White Flour–The Other Sugar
So now we know that eating too many refined sugars can affect blood sugar, but avoiding sweets won’t solve the problem completely. Even though white flour doesn’t taste sweet, it breaks down into sugar (glucose) and can lead to the very same problems caused by eating too much refined sugar.
What Is White Flour?
White flour is what’s left after stripping virtually all the nutrients and fiber out of a whole grain of wheat. So what you’re left with is a dead, lifeless powder that no longer goes rancid and can be used as a perfect binding agent to hold together sugar, sodium, artificial colors, flavors, preservatives, additives, and other chemicals. White flour is basically “white gold” for food manufacturers. Products made with white flour are nutritionally useless, yet the American Dietetic Association recommends that we eat 8-11 servings of them everyday. The public has been programmed to believe that white flour products are “healthy” because they are low in fat, cholesterol and calories. So people eat things like pasta, bagels and pretzels and believe they are eating healthy because these foods are “fat-free.” But what food manufacturers have failed to mention in their clever advertising is that white flour products have zero nutritional value and can lead to poor health. Here are three reasons why:
Whole wheat is rich in nutrients. During the process of turning whole wheat into white flour, the B vitamins as well as vitamin E, calcium, zinc, copper, manganese, potassium and fiber are removed. In an attempt to replace some of the destroyed nutrients, minute amounts of synthetic nutrients are added back in to “fortify” or “enrich” the product. Take Spaghetti-O’s for example. Right on the label it claims that Spaghetti-O’s are an excellent source of eight essential nutrients, seven of which have been added through fortification. Obviously, Spaghetti-O’s lack any real nutritional value, so food manufacturers attempt to add artificial nutritional value by fortifying processed junk foods with synthetic nutrients. The synthetic B-vitamins added back to the white flour are derived from coal tar and lead to imbalances within the body. This creates a deficiency in certain of the B-vitamins as the body works to correct the imbalance. Symptoms of a B-vitamin deficiency include: fatigue, depression, anxiety, irritability, poor memory, insomnia, heart palpitations and muscle tenderness.
We know that eating too much sugar can lead to blood sugar imbalances. Since white flour breaks down into sugar, it too can lead to blood sugar problems. I often work with people suffering from blood sugar problems who try to defend their diet by claiming that they don’t eat any sugar. Yet they have a bagel for breakfast, pasta for lunch, pizza for dinner, and snack on pretzels all day long–not realizing that even though those foods don’t taste sweet, they quickly turn into sugar! As far as your blood sugar is concerned, your body doesn’t know the difference between a teaspoon of sugar and a slice of white bread! So that innocent plate of pasta can leave you feeling tired and depressed–and also unable to lose weight!
If you’re like most people who want to lose weight, chances are that at one time or another you’ve experimented with a lowfat diet. And it probably didn’t take long to discover that avoiding fat in your diet doesn’t make it magically melt off your body. That’s because lowfat really means high-carb. So many dieters think they’re doing a good thing by eating lowfat, low-calorie, high-carb foods like cereal, pretzels, bagels, and pasta–not realizing that these foods cause the pancreas to secrete insulin, the fat-storing hormone that stimulates the appetite and slows down metabolism.
I often see clients who exercise frequently, eat a low-fat, low-calorie, high-carb diet, and wonder why they can’t lose weight. These people are usually carb-sensitive who would thrive on a diet rich in proteins and fats. The lack of protein in their diet makes it difficult to build strong, healthy muscles. So carb-sensitive people can work out five days a week for three hours a day and fail to see the results of their hard work when they look in the mirror. One of the many benefits of eating a balanced diet, by the way, is improved muscle tone.
Constipation–The Silent Epidemic
I recently worked with a client who, since childhood, had moved her bowels only once every three weeks! The real shocking part is that her doctor told her that was normal for her! Most doctors fail to address the importance of healthy bowel function with their patients. Many are not aware that constipation can lead to other symptoms, like fatigue, headaches and acne. Constipation is a condition caused by poor digestive habits and a diet loaded with processed foods, especially those made with white flour.
