When iron, and vitamins such as thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, and folic acid are added to the flour to compensate for the loss of nutrients during milling, the flour is referred to as enriched flour. This NutriNeat write-up gives a comparison between whole grain flour and enriched flour, along with the nutritional facts about them.
Wheat flour, which is made by grinding and sifting wheat, is the main ingredient for making bread and a variety of dishes in several cuisines. The entire grain or a part of it may be used during the milling process. Whole grain flour is created by grinding the entire grain, whereas refined flour is made by grinding just a part of the grain called endosperm. In the 1930s, concerns were raised regarding the use of refined flour, as the flour-making process involved the removal of several nutrients. In 1938, Dr. Russell Wilder proposed the idea of adding thiamine to white flour at a meeting of the Council on Foods and Nutrition of the American Medical Association. A series of studies were conducted, which paved way for the development of nutritional standards for white flour. Thereafter, rules were made regarding the enrichment of flour and bread with nutrients such as thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, iron, calcium, and vitamin D.
Compensating for the loss of nutrients is certainly a great step, but does the enriched flour score well in terms of nutritional value, when compared to bread or flour made from whole grains? In the following sections, we will look into the nutritional profile of enriched flour and whole grain flour.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture, 100 g serving of white, all-purpose, enriched, bleached wheat flour and whole grain wheat flour contain the following nutrients:
|Value per 100 g|
|Total Lipid/Fat (g)||0.98||2.50|
|Dietary Fiber (g)||2.7||10.7|
|Total Sugar (g)||0.27||0.41|
|Value per 100 g|
|Value per 100 g|
|Vitamin C (mg)||0||0|
|Pantothenic Acid (mg)||0.438||0.603|
|Vitamin B6 (mg)||0.044||0.407|
|Folate, total (mg)||183||44|
|Choline, total (mg)||10.4||31.2|
|Lutein + Zeaxanthin (µg)||18||220|
|Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol) (mg)||0.06||0.71|
|Tocopherol, beta (mg)||0.07||0.23|
|Tocopherol, gamma (mg)||0.38||1.91|
|Tocopherol delta (mg)||0.02||0|
|Vitamin K (phyllaquinone) (µg)||0.3||1.9|
|Value per 100 g|
|Total Saturated Fatty Acids (g)||0.155||0.430|
|Total Monounsaturated Fatty Acids (g)||0.087||0.283|
|Total Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids (g)||0.413||1.167|
After taking a look at the nutritional information of whole grain flour and enriched flour, you would have understood that the former is a better source of proteins, fats, and various essential nutrients.
Enriched flour should not be confused with flour that is fortified with certain nutrients. The process of fortification refers to the process of adding nutrients to a product, thereby increasing its nutritional value. The nutrients might be the ones that are lacking in the diet of the general population. In case of enriched flour, the nutrients lost during the refining process need to be added back. According to the FDA, enriched food items should have at least 10% more of the Daily Value of the nutrient than the food items that are not enriched.
◆ According to the 2010 U.S. Dietary Guidelines, at least half of your daily grain intake should come from whole grains. There’s a reason behind this recommendation. The grain kernel comprises bran, germ, and endosperm. Most of the nutrients present in the grain are present in the outer layers, i.e., bran and germ. While processing, these nutrient-rich layers are removed, leaving behind just the endosperm, which is the largest portion that makes up for more than 80% of the weight of the kernel. As a result of the removal of bran and germ, the nutritional value of flour gets reduced considerably.
◆ While germ is rich in healthy fats, proteins, minerals, and vitamin B, the endosperm contains small amounts of minerals and vitamins, proteins, and carbohydrates. According to the Whole Grains Council, about 25% of the protein and around 17 key nutrients are lost due to the removal of the bran and germ.
◆ Bran and germ contain several minerals, vitamins, and proteins, whereas the process of enriching flour involves the addition of just thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, iron, and folic acid. The removal of the outer layers of the kernel removes the antioxidants or other phytochemicals that protect the body from free radicals, which in turn are responsible for serious diseases. Thus, enriched flour is not as beneficial for health as whole grain wheat flour.
◆ It must be noted that manufacturers sometimes chemically bleach the flour to improve its appearance and consistency. White flour that has been bleached is whiter and has finer grain. On the other hand, unbleached flour is the flour that is aged naturally. It is not as fine as bleached flour, and produces denser loafs. Unbleached flour is richer in vitamin E.
◆ Those who are allergic to wheat could develop an allergic reaction after consuming enriched flour. The allergic reaction could give rise to symptoms such as hives, wheezing, itching, runny nose, red eyes, swelling of the lips, tongue, mouth, or throat, diarrhea, vomiting, etc. In severe cases, one could develop anaphylaxis, which is a life-threatening reaction that is characterized by breathing problems, increased heart rate, sudden drop in blood pressure, loss of consciousness, etc. Individuals affected by celiac disease should also avoid enriched flour.
◆ One of the major advantages of consuming whole grain flour is that it contains dietary fiber, which improves the digestive health, and helps in maintaining the normal blood sugar levels. Dietary fiber helps prevent constipation, as insoluble fiber adds bulk to the fecal matter, which is then easily passed through the large intestine. It also believed that dietary fiber helps in lowering cholesterol levels, thereby reducing the risk of coronary artery disease.
◆ Food items that are made from whole grain flour take longer to digest. Soluble fiber attracts water and forms a gel during digestion. It slows digestion and makes us feel satiated. This can help the individuals who are trying to lose weight.
◆ Food items that are made from whole grain flour contain larger amounts of naturally-occurring nutrients that are essential for the healthy functioning of the human body. In case of wheat, the outer layer of the brain contains dietary fiber, vitamin B, and antioxidants.
While enriched flour is definitely a healthier alternative to refined flour, it certainly doesn’t match up to the nutritional profile of whole grain flour. Enriched flour contains thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, folic acid, and iron, but dietary fiber is not added. It is not a good source of dietary fiber like the whole grain flour. So, while buying flour, do look for the ingredients given on the label. It is advisable to opt for whole grain flour, preferably the one with a Whole Grain Stamp on it.