Flour for the Masses

The wheat plant seems to prefer to grow in dry, cool, windswept areas and its ability to self-pollinate greatly enhanced its proliferation and helped to develop many of the domesticated varieties we now have. It is very likely the first grain to be domesticated and its origin has been traced to the Fertile Crescent and Nile Delta areas of the world.[1] It has been found in some of the oldest archeological sites in the world, some dating back 9,000 years. Wheat, along with oats and other grains were first grown in one of the New Colonies of the future United States.

Around 1602, Thomas Mayhew purchased several islands off the coast of Massachusetts. It was here that the first wheat was cultivated on one of the Elizabeth Islands.[2]

This ancient grain is packed with nutrition. “In fact, of the 44 know essential nutrients needed by our bodies and naturally obtained from foods, only 4 are missing from wheat—vitamin A, B12, and C, and the mineral iodine” says Sue Becker.[3] For an interesting evaluation of the nutrition between wheat, amaranth, rice, sweet corn, and potato check out the table of information on the Wikipedia article, Wheat.

The Three Parts of Wheat

Wheat is one of the annual cereal grasses and part of the Triticum (TRIT-i-kem) family. The wheat plant produces a “head of grain” where the fruit/seed is located. Each seed is made up of three distinct parts:

  • Bran, which, is the outer coating that contains needed dietary fiber and vitamins and minerals
  • Endosperm that makes up the greater portion of carbohydrate in the grain but also contains nutritional value
  • Germ that holds the embryo of the future wheat plant and the majority of the nutritional value, most of the protein as well as most of the essential oils of the plant.

Our Father YHWH made this plant complete and very nutritious for us to eat. He never intended for us to destroy and adulterate what He said was good. Unfortunately that is exactly what has happened to wheat and other grains that undergo modern commercial milling procedures.

The History of Modern Flour

Throughout history peoples have gathered the whole grain heads and separated the chaff from the beneficial seed. Some people ate the whole or cracked seed heads like the Roman soldiers did while they marched on the next civilization they intended to conquer. Still others hand ground the grain seeds between stones to make flour. As time progressed so did the milling process and local grain mills developed. Prior to the beginning of the nineteenth century, each community had its own local miller. These mills were small structures, generally located along rivers where the moving water would turn paddle wheels, which would turn the giant milling stones that ground the seeds or wheat berries into whole grain flour. Each farmer would grow their own grain and as needed take it to the mill to be processed into flour. Once ground, the flour was packaged into cloth sacks and the individual farmers paid the miller and picked up their fresh ground whole grain flour.

White Flour Baked Goods

At some point in the last 300 or so years the very wealthy and the royals discovered the wonders of refined white flour. It baked up lighter and fluffier and had a smoother consistency and texture. It made cakes and pastries taste so much better and they lasted a little longer before spoiling. This white flour seemed to get better with age since it didn’t go rancid as quickly as whole grain flour and it also lightened even more over time. This aged white flour seemed to bake up even better than when it was freshly milled. Items baked with refined white flour baked better and tasted scrumptious! But there is a price to pay for all this easy to get deliciousness. To get this white flour the bran and the germ needed to be separated from the endosperm. This was a very tedious and costly procedure so it wasn’t available to the common man, just the very rich. In fact most commoners didn’t even know about these advances in baking until the mid 1800’s.

In the 1840’s France held its first Industrial exposition in Paris. This was the precursor to the World Expositions, which would become the World’s Fairs. At such an exposition in Paris around 1876, one could see and taste the first light, white French rolls. Mr. John S. Pillsbury, the current governor of Minnesota, attended this exposition and was captivated with the white flour rolls. It was his belief that America “must have the benefits of this discovery.”  While in France, he learned how to separate the bran and germ to achieve the white flour he so desired and then brought the idea back to America. He then developed the steel roller mills which quickly separated the parts of the grain and ground the endosperm into soft, lovely, and fine textured whitish colored flour. This new flour could be produced in great volumes in a short amount of time. It had the ability to be stored for long periods of time and this enabled these new commercial mills to be able to ship large quantities of white flour over long distances without going rancid.[4] What a wonder!!

Or was it? With the emergence of the large commercial milling production plants and the ready availability of refined white flour all across America the local grain millers eventually lost their business and had to close.  Those same milling plants that were producing large quantities of refined flour were producing huge quantities of the byproducts of the wheat milling process. All the (nutritious) bran and germ were piling up and they had to find a use for it. They did and began selling it as livestock feed (lucky animals.) What a bonus, the commercial millers could get paid twice for milling once!

