According to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans - created by the U.S Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services - it is recommended that at least half of our daily grain intake should consist of Whole Grains. There is evidence to suggest that whole grains help reduce the risk of both cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. Whole Grains are also a great source of iron, Magnesium, Selenium, B Vitamins and Fiber.
According to the Whole Grains Council, the term "Whole Grains" refers to the entire grain seed called the kernel which consists of 3 components - the bran the germ and the endosperm. If the grain has been processed (e.g., cracked, crushed, rolled, extruded, and/or cooked), the food product (including flour and bread!) should deliver the same rich balance of nutrients that are found in the original grain seed.
It's important to note that without these 3 grain components almost all of the nutritional advantages to eating whole grains disappears.
Why is this Important?
I'm glad you asked! There was once a time in our history where flour was produced by stone grinding the grain which resulted in 100% stone ground, whole grain flour. Now, since the bran and the germ are high in nutrients and oils it means they are more prone to spoiling and can go rancid pretty quickly - especially without the use of refrigeration or chemical preservatives.
In fact, according to the Weston A. Price Foundation, natural wheat germ oil becomes rancid at about the same rate that milk spoils. You may want to pause and read that last sentence again. Yes, whole grain wheat flour (because of the wheat germ oil in it) goes rancid at about the same rate that milk goes bad. Yikes!
Where Do We Go From Here?
For most common grocery store breads that are not whole grain - you probably don't need to worry about flour rancidity (although there are certainly other things to worry about if you've read the other installments of this series!). Big Business has essentially eliminated it by getting rid of the stone grinding method and replacing it with faster, more efficient steel roller mills that eject the germ and the bran - aka the nutritious part of the grain - from the flour.
Remember, when it comes to mass production most companies are simply looking for quick, easy and profits.
What About Whole Grain Flours And Breads?
This is the best question yet and unfortunately there aren't a whole lot of answers out there. In fact, there are more questions than there are answers. For instance, how long is whole grain flour stored after it is ground in a factory? How quickly is that flour used? How is it stored? Is it refrigerated to keep it from going rancid?
And another line of questioning could be - if the flour isn't being used quickly or refrigerated - what kind of chemical preservatives are being added to the flour to keep it from spoiling?
These questions can only be answered by the companies producing whole grain breads. This is why we encourage you to do your own research and to become your own expert/advocate for you (and your family's) health and wellness.
Could Rancid Whole Grain Flour Be Making Us Sick?
According to a University of Massachusetts Professor (and lipid specialist) Eric Decker, rancid oils not only lose their vitamins but they can also develop potentially toxic compounds which have been linked to advanced aging, neurological disorders, heart disease and cancer.
According to Andrew Weil - integrative medicine specialist - rancid oils are "carcinogenic, pro-inflammatory and very toxic" as well as being widespread in our food chain.
An article in the New York Times says that not only do rancid oils upset the stomach but that they destroy the body's own supply of B vitamins and Vitamin E.
Other foods besides bread to watch out for rancidity are nuts, seeds, cooking oils, margarine, butter and salad oils.
What to Know About Berlin Natural Bakery
We stone grind our Heirloom Spelt grain, on site at the bakery. The flour we stone grind today is used in the products we bake tomorrow. It is not stored for months on end which ensures no rancidity in our flour and eliminates the risks of pests.
Additionally, our stone grinding method allows us to preserve the whole grain - germ, bran and endosperm. We lose less than 1% during our milling process which allows us to keep the natural nutritional benefits of spelt in our flour.
At this point in our series, we've covered a lot but hold onto your hats people, because we've barely touched the tip of the iceberg! Next on our journey is information about dough conditioners, additives and artificial colors - which will be not only interesting but a little scary. Thank you for coming this far with us on this education adventure. Stay tuned for more to come!