by Barbara McNeely
During my entire adult life, I have bought whole wheat bread. I had heard it was better for me, but I also really liked the flavor. It can be confusing talking about white bread, wheat bread and whole wheat bread. The first thing to understand is the wheat berry itself.
The wheat berry is about the same size as rice except it’s fatter in the middle. It is a tannish color, depending on the variety of wheat. The wheat berry is the kernel of the wheat, minus the hull. It is composed of three layers: the outer layer or bran, the endosperm and the inner germ layer. The bran layer is a fiber-rich layer that makes up 14 percent of the berry. The endosperm, 83 percent of the kernel, is primarily starch. The remaining germ layer is the nutrient-rich inner layer.
White Versus Wheat
Whole wheat flour has been made and used since prehistoric times. White flour is a fairly new innovation that was introduced because it has a much longer shelf-life. Unfortunately, like many foods processed by major food manufacturers, shelf life is a higher priority than overall health.
To make white flour (labeled simply as flour or all-purpose flour in the grocery store) both the bran and the germ are stripped out leaving only the starchy endosperm layer. It is then enriched with certain vitamins and minerals, but the end result is still lacking in many of the nutrients and the fiber that were contained in the original wheat berry. White flour is therefore primarily starch, which our body converts into sugar, raising blood sugar levels.
Whole wheat flour is made from the entire kernel, so you get the benefits of all of the nutrition in the wheat berry, the nutrients, protein and fiber. The fiber acts to slow down the sugar absorption, resulting in more stabilized blood sugar levels.
Many products are labeled whole wheat or whole grain, but you have to read the label. They may not be 100 percent whole wheat because wheat technically applies to any product containing flour made from wheat, including white flour and white flour products. “Buyer beware” certainly applies.
When you’re at the store, look for products that are whole wheat or whole grain products. Go beyond what the front of the package says and read the ingredients listed on the back. You will want whole wheat or whole grains at the top of the ingredient list.
Barbara McNeely is a natural health coach who owns Mariposa Naturals LLC. She is passionate about cooking and passionate about showing others that cooking at home can be fun and easy. She is also developing a line of natural personal care products. To learn more, visit www.MariposaNaturals.com.