies that developed following the new milling techniques (see "History" below). Instead of popping a supplement pill (or in addition to doing so!), consider swapping out your commercial, refined flour for a whole food powerhouse, Unsifted fresh flour. It's the easiest "ditch and switch" for huge health dividends.
As you can see above, wheat berries provide essential soluble and insoluble fiber (see "Fiber" below) with active enzymes that can have far-reaching effects, as well as minerals that total 40/44 essential nutrients needed by the body for survival (see "Key Nutrients" below). This includes Vitamin E, which the Mayo Clinic says the majority of people do not get enough of, but is important for "vision, reproduction, and the health of your blood, brain and skin." The nutrients in fresh flour and their benefits to the human body are extensive and the research is vast, so while we cannot even begin to summarize all of them here, please read on below for some more detailed information, as well as for a brief history of flour that may shock you. People have not always eaten commercial flour, and history would reveal that perhaps we should take note of the changes being made and call into question whether they are the most beneficial to us, as consumers.
Fresh Flour Matters:
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There are records indicating that whole grains (“breads”) have been around since about 1450 B.C. Bread has been a staple food and key part of a healthy diet throughout all of documented human history. Bread is even referenced in the very first book of the Bible, Genesis, chapter three! No civilization has ever survived without a grain source. In America, that grain source is wheat.
Wheat is one of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet. It is also listed as the highest food source of antioxidants (see "Key Nutrients," below). So, how do we go from wheat being so healthy to commercial flour being so unhealthy? In short, it's about shelf life. Commercial milling companies found that by removing part of the wheat berry (the bran and germ), the shelf life of the flour could be extended almost indefinitely- a pro for supply chains, but unfortunately to the detriment of our health as consumers.
This timeline provides a brief overview:
When it comes to nutrition, refined flour does not come close to fresh flour in many ways. It loses nutrients from the bran and germ being separated out, has additional toxins (i.e. chlorine, bromine, iron, etc.) added back in, and then it oxidizes while sitting on the shelf. Refined flour's processing alone removes 20 of the key nutrients and only 5 are added back in synthetically (Source). The Complete Book of Vitamins, says white flour reduces minerals, vitamins, and fiber by an average of 70-80%. This notable difference explains, at least in part, why Dr. Harvey Wiley (first head of what is now the FDA) tried to make white flour illegal. His intent was reportedly to use a 1906 Pure Food and Drug Law to classify refined and bleached flour products as "adulterated" foods; however, his efforts were stopped by powerful supporters of the flour processing industries. (source 1, 2).
One powerhouse nutrient found in the wheat germ is Vitamin E, which has been said to support the body in fighting nearly every ailment/disease. As mentioned above, the Mayo Clinic, says it is important for "vision, reproduction, and the health of your blood, brain and skin". Further:
- Studies have shown that vitamin E increases the desirable HDL cholesterol in women, and in men if they had low levels initially (Guthrie,1989).
- Animal studies have shown that vitamin E protects against free radicals released by the body when it is exposed to toxic chemicals (Guthrie,1989).
- Vitamin E is used to treat intermittent claudication, which involves cramps in the calf muscles at night and extreme pain while walking (Guthrie,1989).
- Vitamin E may also be helpful for fibrocystic breast disease (Guthrie,1989).
Numerous other vitamins, enzymes, and minerals are found in wheat berries (see table above), though in smaller amounts. These include carotene, vitamin B6 (or pyridoxine), pantothenic acid, biotin, folic acid, vitamin C, and vitamin K. Other minerals include sodium, calcium, chlorine, manganese, zinc, copper, cobalt, nickel, chromium, molybdenum, fluoride, iodine, boron, selenium, lead, aluminum, and silicon oxide (Souci, 1981). Of note, the body is capable of converting carotene, such as that found in wheat berries, to produce one sixth its amount vitamin A (Health ~ Welfare, 1990). (Source)
Interested in reading more about the nutritional components of wheat? Click here
The freshness of flour matters in regard to the number of nutrients that survive to nourish your body. As soon as the whole grain is broken open, the nutrients begin to degrade. The exact number and time has been refuted, but sources say that 40-45% of the nutrients deplete after just 24 hours of the flour being milled, and 95% after 3 days. However, fresh flour's nutrients are said to be locked in after the dough's first rise or after baking, due to the enzymatic activity.
