person mixing dough

In the aisles: Unbleached/Unbromated

Several websites go into details about bleach and bromate in flour and flour-based goods. It’s a subject that comes to mind every time my family’s tempted by the baking aisle at most grocers. When researching whole wheat and alternative grain options, a body of knowledge regarding bleach and potassium bromate joins in quickly. The perspective points share the same concerns: adding nutrient density with whole grains, curbing excess food processing and unhealthy additives that zap nutrition.

Nutrient density refers to nutrition gained as a measure of calories. We want nutrient-dense foods, and lacking nutritional choices can lead us to take in excess calories when seeking out that nutrition. Calories energize our bodies, but nutrition facts do not weigh every calorie equally. Calories can be empty, lacking nutrient density to cover our nutritional requirements.


Moreover, tons more recent research shows we are far from precisely recognizing wellness promoting mechanisms that phytonutrients and antioxidants present by multitudes in every intact food. This is while we already understand longer-running satiety and digestive benefits from whole foods. There’s macronutrients, micronutrients, and now phytonutrients, and insistence on whole foods has a lot to do with not processing away our intake of phytonutrients.

In terms of adulterated flour, Happily Unprocessed features an extensive and absorbable overview that segments issues introduced by some of our most typical flour processes.

Michael Pollan introduced the concept of food-like substances in his book Food Rules. The book also encourages us to limit ingredient counts in our packaged foods, and to accept that some of our ‘foods’ are not. Consequently, it is up to each of us to determine when a product pitched as food is not providing the nutrition we must require of our food intake.

Find another true vibes food-like critique by Integrative Mom, on the subject of adulterated flours.

And that’s not even the whole wheat

In terms of flours specifically, my household finds some foods easier to switch into whole wheat than others. Our children have been more open to whole wheat pasta for instance, and none have taken issue with whole wheat sliced bread. Baked goods, however, can get a lot of flack when inundated with whole grain tastes. It probably has as much to do with the smoother texture that presents in ready-made items using highly processed flours. And it never ceases to remind me: it’s never all or nothing.

In the case of baked goods, whole foods in the form of fresh fruits and/or vegetables are highly convenient additions. Oats, whole or ground, also easily factor in for added or alternate nutrition. Finally, baking gluten-free often involves blending flour varieties… these varieties have countless ways to incorporate with and soften whole wheat texture in any baking mix or dough.

Some strongly oppose nutrient fortification in consumer goods. Supplement levels in foods are never crazy and are rarely satisfactory, so it’s not something I feel like getting excited about. However, micronutrients are key and well understood features of our nutrition. There’s more on sellers’ flour fortification requirements here, from Bakerpedia.

When I read Unbleached in a flour title, I can check the label and expect no bromate additive, either. They are not interchangeable, so it does not go without checking, but the subjects come up often. It only makes sense to check for bleach and bromate additives in flour-based premixes as well. Unfortunately, unless I am in the baked goods section at Whole Foods, bleached flour is still usually a number one ingredient of anything that is already prepared for sale.