Whole grains are rich in fiber, which gives bulk to the stool and also acts like a broom to help sweep waste out of the colon. In the process of turning whole wheat into white flour, all of the fiber is removed. What happens when you mix white flour with water? Well, give it a try–mix about one-fourth cup of white flour with four tablespoons of water–you’ve got a perfect paste. Imagine what happens when you eat white flour–it forms a sticky, gooey paste that slows down your elimination process.
Constipation is a serious problem in this country, but nobody talks about it. Chances are you’re constipated and you don’t even know it. Most people think as long as they move their bowels on a regular basis without any strain that everything is fine. But that’s simply not the case. The human digestive system is designed so that as new food comes in the old waste should move out–usually 30-45 minutes after a meal. So if you eat 3 times a day, ideally you should move your bowels three times per day–simple concept, yet not very common in our processed food society. What’s more common is one bowel movement every other day. That means if you eat six meals in two days and have one bowel movement, you are eliminating the waste of one meal and storing the waste of five meals! That’s a lot of waste! And where does it all go? It stays inside the body creating a perfect environment for parasites to thrive in. Not to mention that all that waste can add up and add extra, unwanted pounds to the scale.
The best way to eliminate waste is to stop doing the things that caused you to accumulate it in the first place–eliminating white flour is a great start!
Four Steps to Replace White Flour with Whole Grains
STEP 1: Limit white flour products to 3 times per week
Use this step to help you pay attention to the amount of processed starches that you do eat and how they make you feel. Get in the habit of reading labels, be aware of products made with “enriched” flour. You’ll soon discover that white flour is in practically all commercial foods. When you do eat white flour products, remember to eat them as part of a balanced meal. Don’t eat starches by themselves, but eat them with protein and good fats.
STEP 2: Replace white bread/pasta with whole grain bread and whole grain pasta
This step will help you become a serious label reader. Do your best to avoid breads and pasta made with “enriched” flour. You’ll notice that it is difficult to find a true whole grain bread at the grocery store. The few brands that are available unfortunately add undesirable ingredients like hydrogenated vegetable oils and high fructose corn syrup. It is best to purchase quality whole grain bread from a health food store. Use the chart below to help you with this step.
STEP 3: Replace all other flour products with whole grains
This step will help you to clean all the white flour out of your cupboards and stock them with whole grain alternatives. Choose products made with organic whole grains when possible–sprouted grains are best. Also remember to balance and limit the grains in your diet. Although products made with whole grain flour are a good source of fiber, unfortunately they begin to lose their nutritional value within days after they have been ground. If you are baking with whole grains, it is best to grind your own whole grain flour and consume it within 3-6 days.
STEP 4: (Advanced) Properly prepare your grains
All grains, nuts, and seeds contain phytic acid, an organic acid that blocks the absorption of minerals. Grains also contain enzyme inhibitors and irritating compounds that can inhibit digestion. Traditionally, grains were properly prepared by soaking and sprouting. Not only does this practice neutralize the negative effects of phytic acid, but it also increases the nutritional value of the grain. Proper preparation is especially important for breakfast cereals. For more information on how to properly prepare your grains, see the recipes in Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon.
Whole Grain Substitutes For Refined Grain Products
|BREAD made with white flour
(Any brand sold at regular grocery stores)
|Alvarado Street Bakery
Shiloh Farms Bakery
Jerusalem Pita Bread
|CRACKERS made with white flour||Wasa Sourdough Rye
|PASTA made with white flour||Eden Pasta|
|BAGELS made with white flour||Alvarado Street Bakery bagels|
|TORTILLAS made with white flour||Alvarado Street Bakery sprouted wheat tortillas|
|WHITE RICE||Lundberg Organic Brown Rice
Bob’s Red Mill Grains
Arrowhead Mills Grains
(All extruded breakfast cereals, whether sold in supermarkets or health food stores)
|Rolled or steel-cut oats, preferably organic
This article appeared in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, the quarterly magazine of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Fall 2002.