ADVANTAGES OF FRESH FLOUR
Because grains contain only about 12% water (or about 0.6 water activity), they are not predisposed to spoilage. However, grinding removes the protective layers and endangers the grain’s biological stability. Deterioration of sensory and nutritional qualities depends on storage conditions, such as temperature, humidity, oxygen concentration, and light exposure. The lower the water activity, the lower is the loss of vitamins (Munzing, 1987). For example, a vitamin E loss of only about 23% occurred after a 13 months of storage at a 0.6 water activity (Rothe 1963, Plasch 1984, Pelschenke 1961). In order to reduce oxidation of Essential compounds and the development of rancidity, many authors recommend storing ground flour for no more than two weeks (Solder 1984, Bruker 1984, Schnitzer 1986, Schnitzer (no year), Thomas 1982, Thomas 1986, Koerber 1986). Antioxidants present naturally in grains (vitamin E and lecithin) help prevent oxidation of the fatty acids and the associated rancidity only for a limited time, and under ‘favourable’ conditions.
Glutamic acid decarboxylase, the most sensitive enzyme in the grain, is used to indicate the health of the grain. When heated or exposed to increased humidity, even under ‘favourable’ conditions, it losses activity very quickly in wheat. It was found to be even more sensitive in rye (Muzing, 1987).
The B vitamins are liable to be destroyed by light and air, and it also seems that other substances, still unknown, are quickly destroyed (Aubert, 1989). Other deteriorations include denaturation of lipoproteins, phospholipid hydrolysis, auto-oxidation of unsaturated fatty acids of phospholipids, polymerization within lipoproteins, browning, 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 much more 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).
The nutritional importance of using fresh stone-ground grains for bread-making was revealed in the results of feeding studies in Germany (Bernasek, 1970). Rats were fed diets consisting of 50% flour or bread. Group 1 consumed fresh stone-ground flour. Group 2 was fed bread made with this flour. Group 3 consumed the same flour as group 1 but after 15 days of storage. Group 4 was fed bread made with the flour fed to group 3. A fifth group consumed white flour. After four generations, only the rats fed fresh stone-ground flour and those fed the bread made with it maintained their fertility. The rats in groups 3 to 5 had become infertile. Four generations for rats is believed to be equivalent to one hundred years in humans.
Different ecological standards for flour storage set limits of 15 to 60 days (Picker & Pedersen, 1990), although rancidity has been detected as early as 2 to 14 days after milling (Larsen, 1988). Nutrient analysis studies are required to determine the exact nutrient losses accompanying the development of rancidity and thereafter.”
In this experiment 15 days made a big difference. I have read elsewhere that after only 4 days most of the vitamins are gone. However, with my breads – esp. my 100% rye, fresh ground for example – the flour is soaked within minutes of being ground, and then slowly fermented by natural cultures grown from fresh-ground rye flour (cultured previously), the result being a bread with extraordinarily high vitamin content compared to anything you can buy elsewhere. That said, grains only have so many vitamins (no B12 for example), but still.
Another article: http://www.greatharvestowensboro.com/whole-grains.asp but this is self-promotion for a bakery. Still, I think generally what they say is reasonable, although personally I am not so down on white flour as most people in this ‘natural food’ field. White flour – when combined with fat like butter or olive oil – has some benefits, albeit bad chemical old white flour raised with test-tube yeast and sugar is probably toxic as many believe. Later on this year I intend to buy a new stone mill from Komo in Germany developed for small bakeries like mine (it hasn’t been made yet but soon will be) so that I can fresh-grind the grains and then sift them to make a course white flour, probably half way between white and dark. The restaurant who got Michelin’s ‘Nr 1 best in the world’ prize several times serves bread made by a local bakery using this technique. I was already planning to do it myself not knowing that others are doing it. Anyway, I have another idea as well, a secret idea, which I cannot test until I have both the stone mill and the sifters. Then I’ll find out if it has merit or not!
Bottom line: good bread like mine actually does have quite a bit of vitamin content. And there is something neither of these articles gets into but you can only find out about in obscure science papers: the process of natural fermentation (‘sourdough’) actually boosts the nutritional profile. With pickles (like sauerkraut), Vitamin C is boosted by between 20 to 50 times. This is not, as some imagine, by the pickling releasing the C from within the cabbage, although presumably some of that does go on, but also from the micro-organisms themselves. These lower orders of being, so to speak, are the organic building blocks of all life forms on the planet. They are very nutritious! So when I ferment a loaf slowly for 20 hours or so, what is going on is that literally trillions of tiny yeasts and bacteria are growing in the food medium of the dough in turn becoming food for us. They never analyse the nutritional content of the micro-organisms. Scientists are often rather stupid about these things, but that’s another topic!