Americans were buying up this refined white flour that could sit on the shelf for long periods of time. Why did it last so long? Perhaps it was because most of the nutritional value had been removed in the milling process? Dr Mercola states, “With the most nutritious part of the grain removed, white flour essentially becomes a form of sugar. Consider what gets lost in the refining process:

  • Half of the beneficial unsaturated fatty acids
  • Virtually all of the vitamin E
  • Fifty percent of the calcium
  • Seventy percent of the phosphorus
  • Eighty percent of the iron
  • Ninety eight percent of the magnesium
  • Fifty to 80 percent of the B vitamins
  • And many more nutrients are destroyed — simply too many to list.

He continues, “Most commercial wheat production is, unfortunately, a “study in pesticide application,” beginning with the seeds being treated with fungicide. Once they become wheat, they are sprayed with hormones and pesticides. Even the bins in which the harvested wheat is stored have been coated with insecticides. If bugs appear on the wheat in storage, they fumigate the grain.”

Commercial milling processes use high-speed steel rollers and high heat to produce refined white flour. The flour is made up of the starchy endosperm of the wheat berry and consequently it is mostly starch as well. It also has lost much of its nutritional value due to the aggressive flour making process – the heat of the rollers destroys what little nutrients remain. Even commercial whole wheat flour has little of its original nutrients left.[5]

The precious oils of the germ were gone so there was nothing to go rancid. The flour was so devoid of nutrition that even the rodents ignored it and most bugs as well. Shouldn’t this signal there was a problem? Apparently, not.  As more and more people ate baked goods made from this nutritionally void flour; health problems began to develop. This became so prevalent that the United States government and health experts became alarmed.

Illness and Health Problems Develop

In the early decades of the 1900’s more and more people developed Beriberi. This disease includes the following symptoms: weight loss, emotional disturbances, impaired sensory perception (Wernicke’s encephalopathy), weakness and pain in the limbs, and periods of irregular heart rate. Edema (swelling of bodily tissues) is common. It may increase the amount of lactic acid and pyruvic acid within the blood. In advanced cases, the disease may cause heart failure and death.[6]

The second illness that seemed to increase is Pellagra which is classically described by the four D’s: diarrhea, dermatitis, dementia, and death. It causes aggression, dermatitis, loss of hair, edema, red skin lesions, insomnia, weakness, mental confusion, ataxia (paralysis of the arms and legs) diarrhea, dilated cardiomyopathy, dementia and eventually death.[7]

Both of these diseases are caused by vitamin deficiencies and finally national health official made the correlation between the diseases and the consumption of refined white flour. National health officials urged the commercial milling companies to return the bran and germ to the flour, making it whole grain and nutritious again. However, greed and money were ruling the day (instead of a national health crisis) and the companies refused to do so. Instead they chose to “enrich” the refined white flour with four nutrients, iron, niacin, riboflavin and thiamin (the last three make up part of the B vitamin complex.)  This enrichment does not return the flour to its original Yahweh created state as 80% of the nutrients found in the original wheat kernel are missing or greatly reduced.[8]

I vividly remember something I learned in one of the first baking classes I took while in seventh grade home economics. My teacher, and elderly women, implored us to always look for and only purchase flour that was ‘enriched.’ I have always that that odd but never knew why we were taught to do this. Now I know, that teacher was old enough to remember the years when many people in America suffered from Beriberi and Pellegra. She didn’t want us to experience those horrible symptoms and her solution was to use enriched white flour. How sad that she didn’t recommend the use of fresh whole wheat flour.

Heat processed flour is when the germ is removed from the endosperm and bran. Then it is processed with high heat steam, dry heat or worse yet – microwaves and then is blended back into the flour again, making the flour a “form” of whole wheat.[9]

white flourNow for the Bleaching

When white flour is first milled it has a pale tan to yellow color. If allowed to age for 6 to 9 months, the flour lightens in color. This aging process also enhances the baking quality of the flour causing it to set faster, rise better, the fat to be distributed more evenly and for the batter of dough to be less vulnerable to collapse. However, this natural aging process takes too long and is expensive in modern society so commercial milling operations began to chemically bleach and age the flour.

The major chemicals used to bleach refined white flour are: oxide of nitrogen, chlorine, chlorine oxide, chloride, nitrosyl and benzoyl peroxide mixed with various chemical salts.  The fact is that when you eat any baked good that is made from refined white flour, you are also eating residual chemical bleach.[10] Chlorine oxide is chlorine gas and the use of chlorine to bleach flour is considered an industry standard. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines chlorine gas as a flour-bleaching, aging and oxidizing agent that is a powerful irritant, dangerous to inhale, and lethal.

