Flour is simply grain or seeds thatÂ are finely ground.Â Some flour is â€œwhole grain,â€ which simply means that the entire grain is ground, including theÂ outer hull or bran and the inner germ, which is the tiny shoot that grows out of the seed when it isÂ planted.Â Other flour, which is not â€œwhole grain,â€ is stripped of the bran and germ and consists only of the ground starchy interior or endosperm.
Flour has the potential to be equally if not more nutritious than the grain from which itÂ is made.Â I say â€œmore nutritiousâ€ because, having been ground, flour is more easily digested than intact grain seeds,Â therefore, its nutrients are more readily available for absorption.
Despite this nutritional potential,Â three problems commonly occur that render flour almost entirely non-nutritious in most modern instances:
1.Â Â Â Â Most flour that is available in stores is not â€œwhole grain.â€ Rather, it is refined. That is, it is stripped of its bran and germ, leaving only the starchy endosperm.Â The bran and germ areÂ the most nutritious parts of the grain, the parts that contain the vast majority of the grainâ€™s vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and fiberâ€“components that help make food healthy and nutritious rather than simply providing energy. The reason that flour is shorn of these vital nutrients is that doing so increases the shelf-life of the flour. Most nutrients that are vital to people are also vital to bacteria and insects, therefore, such nutrients are removed. Sometimes the flour is â€œenrichedâ€ by adding back certain chemical forms of these nutrients, however, such additions are of little value and are certainly no substitute for the real things.
2.Â Â Â Â Once ground, the surface area of the grain is enormously increased, therefore, it becomes extremely vulnerable to the effects of oxidation.Â In other words, having been ground into particles, the grainâ€™s parts are suddenly exposed to the damaging effects of light, air, and moisture, which attackÂ the nutrients within the grain and turn the flour rancid.Â This process may be gradual, but it starts immediately upon grinding.Â Oxidation happens to all types of flour, regardless of whetherÂ it is â€œwhole grain.â€Â For this reason, the best flour isÂ freshly ground.Â Home grain mills for grinding grain into flour are available and are relatively inexpensive and allow one to easily make fresh ground flour at home.Â In addition, if one has to store flour, it should be stored in a dark, dry place.
3.Â Â Â Â Flour, like the grains from which they are made, contain phytic acidÂ that will bind with minerals like calcium, magnesium, and zincÂ in the digestive system and block their absorption.Â All grains, including flour, should be soaked for six to twenty-fourÂ hours in warm water prior to being cooked in order to activate the enzymes within the grain that will break down the phytic acid.Â The more time the grain or flour is soaked, the more time such enzymes will have to work, the more phytic acidÂ will be deactivated, and the more nutritious will be the grain once eaten.Â Even better than soaking is sprouting, during which,Â the grain is soaked, drained, and allowed to sit until the germ visibly protrudes from the bran.Â At this stage, the grain enzymes are fully active, and the grainâ€™s nutritional content is at its peak.
As I mentioned above, flour has the potential to be extremely nutritious.Â Unfortunately, most of the flour available in modern grocery stores is a nutritional nightmare.Â It violates all of the above rules.Â The grain is typically not sprouted, therefore, it is rich in phytic acid.Â Unless soaked, such flour willÂ impair the absorption of whatever nutrient content might be in the other foodÂ consumed.Â It is refined in order to remove its nutritional content to increase its shelf-life.Â And it is shipped and stored for long periods of time in paper sacks that freely expose the flour to oxidation byÂ moisture and air.Â What is left is a bag of rancid and nutritionally dead starch.
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