After milling, the grain's B vitamins are liable to be destroyed by light and air (Aubert, 1989). In nature, enzymes are denatured/deactivated by PH or by temperature. The vitamins begin to degrade at temperatures above 115 degrees and the enzymes may become inactive or unstable above 122 degrees F. Even baking quality begins to be affected if the heat is too excessive (above 140 degrees) due to changes in the water-absorbance capacity of the gluten. Excessive heat matters, which is why it is important to mill the grain at or below 115 degrees F (such as with the WonderMill), so these beneficial components remain active. Does this make you wonder about heat from the oven during baking? This is rarely discussed in the scientific literature, but it has been claimed that the fermentation process in breadmaking protects vitamins during baking due to enzymatic activity. That has been proven true at least in part, because scientists have discovered that the powerful antioxidants in the orthophenols of wheat survive the baking process. Further, for the B-vitamin thiamin specifically, only 5-35% was lost in baking, because starch provides some protection. Another point to consider is that while the oven may be 350-400 degrees F, the internal temperature of the bread itself only reaches 190 degrees F at the very end of the baking process and spends most of it's time below the threshold during the beginning of the baking period. (Source, pg 14)
However, even without consideration given to temperature, other deteriorations from any milling process include:
- phospholipid hydrolysis,
- autoxidation of unsaturated fatty acids of phospholipids,
- polymerization within lipoproteins,
- Maillard reaction of amino groups from phospholipids and aldehyde groups from sugars,
- and carotene and aroma losses (Lea, 1957; Thomas, 1976).
Lipids in milled wheat are also susceptible to enzymatic degradation, because enzymes are incorporated into the flour with fragments of bran and germ and with microorganisms from the surface of the grain. Associated with lipid deterioration are losses of carotenoids and vitamin E (Galliard, 1983). (Source)
This is important, because it's not just about an unfortunate loss in sensory qualities and functional properties (although that does occur through the hydrolytic rancidity), but it can also cause diminished effectiveness of dietary antioxidants. Additionally, as hinted at in the above paragraph, lipids also degrade via oxidative rancidity, one form of which is called autoxidation. It can occur by grain lipids reacting with atmospheric oxygen (Source). A Science Direct article explains how any significant dietary lipid oxidation diminishes the effectiveness of dietary antioxidants. Further, a Royal Lee article from February 1960 states, "The oils in flour become rancid in a few weeks. These rancid oils are carcinogenic and destructive to liver cells." The article goes on to say that the toxic effects are enhanced by bleach, although it can only be estimated how much worse the bleach makes the effects of rancid oils in the flour.
Overall, we are passionate about encouraging you to mill flour shortly before each use, as studies indicate it may maximize the health benefits. Fresh flour has many nutrients to offer, and we want you to reap as many of the benefits from those as possible. As aforementioned, over time, some nutrients deteriorate, you may minimize your ability to utilize antioxidants, and oxidized lipids may put an added load on your liver. Why deal with any of these losses/consequences when instead you can mill fresh flour in 15 seconds?
All white flours have been sifted to remove as much bran (i.e. little brown pieces) as possible. The bran holds minerals, fiber, vitamin B6, thiamine, folate, vitamin E, and some photochemicals. Specifically, the bran has antioxidants such as phenolic compounds (Shewry, 2009) (Source)
The milled bran has sharp edges that can cut through gluten strands, but it also serves a healthful purpose to sweep out impurities from the intestinal tract as it passes, as well as to bulk fecal matter. It may not be a dinner table-type conversation, but it is a necessary function for healthy living. Unfortunately much of America is plagued by some degree of constipation (See "Fiber" section below for more details).