Hmmm, I just googled Vit B and bread for fun to see what was in there because I had a vague memory of it. This turned into a blog post!
More extracts from the main article:
ENRICHMENT OF FLOUR
In the 1940s, a flour enrichment program was instituted to compensate for wartime shortages of other foods. However, in the ‘enriched’ flour only the B vitamins – thiamin, riboflavin, and niacin – and the mineral, iron, were added, in amounts approximately equivalent to those removed from whole wheat (Jenkins, 1975). Flour ‘Enrichment’ implies a loss of nutrients and should not be equated with wholesomeness. For approximately 20 nutrients, there is an average loss of 70-80% to in refined and enriched flour (Davis, 1981). Its consumption clearly places the body at a disadvantage, casting a burden on the rest of the diet. The addition of more nutrients to refined flour has been considered, but it is limited by, for example, the effect of some nutrients on sensitive individuals (Pomeranz, 1988).
Since research is incomplete concerning nutrient requirements, interactions, optimal ratios, and toxicities (Allison et al., 1980), many believe that the safest option is to consume flour containing the nutrients in their natural proportions.
ADULTERATION OF FLOUR
As with most raw commodities, grains included, processing is the primary means used to maintain and increase market share. Typically, relatively little time and money is invested to examine possible health implications of such processing. Concerning grains, the separation of the milling and baking industries has led to the adulteration of flour with various chemicals, as flour manufacturers have sought to maximize profits and meet customer demands. For example, removing the germ not only prevents flour spoilage, it generates profits when sold to millfeed producers and pharmaceutical companies.
For centuries, bakers have known that ‘good quality’ baked goods could not be made with freshly milled flour, because the dough would lack strength and resilience to trap gas. Until the 20th century it was common practice of storing flour for months to allow oxygen to condition it. However, as well as storage costs, spoilage and insects caused losses. Chemical oxidizing agents or bleaches were developed to produce the same aging effects in 24-48 hours (Baker’s Digest, 1962). They cause one of two effects: oxidation of the gluten (so less sulfhydryl groups are left to disturb disulfide bonds that need to form during dough fermentation for the bread to rise), and bleaching of the yellowish carotene pigments which could have been sources of vitamin A (Thomas, 1986; Jenkins 1975; Freeland-Graves & Peckham, 1987).
Bleaching agents did not come into use without opposition. A 1954 issue of the National Police Gazette, reports that, Harvey W. Wiley, Chief of the Food and Drug Administration early this century, won a Supreme Court decision outlawing bleaches, but he Was forced out of the FDA, and the Supreme Court order was bypassed through administrative actions. The approval of chlorine dioxide as a bleaching agent was not without protests by U.S. Army nutrition experts (Rorty, 1954).
Today, the Canadian Food and Drug Act and Regulations Division 13, B.13.001 permits the addition of numerous chemicals to white, whole wheat, and rye flours (Daniels, 1978). These include chlorine, chlorine dioxide, benzoyl peroxide, potassium bromate, ammonium persulfate, ammonium chloride, acetone peroxide, azodicarbonamide, ascorbic acid, l-cysteine, mono-calcium phosphate. Regulations also specify the acceptable levels. The addition of a variety of chemicals to bread is also permitted in the USA, but in many European countries the use of additives is almost completely prohibited (Jenkins, 1975). In Germany, for instance, chemical oxidizing agents were banned in 1958 (Marine & Van Allen, 1972).
[I added in the bold. What is not explained here is that by law the companies do not have to list these additives in the ingredients – they are all called ‘flour’ because such additives are part of pre-processing. This is a clear case of deception on the part of food manufacturers who have successfully got the government, aka ‘Health Canada’ to enable such deception.]
Nitrogen bichloride, also known as agene, was one of the earliest bleaching agents. After 40 years of use, it was finally found to cause canine hysteria, and was outlawed (Rorty, 1954). The currently most common bleaching agent is benzoyl peroxide. It must be neutralized by adding such substances as: calcium carbonate (chalk!), calcium sulphate, dicalcium phosphate, magnesium carbonate, potassium aluminum sulphate, sodium aluminum sulphate, starch, and tricalcium phosphate.
The most common maturing agent in use is potasssium bromate, and it is added with carriers such as calcium carbonate, dicalcium phosphate, or magnesium carbonate. An alternative method to oxidize the flour to cause the same improvements in bread quality, is overmixing the dough three to four times normal to bring it in contact with oxygen. The lipoxidase enzyme in wheat germ or in soya flour, if it is added, uses the oxygen to oxidize the flour (Horder et al., 1954).
