As a mom of three boys, I am constantly striving to find healthy, whole foods for my family. Lately, the food that concerns me the most is bread and anything else that is made with flour like pancakes, waffles, and muffins.
Let’s face it, with three active boys, I would go crazy if I eliminated bread and could not make sandwiches.
We are trying to make better choices, and for the most part, we are buying organic bread and organic whole wheat flour. However, the more I learn, the more I realize that even those choices might not be as healthy as they seem.
Why is this so? In a nutshell, it is due to the way flour is grown and processed in this country. If it’s not organic, pesticides were most certainly used and in the processing, and the most important part of the wheat berry, the endosperm, was removed. Without that most nutrition is lost.
Even organic whole wheat flour might not be what you expect. Most of it is just white flour with bran added back in. You need to research how the flour was processed and not assume it is ok just because it has an organic label on it.
After all, a friend of mine says snake venom is all natural, but that doesn’t mean it won’t hurt you.
So what can you do?
Plain and simple, you have to thoroughly research your product and not assume it’s healthy just because the marketing on the package says so. Shocking, I know, right?
You have to dig deep and look at the ingredients and learn a bit about the processing of the flour.
That’s why I was so excited to find a farm in Illinois that not only grows organic wheat but also processes it into flour at the farm. I had the unique opportunity to visit their farm last July.
But before I get into that, let’s discuss a bit why what they are doing is so incredibly significant for our health.
What is wrong with modern wheat?
For thousands of years wheat was grown, stored in its kernel form, and then stone ground. This made flour that was full of life and nutrients. And then industrialization came along and changed everything from how wheat is grown to how it is processed.
In 1870 the modern steel roller mill was invented and it “revolutionized” the processing of flour. This invention allowed the flour miller to separate out parts of the wheat to make “nice” white flour that everyone could afford. Unfortunately, this also took out some of the most nutritious components of the wheat.
This process also accomplished a very important task for creating bread. Because many of the parts were stripped from the bread, it stored longer. And this made it easier for mass production. Think back to what a loaf of wonder bread looks like. It was one of the first pre-sliced breads sold to Americans starting in 1921.
The production of this bread also led to the saying, “the greatest thing since sliced bread.” Because it was unique and unusual, and it made bread cheap, easy to store, and easy to get. Unfortunately, it also lacks nutrition.
These events are part of the beginning of our industrial food system where vast quantities of food, including bread, could be produced in large factories and have a very long shelf life.
Unfortunately for our bodies, these methods also eliminated what made wheat nutritious in the first place including bran, germ, shorts, and red dog mill streams. All of these parts are the richest in minerals, vitamins, lipids, and proteins.
Without these important parts of the wheat, there is really almost no point in eating it. You get calories but little to no nutrition.
But wait, it gets worse!
To recap, science has figured out how to process wheat more efficiently so it has a longer shelf life. And then in comes the Green Revolution, hailed as a defining moment in agriculture.
It was during this time in the 1940s when new chemical fertilizers and pesticides were created. The fertilizers help increase crop yields and the pesticides got rid of bugs and pests that commonly killed crops. Both of these inventions increased productivity dramatically for industrial farming. At the same time, high-yield crops were invented to also increase yield.
During this time, a scientist named Dr. Norman Borlaug developed a strain of wheat that could resist diseases. He introduced it in Mexico where the production of wheat tripled in 20 years. Not only did it provide more food to people in Mexico, but it also allowed them to sell their wheat to other countries.
This type of farming was picked up and continued by large companies like Dupont and Monsanto.
By now many of you reading might be thinking, “Well this is certainly great! I am not sure why you are writing about how bad this is. The industrial revolution kept people from starving and that is a good thing.”
Well, here were some of the downsides:
- Chemical fertilizers and pesticides caused pollution and erosion.
- These chemicals went into the water system and made both animals and people sick.
- This type of farming required a lot of water and this put pressure on natural water reserves.
- All of this was done with little to no regard to nutrition. Mass food production creates food-like substances. These foods provide calories, but they lack necessary vitamins and minerals. Not to mention they are full of preservatives and other unnatural substances.
- Many scientists say that wheat used in mass production today is responsible for all kinds of chronic digestive and inflammatory illnesses.
What are the nutritional benefits of bread?
Bread can provide you with fiber which is needed for healthy digestion and many studies have shown that eating whole grain products can reduce the risk of chronic illnesses. Make sure that you are eating whole-grain, organic, and non-GMO. Here is a link to a great article from well-beingsecrets.com on the health benefits of eating this kind of bread.
So what can you do?
Frankly, it’s hard, but not totally impossible to get healthy wheat. However, there are only a few farms nationwide that grow it and process it properly. One of them is Brian Severson Farm in Grundy County, Illinois. More on that below.
Here are four options.
#1. Go Gluten Free
Because wheat like this is not easily available, many people are choosing to go “gluten free”. Researching that possibility for my family leads me to believe that is not great for you either.
Read the labels and you will find gluten free is full of other ingredients that the body just breaks down into sugar. These include but are not limited to cornstarch, rice starch, potato starch, tapioca starch, and guar gum.
#2. Buy organic whole wheat flours and bread at the grocery store.
So the next logical choice is to buy organic whole wheat flours from a health foods store like Whole Foods. Sadly after researching that I learned from label reading that most of this flour is actually white flour with some bran added back in. This is due to the way wheat is now processed.
Ideally what you need to look for is bread made from “whole-meal” flour where the entire kernel is ground and the germ is retained and crushed into the flour. And preferably you will choose organic brands.
