The Whole Truth About Whole Wheat

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Whole Grain Flour, Bread, Cereal, Pasta Healthier or Just Good PR?

When you’re shopping for bread, pasta, cereal, and other grain products, do you search out the healthy whole grains for your household? If you’re out at a nice Italian restaurant, do you ask for the whole wheat pizza dough? Most health-conscious consumers are aware that whole grains are healthier than white… but what they don’t know is just how thoroughly they are being swindled by products that claim to be “whole wheat” or to contain “the goodness of whole wheat.”

Whole Wheat Grain is Healthier

There’s no denying that whole grains are better for health in many ways. Whole foods of all kinds are richer in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber than their processed counterparts. Whole grains have been shown to provide needed dietary minerals and vitamins, and whole wheat fiber can improve heart and colon health.

But, although many people select breads, cereals, flour and other grain products that they believe to be better for health, they may not have all the information they need to pick foods that will actually be good for them.

Additives in Whole Wheat Bread, Bagels, and Muffins

There are two essential problems that crop up in most whole wheat and whole grain products.

  1. The “whole grain” is a small or nonexistent part of the ingredients list.
  2. Other ingredients are added to whole grain breads and cereals to improve the taste – and some of these can be worse for health than eating processed white bread.

Shockingly enough, even breads that claim to be “100% natural whole wheat” often list enriched wheat flour as an earlier ingredient – meaning there is more of it – than whole wheat. Breads that claim to have “the goodness of whole wheat” may not contain any whole grains at all, only synthetic vitamins and tasteless oat or pea fiber added to emulate the “goodness” of whole wheat.

And many of the tastiest and most popular whole wheat breads have filler ingredients like hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated trans fats, preservatives, and sugar or high fructose corn syrup to sweeten their taste.

Enriched vs. Whole Wheat

Enriched flour isn’t the same thing as whole wheat. Enriched flour is heavily processed flour that has had vitamins and minerals added back into it – a practice that the Wheat Foods Council (U.S.) claims dates back to the late 1940’s, preventing vitamin deficiencies after World War II. But the sources of these vitamins are not usually natural – they are laboratory synthesized with other chemicals and impurities that make the final product, your enriched grains, not nearly the same thing as natural whole grains.

If you’re really interested in better food health, it’s vital to check the fine print ingredients on your whole wheat bread and do your research so you’ll be able to read between the lines on what the label says – on the front and back of the package. Remember that the front is mostly hype, and it’s in the ingredients lists that you’ll find out what you’re really getting in whole wheat grain products.

Sources

  • The Lose Weight Diet, “100% whole wheat bread is good about 10% of the time,” TheLoseWeightDiet.com,.
  • Ritchie, Jennifer Lundin, “Wonder+Lies,” HolisticVancouver.com.
  • Scheideman, Marcia, “Dr. Oz Is At It Again!” Grainblog.Wheatfoods.org.