As we grow up, we are taught to consume multiple servings of grains per day for optimal health… with good reason! Grains provide us with the carbohydrate fuel our brains and bodies need to function. However, not all grain products are created equal, some leading to health benefits and others to health risks. There are 3 keys to choosing high quality, nutritious grains. These are 1) selecting WHOLE GRAINS for optimal nutrition 2) looking for PURE & ORGANIC sources to ensure a true and safe product 3) ensuring that nutrition is retained through SUPERIOR PROCESSING.
Why Whole Grain?
When a product is truly whole grain, all the nutritious bran and germ from the full kernel are included in the final version. However, when refined, roller-milled flour is processed, these components are separated and the majority of the essential vitamins and minerals are removed and/or destroyed. For example, white flour has 25% less Protein, 56% less Calcium, 84% less Iron, 76% less Zinc, 56-87% less B Vitamins and 95% less Vitamin E, among others, when compared to whole flour.
Another incredibly important factor is that whole grains have approximately 8 times the amount of fibre (found in the bran) as do refined grains. Studies have shown that a diet high in fibre can help maintain cholesterol, blood sugar, healthy digestion and weight. Essentially, choosing high-fibre whole grains will help prevent crashes and cravings throughout the day, plus help prevent risk of cardiovascular and bowel diseases.
While it can be argued that some white bread contains nutrients, this is due to the fact that they have been “enriched” and those nutrients are usually chemically added back (only 5 of the approx. 30 by law). The result is a highly processed product with minimal micronutrients. In whole grain products, these nutrients are never removed in the first place. This is the way nature provided them and how they should be consumed. Food offers the most nutrition when it is fresh and minimally processed.
A note of caution: While reading labels for flour can be confusing, they key word to look for is “whole grain” in the ingredient list. Certain products may be deceiving. For example, a product that lists “whole wheat flour” as the ingredient list is essentially a refined white flour product with some of the bran added back in. It may also possibly contain some additives or preservatives such as chemical conditioners and enhancers.
Why Pure & Organic?
Just as in most manufacturing, it is possible to combine lower quality ingredients together with higher quality products when milling flour to increase output at a lower cost. This process is called “blending”. Look for a pure, premium quality product to ensure that you are getting a product that is made up of 100% high quality grains.
Organic food is not only tastier, it is better for our bodies! Choosing a certified organic option means that the product has met strict national standards to be grown without the use of common agricultural chemicals and GMOs. They are also free of the “conditioners” mentioned above. Organic farmers also work to preserve resources and genetic diversity as well as build healthy soil, making it the more sustainable choice! Bonus: if possible, choose products that support Canadian farms and invest in your country!
Why Superior Processing?
Temperature is the key factor in processing techniques. Impact milling maintains a low temperature of about 60 degrees F/15 degrees C in the cooler months and up to about 90 degrees F/30 degrees C in the summer. These cool temperatures are important as high heat damages vital nutrients within whole grains. The wheat bran is an important source of fibre and the germ is a powerhouse of vitamins and minerals such as Vitamin E, Folic Acid, Iron and Zinc to name a few. “Impact Milling” preserves these qualities in the flour to ensure a fresh product with a good stable shelf life.
Certain commercial manufacturing methods, like stone grinders and roller mills, typically create higher heat than impact milling. This higher heat is created by friction from the stones or rollers that can destroy nutrients in whole grain flour as well as make the shelf life unstable. The flour will therefore become rancid more quickly, hence why it is often important to store flour in a ‘cool’ dark place. Improper storage will shorten the shelf life of flour as well.
Impact milling consists of small steel “hammers” rotating at a high speed in an enclosed chamber. These “hammers” strike the whole grain in mid-air with such an “impact” that the grain is immediately shattered into flour. There is no friction from heat-creating stones or rollers. This is an efficient and nutrition way to produce an excellent whole grain flour!
When choosing food products that use only ingredients in their most wholesome and natural state, your body will recognize it, use it and thank you!
This column is sponsored by Good 'n' Natural in Steinbach.