difference between wheat and whole wheat
February 9, 2006 12:42 PM   Subscribe

Lots of time when you read labels some of them say "whole wheat" or "wheat" or "white whole wheat." I read about it in a book about stone ground and steel ground, but was still confused. Can anyone explain the difference and also the difference in nutritional value?
posted by Andrea2880 to Food & Drink (7 answers total)
Wikipedia to the rescue!
posted by jellicle at 1:09 PM on February 9, 2006

FDA definitions here.
posted by Pollomacho at 1:22 PM on February 9, 2006

Best answer: White flour is flour that has been milled and the bran and the germ extracted, making a lighter fluffier product that rises higher in the oven and makes for less dense baked goods (on the whole).

Whole wheat flour is the flour that results from grinding the entire wheat berry, and subtracting nothing. IT has both the bran and the germ still as part of the flour. It has a distinctive flecked appearance, often a bitter taste, and makes for heavier baked products.

White whole wheat is a specific type of wheat, the flour is ground and the bran and germ are both left in the product. However, the bran on this particular type of wheat is lighter than bran on other types of wheat, making it seem more like white flour even though it has all the benefits of being a whole grain.

It's possible to get white flour that has the germ added back in, which is good from a health standpoint because of the beneficial protiens and fats in wheat germ. It has no more fiber than white flour, because it has no bran, which contains the fiber.

Whole wheat flour (of any sort) and white flour with the germ both spoil much more quickly than white flour because the oils in the germ can go rancid, resulting in a pronounced off flavor. It's best to keep ground whole grains in the fridge.

Hope this helps.
posted by OmieWise at 1:25 PM on February 9, 2006

My nutritionist told me that wheat is just a sneaky way of saying white flour, since all (wheat) flour is made from wheat. However, by saying wheat, it sounds healthier than white flour or flour, and so people are more likely to buy it. Another trick is to add molasses or something else to darken the product so it looks more like whole wheat. You'll find a lot of "artisan" breads list both "wheat flour" and molasses.

White whole wheat is an albino variety of regular whole wheat. It's part of a thrust to get North Americans to eat more whole grains. You may have seen Wonder Bread ads for their new white whole wheat bread.
posted by acoutu at 1:25 PM on February 9, 2006

Found a great source which has extensive detail (and references) about some of the questions you asked, including nutritional value & grinding processes. Stone-ground keeps a lot more nutrients (including B and E vitamins) than steel-ground, due to less heat and a rougher texture. Also has some slightly disturbing references to studies about the effects of commercial white vs. whole wheat breads.
posted by artifarce at 1:28 PM on February 9, 2006

If you are buying whole wheat bread to avoid diabetes (the extra fiber slows down the absorption of the sugar thus preventing stress on the pancreas), buy bread labeled "100% Whole Wheat". Period. Everything else might as well be Wonderbread, including pumpernickel and other black breads.
posted by gilgul at 2:19 PM on February 9, 2006

You can also translate this into "what sorts of flour can I buy?" and if you really want to get technical, the King Arthur folks have some flour analysis documents online as well, for professional bakers. Whole wheat flour and white flour cook up differently in baked goods, though in a pinch they're mostly interchangeable. Whole wheat is higher in fiber and protein. Here is a chart for more detailed comparison. Note: I don't work at King Arthur, I just bake a lot and they're up the street from here.
posted by jessamyn at 7:08 PM on February 9, 2006

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