In addition to the chemicals permitted to be added to flour, many more are permitted to be added to bread before baking to facilitate the manufacturing process, to produce a light texture, and to improve conservation quality. These chemicals include emulsifiers, conditioners, and preservatives (Hall, 1974). At the present time, the Health Protection Branch in Canada allows the addition of almost 30 different chemicals, in limited quantities, to flour and bread. Yeast may also contain the Yeast foods additives: calcium sulfate and ammonium chloride (Aubuchon, 1990). Chemicals likely to be found in conventional breads include: lecithin, mono- and di- glycerides, carragheenan, calcium sulfate, calcium carbonate, dicalcium sulfate, ammonium chloride, potassium bromate, calcium bromate, potassium iodate, calcium peroxide, azodicarbonamide, tricalcium phosphate, monocalcium phosphate, calcium propionate, sodium propionate, sodium diacetate, lactic acid, calcium stearoyl-2-lactylate, lactylic stearate, sodium stearyl fumarate, succinylated monoglycerides, ethoxylated mono- and all-glycerides (Marine & Van Allen, 1972)
[ Again, my Bold added and again, I believe such ingredients do not need to be listed on the label.]
In Germany, propionic acid, sodium propionate, calcium propionate, and potassium propionate have been banned as preservatives since March 1988. This was in response to earlier experiments which found that rats fed these substances developed tumors. These results have been questioned, however, because the tumors were reversable. Nevertheless, the German government decided that as few additives as possible should be found in food, and therefore saw no need to reverse their decision (“Nach…” 1987, “Jetzt…” 1988).
A topic receiving more attention, as people become more concerned about the foods they eat, is food irradiation. Approval for irradiation of wheat and wheat flour for disinfection was granted in 1969 in Canada (Conference on Irradiation, Laval, Que. 1984). Wheat irradiation prevents insect eggs, larvae and pupae from developing (Vanderstoep, 1986), but may also cause nutritional damage. Vitamins damaged by irradiation include vitamin A, B1, B2, B3, B6, B12, folic acid, vitamin C, E, and K. Essential polyunsaturated fatty acids are also affected (Webb et al.,1987). Although wheat, white flour, and whole wheat flour are treated with lower-energy ionizing radiations from Cobalt-60, there is still a possibility that some compounds within the food become radioactive, although the radioactivity rapidly decays (Josephson & Peterson, 1983). Toxic chemicals called radiolytes may also form, which may cause health problems over the long term. Some adverse effects have been found related to these, but there is still much scientific uncertainty (Josephson & Peterson, 1983). Irradiation technology is a serious health hazard and environmental hazard, especially if accidents occur where it is used.
STUDIES OF THE HEALTH EFFECTS OF BREAD
Since bread and wheat products are such an important part of daily food consumption, it follows that such food items be healthy and wholesome. Today’s milling, refining, bleaching, enriching, and addition of various chemicals to flour and baked breads cause many scientists and medical workers to question their nutritional quality as well as their safety. There is little information on what bleaching and maturing agents do to the flour other than meet bakers’ criteria, and toxicology tests may not realistically assess the dangers, since chemicals are tested separately. The general public, has become conditioned to commercial bread products, and is uninformed about the effects of the processing that flour undergoes. Many recorded cases demonstrate the effects of the quality of flour on the health of people or animals, and illustrate the importance of the nutritional value of bread to physical health.
Refined flour has been found less effective in promoting the growth of weanling rats than wholemeal, if the flour was the main source of protein (Chick, 1958).
Steel roller mills were introduced in Britain in 1872. By 1876, the birth rate began to decline from 36/1000 to less than 14/1000 in 1941, at which time the National Loaf became compulsory (85% extraction, including the germ). In the next two years, the birth rate rose to 16/1000. Vitamin E deficiency was the suspected cause, since it was believed to have something to do with human and animal reproduction, and is destroyed in the refining of flour. Friend Sykes was said to get his horses and cows to breed by feeding them wheat germ for two months, and Dr. L. J. Picton did the same with his stallions (Day, 1966).
Documented in 1936, was the diversity in physique of the different tribes of India, showing the effects of foods on health (McCarrison, 1936). The northern races were much stronger, due to wheat being the staple of their diet. They consumed chapattis cakes made from fresh coarse whole wheat flour. Experiments with albino rats determined the value of some of the Indian diets, and these results conformed with their effects observed on men. About 1 000 rats were fed a diet equivalent to the northern Indians’ for a period equivalent to 50 human years. None were ill or died, or even delivered dead offspring. Deficiently-fed rats under the same conditions developed many ailments. Overall, 30% of the rats fed white flour died while only 4% of those fed whole wheat died. It was concluded that adequate nourishment could be found in a diet of whole cereal grains, milk products, legumes, fruits and vegetables, and eggs and meat occasionally.
