by Dr. Edward Group DC, NP, DACBN, DCBCN, DABFM 

white-flourTo enrich something means to make it richer by adding good things to it. If you add some organic apple cider vinegar to your water, you’ve enriched it. Enriched white flour must have lots of good things added, so it’s good for you. Right? Wrong!

The reality is that many of the good things that were originally in it have been stripped out through refinement. The components added back to the flour are actually toxic!

Iron is a “nutrient” added to enriched flour, except the type of iron added is not really a nutrient at all, but is considered a metallic iron. Metallic iron is not bioavailable to the human body and was never meant to be consumed.

Enriched flour is not absorbed by the body as wheat or a grain, in which case your body could use the energy slowly and effectively, but as a starch. That is because the wheat germ has been stripped from the flour; the FDA states that enriched flour cannot have more than 5% wheat germ.

How Enriched Flour Affects Your Health

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Enriched white flour is not absorbed into the body like whole grains. When you eat refined flour, your digestive system quickly and easily breaks down and absorbs it like pure sugar. This causes your blood sugar to spike, which activates insulin, a hormone that herds all those free sugar molecules into cells, causing your blood sugar to drop.

A drop in blood sugar is actually the best case scenario. Over time, these cycles can lead to weight gain and insulin resistance. During this time, you still produce insulin, but it’s no longer able to send sugar into your cells. You’re left with dangerously high blood sugar, which leads to blood vessel damage, increased oxidative stress, and depleted antioxidant activity, while contributing to high blood pressure.[3]

Alternatives to Enriched White Flour

It’s difficult to live flour-free. Many foods are made with flour of some type and it is hard to go flour-free without switching to an all-produce diet or raw food diet.

There are alternatives to enriched white flour. Try replacing enriched flour with whole wheat, oat flour, rye flour, almond meal, brown rice flour, or millet flour. Pasta and bread are the foods that most commonly contain white flour, but pay attention as many processed and frozen foods contain enriched flour.

If available, sprouted flours are best. Preferably, organic. Organic sprouted whole grain pastas and breads are becoming easier to obtain although the best diet plan would contain little to no grains and more live fruits, seeds and vegetables. You can also try incorporating enzymes, like proteases, to help your body break down the protein in flour. I personally recommend Veganzyme® to keep your digestive system functioning well when eating foods that contain gluten.

The fiber and nutrients help maintain your blood sugar, help you feel full for longer, preserve your insulin sensitivity, and protect you from a slew of diet-related diseases.[4] Refined flour does the opposite. It increases the risk and incidence of obesity, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and certain cancers.[15]

Whole Grain Flour vs. White Enriched Flour

  • Whole grain foods are higher in fiber because the wheat germ and bran have not been processed out of them.
  • Whole grain foods are digested more slowly, leaving you feeling fuller for a longer.
  • Whole grain foods have more nutrients than “enriched” foods.
  • Whole grains are not processed as a starch, so they don’t throw your body into a sugar dependency cycle.

Experiment with a 10 day, no enriched white flour challenge, you might be surprised at how easy it is. Better yet, share the challenge with your family and friends.

References (1)
  1. Newby, P.K., et al. “Intake Of Whole Grains, Refined Grains, And Cereal Fiber Measured With 7-D Diet Records And Associations With Risk Factors For Chronic Disease.” American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 86 (2007): 1745-1753. Web. 31 Mar. 2017.
  2. Carbohydrates And Blood Sugar.” Harvard Nutrition Source. N.p., 2017. Web. 31 Mar. 2017.
  3. Kolluru, Gopi Krishna, Shyamal C. Bir, and Christopher G. Kevil. “Endothelial Dysfunction And Diabetes: Effects On Angiogenesis, Vascular Remodeling, And Wound Healing.” International Journal of Vascular Medicine 2012 (2012): 1-30. Web. 31 Mar. 2017.
  4. Steffen, L. M., et al. “Whole Grain Intake Is Associated With Lower Body Mass And Greater Insulin Sensitivity Among Adolescents.” American Journal of Epidemiology 158.3 (2003): 243-250. Web. 31 Mar. 2017.
  5. Masters, R. C., et al. “Whole And Refined Grain Intakes Are Related To Inflammatory Protein Concentrations In Human Plasma.” Journal of Nutrition 140.3 (2010): 587-594. Web. 31 Mar. 2017.

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