Whole food fiber intake has decreased over the past centuries in America. In fact, national consumption surveys indicate that only about 5% of the population meets recommended levels of daily fiber. That means 95% of the population is deficient in fiber intake (Source). That means 95% of the population is not able to realize the potential benefits shown below, and more:
- Diets high in complex carbohydrates such as whole cereal grains, legumes, and fruits and vegetables are usually the custom in populations with very low incidence of cardiovascular disease (Brown et al.,1985).
- Studies indicate that high-fiber diets decrease blood pressure in normal as well as in hypertensive subjects (Birdsall, 1985).
- For high blood cholesterol and triglycerides, it is recommended to increase carbohydrate consumption to make up 65% of total daily calories, emphasizing complex carbohydrates from natural sources (Gotto et al.,1984). Natural sources influence the absorption of fat-soluble substances from the digestive tract, and the reabsorption of bile acids (Hodges et al.,1985).
- A diet rich in complex carbohydrates also improves glucose metabolism in diabetic subjects, by increasing their sensitivity to insulin, therefore resulting in reduced dosage requirements for the study (Birdsall, 1985).
- Wheat fiber reduces starch digestibility (Anderson, 1985: Leeds, 1985).
- It is hypothesized that the fiber decreases the intestinal contact with carcinogens. There have been numerous studies demonstrating that the populations with the highest fiber intake have the lowest incidence of colon cancer. There is, however, also a correlation with total fat intake (Birdsall, 1985).
- For the American population, constipation is a major problem. It may lead to hemorrhoids, diverticula, and even contribute to the development of varicose veins (Burkitt, 1982).
- Bran helps speed up intestinal transit (Payler et al. 1975), because it decreases intestinal pressure and increases peristalsis (Thomas, 1976). Wheat bran is one of the best fecal bulking agents identified (Cummings et al., 1982),
- Wheat fiber is claimed to strengthen, by stimulation, the intestinal mucosa, and to decrease the incidence of gastroenteritis, or inflammation of the stomach or intestine (Thomas, 1976).
- Wheat fiber helps neutralize acid secreted by the stomach and is therefore of therapeutic value for persons with ulcers (Thomas, 1976).
- Insoluble fiber in wheat bran can be beneficial in the treatment or prevention of obesity (Thomas, 1976) due to increased fecal energy loss that may be as much as 60-300+ kca/day via fat and protein loss (Vahouny, 1985). Additionally, wheat fiber foods produce a feeling of fullness or satiety more quickly due to being less energy-dense than low-fiber foods (Schneeman, 1982).
The Whole Grains Council says that adults should eat 3-5 servings of whole grains per day and children should eat at least 2-3 servings per day.
With just two servings a day, one study showed the following promising results: (See study here)
For more information on the benefits of whole grains, we encourage you to read research articles posted on the Whole Grains Council webpage: https://wholegrainscouncil.org/whole-grains-101/health-studies
Getting Started is Easy:
If you're interested in beginning your Unsifted journey, we recommend our Unsifted Starter Kit as the ultimate EASY button. It only takes 15 seconds to mill one cup of flour in the WonderMill. It is not time consuming. Can we get a halleluiah?!? The Starter Kit includes the WonderMill, our two whole grain blends (Basic Berry Blend + Dessert Berry Blend), and recipe cards. Unsifted is the only company currently providing whole grain blends, which make your daily baking uncomplicated and nutritionally improved. Additionally, we have an Easy Start Checklist and How-to Videos. We want to make this as easy as possible for you to make this ditch and switch of your commercial flours, for increased nutrients in your daily life!
If you're interested, but want to learn more about how many recipes a 12 lb bag of our Berry Blends will make, view our Return on Investment page for more information on this topic. There are many returns when you consider replacement of store purchases for all your baked goods (breads, muffins, tortillas, cookies, pizza crust, pitas, etc.) + improved nutritional quality of the baked goods + may improve health resulting in less illness (based on research).
Information published by Unsifted.com is no substitute for medical advice. For questions or concerns, please consult your health care provider for your own specific individual nutritional and medical needs. For more information, please visit our disclaimer page here.