#3. Purchase your flour from Brian Severson Farm or another farm like them.
Or you can buy wheat berries and grind your own flour or purchase organic “whole-meal” flour. This seems hard but really it is easy. I actually grind mine in my Blentec. Or you can purchase a grain mill.
#4. Just say no to ALL wheat products.
I’ll be frank, I do this sometimes. Going completely grain free is only possible if you steer away from all processed food and only cook at home. Just about everything elsewhere probably has some kind of wheat in it as a filler or a thickener.
Where can I buy “whole meal” flour?
Brian Severson Farm is one of the few farms in the United States offering organic, non-GMO “whole meal” flour. You can buy their products on their website.
I had the opportunity to visit this farm last July. The Severson family has been farming since 1866. Brian Severson switched to growing organic in 2007 and now grows organic and non-GMO oats, wheat, soybeans, peas, popcorn, and buckwheat.
Here are the products they offer.
Soft Red Winter Wheat
The Seversons grow organic and non-GMO Soft Red Winter Wheat right on their farm in Grundy County, Illinois. In fact, it never leaves the farm until you purchase it. The family grows, harvests, cleans, and stores it.
You can buy it stone ground or you can buy the entire wheat berry and grind it yourself.
The most exciting fact about these products is how they are processed. All of their flour is stone ground right on the premises. While the husk/hull is removed, the bran, germ, and endosperm are left intact. This means more nutrition and actually, makes eating foods made from this flour worth-the-while to eat.
The retention of the bran, germ, and endosperm from a nutrition perspective is fantastic. And if you think you can get this in a grocery store make sure you thoroughly research the processing of the flour before you make an incorrect assumption about its nutritional value.
In this flour, you will find lots of dietary fiber, iron, folic acid, vitamin E, protein, B vitamins, niacin, thiamin, phosphorus, magnesium, and zinc.
Their flour will last 9 months out of the freezer and longer if frozen. This works great for pancakes, pizza dough, crepes, and breadsticks.
If you want to use this flour to make bread, the Seversons suggest that you add extra gluten to do so. My mom has been using their flour in her sourdough without adding extra gluten. It works well but it will not be light and fluffy. It tastes super good, though.
If you want to grind it yourself it is easier than you think. There are several grain mills available on Amazon for purchase. I will do that eventually, but for now, I have just ground up their wheat berries in my blender.
Here is a link to their organic wheat berries sold on Amazon if you want to try grinding your own flour.
I had never heard of this but it sure sounds interesting. They suggest using it for making cornbread and breading for meats. Check it out on Amazon.
Just like their wheat berries, all of their oat products are grown and processed right on the farm.
If you want to know what they look like think of whole oat groats that you can buy at the grocery store. However, there is one huge difference. Those that you find at a grocery store have been heat–treated and the hulls have been removed.
These oats offer a tremendous amount of nutrition including fiber, vitamin B & E, thiamin, copper, zinc, iron, phosphorus, and copper.
You can buy it from them as either stone ground flour or cold rolled.
Buckwheat flour offers a distinct flavor.
This flour is sifted and then ground into a light-colored flour.
People incorrectly assume that buckwheat is a kind of wheat. However, it is a fruit seed. It doesn’t contain gluten. It contains B vitamins, iron, phosphorus, calcium, protein, and magnesium.
One cup of ground buckwheat flour contains 15.14 grams of protein. This protein is a very high-quality one that contains all eight essential amino acids, including lysine.
On a side note, you can stuff mattresses and pillows with buckwheat hulls.
Yellow Dent Corn Flour
They offer this as a fine ground flour that is great for cornbread. It also comes in a medium or coarse grind for polenta or grits.
Their popcorn is an awesome buttery tasting popcorn that my kids love. It is an heirloom variety from the 1800s called Pennsylvania Dutch Butter Flavored Popcorn. It is organic and non-GMO.
My kids LOVE this popcorn. You can find it here on Amazon.
You can find all of their products on Amazon and there are more available than what I have linked to. Just click on one of my Amazon links, it will take you to the project I mention. Then click on their name “Quality Organic” and you can see a full listing of their offerings.
Here is one recipe that my family enjoys from their flour.
This is a recipe from the Seversons that uses their whole wheat berries.
- 1 cup wheat berries
- 1 1/2 cups milk (I used almond milk instead)
- 1/2 cup applesauce or vegetable oil
- 1 egg
- 3 teaspoons of baking powder
- 1 tablespoons of sugar (I left this out)
- 1 teaspoon of salt
You can make this is a regular blender by doing the following:
- Blend 1 cup of milk with the wheat berries for 2-3 minutes.
- Add the rest of the milk and blend for 2 more minutes
- Add the remaining ingredients.
- Cook on a hot skillet or griddle
- You can add other ingredients as desired like vanilla, cinnamon, and fruit.
I use a Blentec which is much higher power than a conventional blender. Here are my instructions if you have one or another brand like it.
I took all the wheat berries at once and processed them into flour in the Blentec.
Then I removed the flour from the Blentec.
I then put 1 1/2 cups of almond milk in my Blentec, followed by the flour I made, and the remaining ingredients.
My kids love them!
In conclusion, we are all doing the best we can.
It is frustrating to learn about food processing in our country as most of the time nutrition is not a top priority. Which to me is even more crazy as food is literally fuel we need to stay healthy and strong.
I am not perfect. I am just making the best choices that I can the majority of the time. But I have to say now that I have discovered Severson farm, I have a lot more bread and pancake making on my to do list!