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Nutritional Content of Whole Grains vs. Their Refined Flours

Nutritional Content of Whole Grains vs. Their Refined Flours

It is a generally understood fact that several nutrients are removed from grains as they are refined into flours. I did a nutritional study from information compiled by the USDA and down loaded from the fatfree.com to see if this was so and found the following:


Refined Flour Made from Wheat:

  • The calorie content of refined white flour actually increases about 10% because of everything else that has been taken out.
  • An average of 66% of the B vitamins have been removed.
  • An average of 70% of all minerals have been removed.
  • 79% of the fiber has been removed.
  • An average of 19% of the protein has been removed.

Most refined flours made from wheat are fortified. Let's take a look at the nutritional content of fortified flours:

  • The B vitamins thiamin, riboflavin and niacin have been added to enriched flours giving an average of 230% of these vitamins over hard red wheat.
  • Most of the vitamins B6 and folacin has been removed in refined flour. These two nutrients are already fairly low in wheat and aren't generally fortified in enriched flour.
  • Of 9 minerals, Calcium, phosphorus, and iron are the only minerals that are fortified in refined flour. And of them, it is not a sure thing that even each of these minerals will be fortified. Check the label before you buy.
  • Mention should be made about chelation. The minerals that have been taken out are chelated, or wrapped in protein. In their chelated form, these minerals are easily absorbed by our bodies. As chelated minerals are expensive, I would expect the minerals that have been added back in are not chelated, and therefore have a very low ratio of absorbtion by our digestive systems.

Summary:
In the flour refinement process, except for the carbohydrates, most of the nutrients are removed. To give us confidence in their products, it is sold as fortified flour. Yet the refined flour we buy, except for the few nutrients they choose to fortify, has far fewer nutrients than the wheat it was born from. When we eat white flour, we are eating a nutrient poor food that happens to be fortified in some areas. It is questionable that the nutrients they do fortify are as natural or health promoting as the nutrients they took out of the wheat during the refinement process.


Refined Meals Made from Corn
Cornmeal fares much better during the refinement process than flour made from wheat. As it is less refined than wheat flour, most of the nutrients have been left in:

  • 20% of the protein has been removed.
  • 19% of the W3 and W6 essential fatty acids have been removed. Getting the essential fatty acids is one of the big reasons for eating corn.
  • 70-100% of the fiber has been removed.
  • 31% of the B vitamins have been removed. Depending on the cornmeal you buy, B vitamins may have also been fortified by an average of 180%.
  • The same is generally true for the minerals. On average 20% of the minerals that have been taken out, but a greater quantity of minerals have been added.

Summary:
Cornmeal isn't harmed significantly by the refinement process and is still a healthy food. Probably the biggest drawback to cornmeal, however, isn't what has been taken out, but rather what has been left in: the oleic acid (18:1) and linoleic acid (18:2/n6). These are fats, of which linoleic acid is especially good for us and is one of the two essential fatty acids we must get from our diets. Cornmeal contains by weight 2 and1/2% of these two fats. So how can eating an oil that is so good for us be bad? Nothing if the corn has been freshly ground. However, these fatty acids oxidize and go rancid rather quickly and are less than nutritious when eaten rancid. The rancidity also destroys the flavor of the meal. Grind your corn fresh and you will be surprised at how delicious it is compared to the cornmeal pulled from the grocery shelves.


Triticale and Buckwheat Flour:
Both of these flours have not been significantly harmed by the refinement process and retain 85-100% of the nutrients found in the seed they were made from.

Rye flour didn't manage so well.

  • 36% of the protein has been removed.
  • 40% of the B vitamins have been removed.
  • The Minerals: Rye flour did better here, only losing an average of 11%.

The Nutritional Charts
Below you will find abbreviated nutritional data for white flour, cornmeal, triticale, buckwheat and rye flour. In each table the nutritional content of the flour or meal has been compared to the whole grains they came from and are displayed as a percentage of the nutritional content of the whole grain. For example, the first row and column in the white flour table shows white unenriched flour contains 111.3 percent of the calories found in wheat. Be aware, the flour has been fortified with a nutrient any time you find a number well over 100 percent. If you find these tables interesting, all the numbers used to calculate this data can be downloaded in spreadsheet text and comma format. You should be able to import this csv file into any spreadsheet. (8K zip file)

Nutritional Percentage of Different Refined Wheat Flours Compared to Hard Red Winter Wheat