Rats on the healthy northern diet were also compared to rats fed a diet equivalent to that of the poorer classes of England (McCarrison, 1936). This diet, deficient in vitamins and minerals, consisted of white bread, margarine, very sweet tea with a little milk, boiled cabbage and potato, cheap tinned meat, and jam. These rats had stunted growth, were badly proportioned, had dull coats, were nervous, bit attendants, and by the 60th day, began killing and eating the weaker ones. Post-mortem examinations revealed a high incidence of lung and gastrointestinal diseases. McCarrison believed that vitamin deficiency was responsible for the many health problems.
Dr. Estelle Hawley, of Rochester University, fed a group of rats McCay-Cornell bread made with unbleached flour, wheat germ, and soybean flour and a lot of milk solids. She fed another group commercial enriched white bread. Both groups also received an amount of margarine equivalent to 10% of the weight of the bread (Rorty, 1954). The first group lived healthy, but the second group became ill, produced stunted offspring and were extinct by the fourth generation.
A journal article, written in 1942, discusses the deterioration of the physique of the British, between the 18th century and the Boer War around 1900 (Alvarez, 1942). The most probable explanation was that they had come to depend too much on white flour and sugar, whereas their ancestors had eaten plenty of ‘whole wheat flour.
In Denmark, during World War II, due to a food crisis, many domestic animals were slaughtered and their grain rations fed to humans. Consumption of white bread was stopped, and replaced by a bread made from a wholemeal of 67% rye, 21% oats, and 12% bran, called Kleiebrot. Consequently, the death rate fell to the lowest level ever registered in Europe. There were significant declines in the incidence of high blood pressure, heart disease, kidney problems, diabetes, and cancer, and there were no cases of digestive troubles (Marine & Van Allen, 1972; Day, 1966).
[ There are several stories like this in Europe wherein, during times of war, various populations couldn’t get white flour, ate whole grain breads, and their health improved. Dr. Graham (of Graham flour fame) noted this viz. the British during the Napoleonic Wars; first the soldiers and then even the Upper Classes back home converted back to whole grain breads, so dramatic were the health benefits.]
In 1970, Dr. Roger Williams, of the University of Texas’s Clayton Research Foundation, recorded the effects, on 64 weanling rats, of being fed bread made from enriched flour (Passwater, 1975). Forty were dead within ninety days, and the rest had stunted growth, whereas similar rats fed whole-grain bread were normal; only three were not well.
A fear exists, among medical professionals, that emulsifiers, some of which are added to bread, may promote the absorption of otherwise non-absorbed substances, some of which may be carcinogenic. Emulsifiers include monoglycerides, diglycerides, and poly compounds which usually go by variations of the words ‘stearate’ and ‘sorb’ (ea. stearyl, polysorbate). Although glycerides are naturally produced by the body, this does not prove that their artificial use is safe. Some emulsifiers have been found to increase vitamin A absorption tremendously. This may be dangerous if the rest of an individual’s diet supplies a large amount of vitamin A. Dr. Anton Carlson expresses the view that many have by stating, n…Small amounts of injury in certain percentages of the people may go undiscovered for generations. This is a serious problem involved in the changes of such a fundamental thing as the type of food for mans (Marine & Van Allen, 1972).
Enriched flour may have a lower vitamin bioavailability, since synthetic vitamins have been found to act different’,y. For instance, they react differently to light, and synthetic vitamin C does not cure scurvy in mice as quickly as natural vitamin C (Day, 1966). Enriched flour products have also been found to lose more vitamins due to heat than do non-enriched products, because added vitamins are less heat-resistant. This is believed to be due to the absence of naturally occurring stabilizers (Mender, 1983; Thomas, 1990).
Many people claim to control allergic symptoms by eliminating bleached wheat products from their diets (Marine & Van Allen, 1972).
These are only a few examples to illustrate the nutritional inadequacy of refined flour products.
BENEFITS OF WHEAT FIBER
Conclusion: I am proud I offer my customers many breads with 100% fresh ground, and many others with between 25 and 75% fresh ground, whole grains. Hopefully by year’s end I will be making my own in-house fresh-ground and sifted white flour, probably about 85% extraction. At that point I will be using what I believe will be the highest quality flours available in Maritime Canada.