“The chlorine gas undergoes an oxidizing chemical reaction with some of the proteins in the flour, producing alloxan as an unintended byproduct. Bair and other milling industry leaders claim that bleaching and oxidizing agents don’t leave behind harmful residues in flour, although they can cite no studies or published data to confirm this” cites Dr. Mercola.[11]

Alloxan is the decomposition of uric acid and it is a poison used in research to produce diabetes in healthy experimental animals. Diabetes is produced in the animals because alloxan has the ability to create enormous amounts of free radicals in pancreatic cells, which destroys them. Alloxan has no other commercial application and is exclusive within the medical research industry because it is so toxic.[12]

It is important to remember that commercial millers do not add the Alloxan to the flour but that it is a byproduct of the bleaching process. They are aware of its presence but pay it no consequence. Will Alloxan in refined white flour cause humans to develop diabetes? Not immediately, especially in healthy individuals. But we don’t know the effects of a life time of exposure through ingestion of baked goods made from the flour that contains it. Or do we?

We now have skyrocketing rates of diabetes in people and children of all ages. The incidences of insulin resistance and hypoglycemia have also risen to alarming rates. And is it any wonder? We are eating refined white flour with virtually no nutritional value or commercial whole wheat flour with very low nutritional value. This means we are consuming high starch that is easily converted to sugar. This causes our pancreas to produce excessive amounts of insulin and over work and deplete the necessary use of that organ and its glands. Add to that the chemicals used for bleaching that effect our bodies and the byproduct of Alloxan that causes diabetes in laboratory animals. Is it any wonder that diabetes and related health problems exist?

Final Note About Wheat Milling And Flour

Wheat berries and other grains if left intact can be properly stored indefinitely. But once the kernel of wheat (grain) is opened (through milling) its integrity becomes compromised. The precious nutrients are now exposed to oxygen and will be lost by oxidation. Within the first 24 hours of milling, 45% of the nutrients will become oxidized and lost forever. Worse yet, 90% will be lost with 72 hours (3 days) of being milled. All of this damage occurs once the kernel has been opened even if the bran and germ are still there!!!!

What can we do? Our solution is to purchase whole wheat berries and other grains and store them in our home. Then when we are ready to bake bread, we ground them fresh and immediately bake the bread. What little flour is left over gets stored in the freezer to help preserve it from oxidation.

Bulk whole grains (wheat, oats, spelt, buckwheat, rye, kamet, amaranth, etc.) can be purchased from local food co-ops, health food stores, online and some Mennonite country markets. Wheat Montana is the brand that we purchase and we are part of a Wheat Montana Co-op in North Carolina.

Grain mills are available in some retail stores but your best options are available on line. We labored for two years over what would be the best grain mill for our family situation. We wanted a mill that would work with electric or manually if we lost power for some reason. We purchase what we thought would be a good fit for us and discovered that it was probably the wrong choice. What we found to work the best for us was to use an electric grain mill for our regular milling and to have a manual grain mill for those times when electricity is unavailable or not an option any longer. What do we suggest?

  • Country Living Grain Mill, manual non-electric but can be retrofitted with an electric motor
  • Nutrimill, electric impact type mill
  • Wondermill, manual non-electric grain, bean, and oily nut mill

All are available from Nutrition Lifestyles, or 1 (903) 797-6736 just ask for Dixie and tell her Posey sent you.


The Amazing Wheat Book, LeArta Moulton

Cooking & Baking with Fresh Ground Flour

The Encyclopedia of Country Living, by Carla Emery

Nourishing Traditions, fermentation

Other Resources We Recommend

Grains of Truth


There is also a lovely new manual grain mill manufactured in Montana called the Grain Maker.

http://www.breadbeckers.com/store/pc/home.asp    FREE CD


Grain Mills, Dehydrators www.pantryparatus

www.pantryparatus.com, Book:  Flying Apron Gluten Free Baking

www.Azurestandard.com  Northwest Food Co-op

If you have any questions please feel free to contact us, we are happy to help.

[1] Wheat, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wheat

[2]Origin, History, and Uses of Oat (Avena sativa) and Wheat (Triticum aestivum), Lance Gibson and Garren Benson, Iowa State University, Department of Agronomy, Revised January 2002. http://www.agron.iastate.edu/courses/agron212/readings/oat_wheat_history.htm

[3] Grains of Truth – Exposing the Deception of “Enrichment” by Sue Becker, http://info.breadbeckers.com/deception-of-enrichment/

[4] Grains of Truth – Exposing the Deception of “Enrichment” by Sue Becker, http://info.breadbeckers.com/deception-of-enrichment/

[6] Beriberi, General Symptoms and Effects; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beriberi

[7] Pellagra, Symptoms; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pellagra

[8] Grains of Truth – Exposing the Deception of “Enrichment” by Sue Becker, http://info.breadbeckers.com/deception-of-enrichment/

[9] Goldkeim, Association to promote vital flour¸ http://www.goldkeim.com

[10] Ugly Truths about White Flour, http://womenfitness.net/ugly_truths.htm

[12] Same as above, footnote number eleven

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