There is a great deal of debate about the virtues of bleached flour, as opposed to using unbleached flour. For those who do not know the difference, bleached flour is plain flour that is bleached using chemicals that are meant to improve its overall consistency and ability to be used for baking purposes.
Unbleached flour has been allowed to age naturally and contains no additives. Flour has typically always been sold in the unbleached variety, but in recent years, the impatience of citizens has won out and a process to bleach the flour faster was introduced. Rather than waiting the three months that it takes for the flour to bleach naturally, some people prefer the chemical process that allows the flour to be bleached within two days.
Bleached flour has received a lot of criticism in the medical community, as many doctors believe that the added chemicals are harmful to those who ingest them on a regular basis. The matter was taken to the Supreme Court, who ruled against the production of bleached flour. However, the Food and Drug Administration never saw fit to enforce these rules, choosing to focus on more pressing concerns.
As the flour is being bleached, there is an unfortunate side effect. Alloxan is produced, which has been linked to the onset of diabetes. It is used during diabetes related lab tests in order to create the disease in the bodies of rats. Even worse than this is the loss of valuable nutrients during the bleaching stages.
Such a wide range of nutrients are lost during the bleaching of flour, there are almost too many to name. A short list of these nutrients includes the majority of the flour’s vitamin B, vitamin E, iron, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium and unsaturated fatty acids.
When the chemicals strip the bleached flour of their nutrients, they are added back after the process is complete. The flour is then labeled for sale as “enriched”. It is important to note that the enrichment process does not replace all of the nutrients that have been taken away.
Most of these important nutrients remain missing from the final product. As the nutrients are added back to the flour, several toxic chemicals also make their way into the mixture. What many consumers do not know is that flours that claim to be enriched often contain fillings made from metallic iron.
The Difference with Unbleached Flour
Unbleached flour, on the other hand, used to contain no labels. But in an era where people are finally beginning to take a true interest in their health and the products that they ingest, not only has the demand for the supply of unbleached flour increased, but there is now a need for clearly marked labels so that consumers know what they are purchasing.
Since unbleached flour is considered to be much better for a person’s health, it is becoming the preferred choice for those who wish to use flour that has not been strip mined for all of its vitamins and nutrients. Unbleached flour is not without drawbacks of its own, though.
If you have a gluten deficiency of any kind, you should not be consuming unbleached flour, as it contains high levels of gluten, in addition to pesticides. During USDA inspections, unbleached flour was found to contain the residue of several different pesticides, as many as 16.
When deciding whether to purchase unbleached flour or bleached flour, the true nutritional difference lies in the enrichment factor. When flour has been enriched, much of the nutrition value has been taken away and replaced with toxic chemicals that can lead to health issues down the road.
The flour you choose will have a subtle, yet important effect on the quality of your baked goods. Flour that has not already been bleached has a much higher overall protein content than flour that has gone through the bleaching process.
As a result, unbleached flour is much harder. When you use unbleached flour to make baked goods, you run the risk of serving much harder cakes and pastries. Bleached flour allows for a much softer, fluffier texture. The coloration of the baked goods also suffers. The flour you use does not make much difference when baking cookies, but the quality of certain cakes, such as angel food, does suffer.
What Consumers Want
Consumers who are in search of flour with the highest possible nutritional content should opt for an enriched flour that is made from whole wheat. The best flour to use for the purposes of baking and cooking is unbleached flour that has been enriched. Not only is unbleached flour the top choice for cooking, it also has a much longer shelf life.
Provided the proper storage, a bag of enriched, unbleached flour can last for up to eight months. Looking to extend the shelf life of the flour? Store it in the freezer and keep it away from any other items with a strong scent, as flour is odor absorbent.
Unbleached flour is proof that appearances are not everything. Many consumers opt for bleached flour due to its much nicer appearance. However, unbleached flour contains far fewer chemicals and has been linked to less harmful side effects.
While the average person will not notice much difference between the taste of their baked goods and other foods that have been prepared with unbleached flour, as opposed to food that has been prepared with bleached flour, our bodies can always tell the difference. Bleached flour is not without benefit, but its usefulness simply cannot compare to that of unbleached flour.