What is whole wheat?
There’s a whole lot of confusion around the names “whole grain” and “whole wheat”, and these names can even be misleading. For something we eat so much of every day, we think it’s important to understand what exactly we are putting into our bodies.
Whole wheat is a type of whole grain, meaning that it contains all essential parts of the original kernel – the bran, germ, and endosperm. For a food product to be considered whole grain, the FDA says it only needs to contain 51 percent of whole grains by weight. That means that the other 49 percent could be refined bleached flour, and the product could still be labeled as “whole wheat”!
Even the whole grains that make up the 51 percent might not be completely whole. They could be – and often are – reconstituted in standard milling processes, meaning the wheat kernel is separated into its three parts and pieced back together. The FDA allows for grain to be milled and separated this way, as long as the three are later mixed in proportions similar to the intact whole grain. Compared with intact grains, processed whole grains often have lower fiber and nutrient levels – not to mention less flavor!
So when shopping for whole wheat products, look for labels that say “100% whole grain” or “100% whole wheat” to get the most gain from your grain.
What does it mean when a grain has been refined?
Refined grains have been stripped of their bran and germ, as well as their nutrients. Without the bran and germ, about 25 percent of a grain’s protein is lost and at least 17 key nutrients are significantly reduced. Processors add back some vitamins and minerals to make enriched flour, but whole grains are still healthier, providing more protein, more fiber and many important vitamins and minerals.
The way wheat is processed determines how nutritious it is, and in general, more processed foods are less healthy. Compared to refined or even whole wheat flour, 100% stoneground whole wheat has more nutrients and more taste. The stoneground way of milling wheat keeps the entire grain intact, preserving the integrity of the whole grain. No reconstitution, or separation of the wheat kernel, is involved. Nothing is added, nothing is removed.
Stonegrinding wheat has been traced back to the third century B.C., and even though most stoneground flour produced today isn’t actually rubbed against stone, the nutritional and flavor benefits over wheat processed through steel rollers are still widely recognized.