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Wheat? White? Whole Wheat? Whole white? Whole what??

Whole wheat, as we know it in everyday foods like breads and pasta is actually whole red wheat. What we know as white bread is made from refined whole red wheat. But there’s another kind of wheat that’s sneaked into our food system and if you’re an aware and savvy shopper, you may have noticed it. It’s that ‘whole white’ bread. You might even have thought to yourself ‘what an absurd claim to make! Whole white bread! You can’t get me, marketing ploy!’ I hate to break it, but they’re telling the truth.

Let me back up. Several varieties of wheat are grown for flour in this country, they are:

  1. Hard red wheat (2 varieties exist: spring and winter) - used for bread flour
  2. Soft red wheat- used to make flour for cakes, cookies, and crackers
  3. Hard white wheat – used to make noodles, crackers, cereals, and white crusted breads
  4. Soft white wheat – used to make whole wheat pastry flour

So which wheat is white (bread)? It stumps me very time.

  • Red wheat is used to make whole wheat bread
  • Red wheat is used to make white bread (it’s refined to omit the bran and germ portions)
  • White wheat is used with its bran and germ intact to make ‘whole white wheat’

So, white can be a whole grain but that doesn’t mean you’re getting the same nutritional benefits. According to the latest research, there is no nutritional difference but I don’t buy that. Here’s why: the obvious difference in these types of wheat is the color (aka tannins). Tannins have health boosting properties (hence why red wine packs a greater nutritional punch than white). I think it’s more likely that we just don’t have the technology to detect the subtle nuances between red and white wheat yet, but either way, any nutritional difference is probably negligible.

Now that you know the types of wheat and how they’re used, let’s get one thing straight. When you eat bread or pasta (even whole wheat) you are eating a processed food. If you were to eat the grain in its purest, unprocessed state, you’d be feasting on wheat berries. But that’s another blog post entirely.

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