March 16, 2012

Whole Wheat vs Whole Grain

The grain, the whole grain, and nothin' but the grain

When does whole not mean whole? When it comes to whole wheat flour and bread products in Canada. In spite of whole meaning "all of; entire", flour or bread labeled 'whole wheat' in this country does not include the whole grain. 

Even if it says "100% Whole Wheat".

I have had suspicions about the whole wheat flour that I buy. I always thought it looked more like white flour with a bit of germ and bran added to it - it just didn't seem as chunky as it should be if it were whole grain.

My suspicions were confirmed when I checked the Health Canada website:
"In Canada, when wheat is milled to make flour, the parts of the grain are usually separated and then are recombined to make specific types of flour, such as whole wheat, whole grain, white cake and pastry flour, and all purpose white flour. If all parts of the kernel are used in the same relative proportions as they exist in the original kernel, then the flour is considered whole grain.

Under the Food and Drug Regulations, up to 5% of the kernel can be removed to help reduce rancidity and prolong the shelf life of whole wheat flour. The portion of the kernel that is removed for this purpose contains much of the germ and some of the bran. If this portion of the kernel has been removed, the flour would no longer be considered whole grain."
A wheat berry is the whole de-hulled kernel, and includes the bran, endosperm, and germ - all of which contain valuable nutrients (especially fibre and protein). 

That is what I want in my whole wheat flour, and that is what should be in products labeled whole wheat. If it isn't, it should be called something else, maybe "almost whole" wheat, or "whole-ish wheat".

Eating whole grains has been associated with positive health effects and everything should be done to help people increase the amount of whole grains in their diet. Sales of whole wheat flour and whole wheat bread products has increased dramatiacally in recent years.

Canada's current labeling regulations are potentially confusing to many consumers that are switching from less healthy white, refined flour and breads to what they think is best for them.

This nutritional loophole is not in the best interests of our health, but it does protect industry. It allows millers to remove most of the germ, the part that goes rancid with time. This extends the shelf life making it easier to ship, store, and sell flour and other products.

What I want is flour that contains ALL of the wheat berry, which is what I thought whole wheat flour was. What I want is a whole wheat flour that extends MY shelf life.

Look for whole grain on labels in Canada. It actually does mean the whole grain - all of it. The entire thing.

Anything else will be white flour with a bit of the good stuff added back in... but not too much, and definitely not all of it.


  1. Not sure in Canada, but here in the states I just found that I can actually buy whole wheat in 25 lb bags at Walmarts. I simply crack the wheat in a blender.

    You may be able to find whole wheat there in some store or a feed store but at a feed store you must tell them it is for human consumption to get "clean" wheat. Not that hard to turn it into flour in a good blender or hand mill. At least then you really know it is whole wheat!

    1. Those are some excellent suggestions, and we are planning to do this. The wheat berries last a long time so you don't have to worry about flour going rancid. Just grind some when you need it.

      I am surprised that Walmart sells wheat berries - that is handy. Thanks for the tip.


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