Enriched flour is the number one ingredient in tons of foods lining your local grocery store shelves from pasta to crackers.
It shows up in bread, pizza, and even pretzels.
Whether it’s the white or wheat variety, the word “enriched” makes it sound kind of healthy.
After all, when you enrich something you’re making it better. Right?
So what exactly is enriched flour?
It’s highly processed, empty calories with nearly zero nutritional value.
Beware of blood sugar spikes and weight gain
Even worse, it can harm your health causing blood sugar spikes and weight gain.
More on those threats to your health in just a moment, but first to understand just how empty those enriched-flour calories actually are, let’s go back to the beginning.
Let’s take a look at how this toxic flour is made.
Whole wheat grains have three distinct layers:
- bran – containing protein, minerals and fiber
- wheat germ – containing minerals, B vitamins and fat
- endosperm – containing mostly starch
To make their product last longer on the shelf, food manufactures toss out just about everything that’s healthy about the whole grain.
They strip away the nutrient and fiber-rich bran and wheat germ. What’s left behind is the starch-filled endosperm.
It gets even worse. To give it that snowy white appearance they bleach the flour using toxic chemicals.
Here’s where the “enriched” part enters the picture.
Since they’re left with what’s essentially a nutrition-free starch, the flour manufactures, ironically, try to fix the Frankenflour they’ve created by dumping vitamins and minerals back into it.
The trouble is the base they’re dumping it into is harmful to your health to begin with. Plus what they’re dumping into it are synthetic versions of the natural vitamins and minerals.
These poor substitutes aren’t nearly as bioavailable and don’t get absorbed properly by your body.
Your body treats starchy enriched flour like sugar
Whole grains, which are rich in fiber, are digested slowly by your body providing a steady source of ongoing energy. Enriched flours, on the other, hand are basically a refined carbohydrate and your body treats them in much the same way it treats pure sugar.
When you eat them your blood sugar spikes just as it would if you were eating something sugary. Your liver attempts to deal with the assault by metabolizing the blood sugar, but the excess gets stored as unhealthy fat.
Don’t fall for the enriched wheat flour fake out
Don’t be fooled by word “wheat” in enriched wheat flour. This stuff is nearly as bad as it’s bleached-out cousin.
Food manufactures know consumers like to think the products they’re buying and serving to their families are healthy. So to take advantage of this they mix a little whole wheat grain back into the fully refined junk.
This little trick allows them to plaster a “Made with whole grains!” label on the package. But it’s just slapping paint on a pig, because the flour is still essentially a refined nutrition-free carb. It’s just in a prettier package.
Enriched flours masquerade under a variety of different names, so you need to become a careful label reader.
Be on the lookout for any of these ingredients on food labels. If you spot one, put it back on the shelf:
- White flour
- All-purpose flour
- Enriched flour
- Enriched wheat flour
- Bleached flour
- Unbleached flour
- Bread flour
Healthier alternatives include true organic whole wheat flour, almond meal, oat flour, sprouted flours or millet flour. But remember, limiting your carbohydrates including breads and pastas is best.
Looking for some nearly “guilt-free” pasta ideas?
Still craving spaghetti, but looking for some healthier alternatives to the enriched flour pasta and sugary store bought sauce?
Here, certified holistic health coach Corrina Rachel shares some delicious, nearly guilt-free pasta ideas.