Many people prefer white bread. However, we all know that white bread is not as good for us as whole grain bread. There is no way around that. This is because the endosperm of a kernel of grain – the bit that makes white flour – is only one of three parts. A kernel of grain has:
1. the bran which among other things like protein and vitamins, provides fibre, important to maintain a healthy digestive system
2. the germ which is one of the only natural sources of the full compliment of B vitamins as well as essential fatty acids crucial to healthy brain functionality
3. the endosperm – the “white” bit – which has starches and carbohydrates as well as protein, iron, and B vitamins.
When you forego the bran and the germ you forgo important vitamins, minerals, fats, and fibre. Fact.
Stone ground white flour, however, is somewhat better for you than industrially milled white flour. In a stone mill, whole grain goes in the top and whole grain flour comes out at the bottom. When the miller needs to bag white flour, the whole grain is sifted to separate the three parts of the kernel, leaving the ground endosperm in a bag as white flour. The aim of a stone mill is to produce whole grain flour. In an industrial milling process, grain goes through a series of metal rollers and, during the process, the bran and the germ are swiftly removed and what comes out at the end is white flour. The aim of the industrial milling process is to produce white flour. When an industrial miller wants to bag whole grain flour, a proportion of bran and germ are added back in again. So far so good.
However, there are three main ways in which stone ground flour is better for you:
1. The stones in a stone mill stay cold whereas the metal rollers in an industrial mill get extremely hot. The heat effectively “burns” out some important nutrients before the flour is bagged.
2. Stone mills produce whole grain flour and then process it (sieve it) to make white flour on demand. Industrial mills produce white flour and then process it (add germ and bran back in again) to produce whole grain flour on demand. In this process there is no way to guarantee that whole grain flour is actually whole grain.
3. Because stone mills produce whole grain flour, the ground endosperm (the white bit) has the benefit of being ground along side the oily germ during the whole process. The ground endosperm thus absorbs some of the oils and nutrients of the germ. Because industrial mills begin removing the germ and the bran at the beginning of the process, the ground endosperm has less opportunity to mingle with the oily germ and, thus, absorbs little of the nutrients contained in it.
It’s conceivable (I need to find a chemist) that white flour from a stone mill is higher in nutrients than whole grain flour from an industrial mill. It’s certain that industrial millers could make flour that is higher in nutrients if they slow milled their grain so the metal rollers did not get so hot and if they milled for whole flour at the end of the process rather than milling for white.
This all leaves the person who prefers white bread with a choice: You can ask your industrial miller how they mill. If they mill “cold” and for whole grain flour (seiving it to make white flour) then go for it. Your alternative is to find a stone miller and buy flour from them happy in the knowledge that your white flour is as nutritionally beneficial as it can be.
The Traditional Corn Millers Guild has an excellent on line resource for finding a local stone miller, many of whom will do mail order. We have tried a lot of flour and the ones we love are listed here in the Virtuous Network. Some supermarkets sell stone ground flour. Always check the label. If your local supermarket does not stock stone ground flour you should ask them to stock it. The world will only change if we do something about it.
The November/December edition of Resurgence Magazine has a special feature on craft. Satish Kumar is particularly interested in craft – in all things made by hand, for that matter. He believes passionately that we are becoming woefully un-self reliant, a nation of people bred and educated to work in offices and capable of doing very little else – frighteningly incapable of looking after ourselves. For that issue, Resurgence kindly asked Virtuousbread.com to write an article on bread craft. The whole article can be read in the magazine but we wanted to extract a bit about stone milling here because of its relevance to a conversation at the week end about white bread.
For a little video of whole wheat going into the stone mill at Cann Mill, see here: