Whole wheat flour power

By • Published: April 9th, 2013
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Most of us have heard by now that whole wheat bread is healthier than the white alternative, but many people still prefer the white stuff. Researchers recently found scientific evidence to explain this phenomenon — while simultaneously revealing the nutritious nature of whole wheat.

It seems that it’s all about the bran. To make refined flour, the main ingredient of white bread, manufacturers start with the whole wheat berry, which consists of three parts — the bran, the germ and the endosperm — and remove the two most nutritious parts: the bran and the germ.

As a result, white bread is stripped of the elements that contain the largest amount of protein, fiber and minerals, making it less nutritious and less filling. But bran, otherwise known as the tough, fibrous outer layer of the wheat kernel, also contains ferulic (fuh-RULE-ick) acid. Ferulic acid blocks production of a molecule that gives white bread its familiar, fresh-baked smell.

In fact, the researchers found that after the crusts of white and wheat bread were baked, frozen, ground and distilled, the two gave off chemicals with very different smells. The white bread crust smelled of flowers, corn chips and caramel, while the wheat gave off malty, earthy smells. It seems the traditional baked smell is a significant factor for people making choices in the bread aisle.

But it’s not just the baked smell of white bread that so many people prefer. Refined flour translates into a softer texture and a milder, less bitter flavor. To combat this, some manufacturers add more salt and sugar to their whole grain products, which counterbalances the healthfulness of the bread. So the next time you’re picking out a whole wheat loaf, be sure you’re really getting the healthier alternative.