                          Flour       Flour                  Flour
                          White       White       Flour      White
                         All-Pur     All-Pur      White     All-Pur
                           Un-       SelfRis      Bread     Enriched
Nutrient                 Enriched    Enriched    Enriched   Bleached
--------------------------------------------------------------------
Food energy              111.3%       108.3%      110.4%     111.3%
Protein                   81.9%        78.4%       95.0%      81.9%
Total lipid (fat)         63.6%        63.0%      107.8%      63.6%
Carbohydrate, by diff.   107.2%       104.3%      101.9%     107.2%
Total saturated fat       57.6%        57.2%       90.7%      57.6%
Ttl monounsaturated fat   43.5%        43.0%       70.0%      43.5%
Ttl polyunsaturated fat   65.9%        65.4%      115.9%      65.9%
Cholesterol                       Not applicable2
Sodium                   100.0%      63500.0%     100.0%     100.0%
Total dietary fiber       21.4%        26.2%       19.0%      21.4%
Vitamin A                         Not applicable2
Ascorbic acid                     Not applicable2
Thiamin                   31.3%       176.0%      212.0%     205.0%
Riboflavin                34.8%       360.0%      445.2%     429.6%
Niacin                    22.9%       106.7%      138.3%     108.1%
Vitamin B6                14.7%        16.7%       12.3%      14.7%
Folacin                   68.4%       110.5%       76.3%      68.4%
Vitamin B12                       Not applicable2
Potassium                 29.5%        34.2%       27.5%      29.5%
Calcium                   51.7%      1165.5%       51.7%      51.7%
Phosphorus                37.5%       206.6%       33.7%      37.5%
Magnesium                 17.5%        15.1%       19.8%      17.5%
Iron                      36.7%       146.4%      138.2%     145.5%
Zinc                      26.4%        23.4%       32.1%      26.4%
Pantothenic acid          45.9%        45.9%       45.9%      45.9%
Copper                    33.2%        25.8%       41.9%      33.2%
Manganese                 17.1%         0.0%       19.9%      17.1%
Ash                       29.9%       275.8%       29.9%      29.9%
Water                     91.0%        80.8%      102.0%      91.0%
Food energy              111.3%       108.2%      110.4%     111.3%
Myristic acid (14:0)       0.0%         0.0%      100.0%       0.0%
Palmitic acid (16:0)      63.2%        94.0%       93.2%      63.2%
Stearic acid(18:0)        53.8%        53.8%       76.9%      53.8%
Palmitoleic acid(16:1)     0.0%      1075.0%       62.5%       0.0%
Oleic acid(18:1)          45.3%       202.1%       70.3%      45.3%
Linoleic acid (18:2/n6)   65.2%         3.7%      114.2%      65.2%
Linolenic acid(18:3/n3)   81.5%        81.5%      159.3%      81.5%
Histidine                 80.7%        77.2%       89.1%      80.7%
Isoleucine                77.9%        74.7%       96.9%      77.9%
Leucine                   83.1%        79.6%       97.0%      83.1%
Lysine                    68.1%        65.4%       69.0%      68.1%
Methionine                91.0%        87.1%      104.5%      91.0%
Cystine                   68.0%        65.2%       83.5%      68.0%
Methionine+Cystine        76.9%        73.6%       91.6%      76.9%
Phenylalanine             87.8%        84.1%       99.8%      87.8%
Tyrosine                  80.6%        77.0%       84.8%      80.6%
Phenylalanine+Tyrosine    85.0%        81.3%       93.9%      85.0%
Threonine                 77.0%        73.7%       87.7%      77.0%
Tryptophan                79.4%        75.6%       86.9%      79.4%
Valine                    74.6%        71.4%       90.3%      74.6%
Arginine                  70.1%        67.1%       69.9%      70.1%
Alanine                   73.8%        70.4%       81.3%      73.8%
Aspartic acid             68.0%        65.0%       75.6%      68.0%
Glutamic acid             87.0%        83.3%      105.0%      87.0%
Glycine                   70.3%        67.4%       77.7%      70.3%
Serine                    88.1%        84.3%       99.0%      88.1%

Nutritional Percentage of Cornmeals Compared to Yellow Dent Corn

                        Corn Flour   Cornmeal
                          Whole     Self rising
                          Grain    Bolted Plain
                         Yellow/     Enriched
Nutrient                 Yellow       Yellow
-----------------------------------------------
Food energy               98.9%        91.5%
Protein                   73.6%        87.9%
Total lipid (fat)         81.4%        71.7%
Carbohydrate, by diff    103.5%        94.6%
Total saturated fat       81.4%        71.7%
Ttl monounsaturated fat   81.4%        71.7%
Ttl polyunsaturated fat   81.3%        71.7%
Cholesterol                 Not applicable2
Sodium                    14.3%      3562.9%
Total dietary fiber       28.5%         0.0%
Vitamin A                100.0%       100.0%
Vitamin A                100.0%       100.0%
Ascorbic acid               Not applicable2
Thiamin                   63.9%       171.7%
Riboflavin                39.8%       199.0%
Niacin                    52.4%       145.9%
Vitamin B6                59.5%        86.8%
Folacin                  131.6%       300.0%
Vitamin B12                 Not applicable2
Potassium                109.8%        88.9%
Calcium                  100.0%      5157.1%
Phosphorus               129.5%       382.9%
Magnesium                 73.2%        67.7%
Iron                      87.8%       212.5%
Zinc                      78.3%        90.5%
Pantothenic acid         155.2%       100.2%
Copper                    73.2%        47.8%
Manganese                 94.8%       102.7%
Ash                      120.8%       454.2%
Water                    105.2%       121.4%
Food energy               99.0%        91.6%
Palmitic acid (16:0)      81.4%        71.7%
Stearic acid(18:0)        81.3%        72.0%
Palmitoleic acid(16:1)    75.0%        75.0%
Oleic acid(18:1)          81.4%        71.7%
Linoleic acid (18:2/n6)   81.4%        71.7%
Linolenic acid(18:3/n3)   81.5%        72.3%
Histidine                 73.5%        88.2%
Isoleucine                73.6%        87.8%
Leucine                   73.6%        87.9%
Lysine                    73.6%        87.9%
Methionine                73.6%        88.3%
Cystine                   73.5%        87.6%
Methionine+Cystine        73.6%        88.0%
Phenylalanine             73.4%        87.9%
Tyrosine                  73.6%        88.0%
Phenylalanine+Tyrosine    73.5%        87.9%
Threonine                 73.7%        87.9%
Tryptophan                73.1%        86.6%
Valine                    73.6%        87.8%
Arginine                  73.4%        87.9%
Alanine                   73.5%        87.9%
Aspartic acid             73.6%        87.9%
Glutamic acid             73.5%        87.9%
Glycine                   73.6%        87.8%
Serine                    73.6%        87.9%

Nutritional Percentage of Triticale, Buckwheat & Rye Flour Compared to the whole grains they came from.


                                       Buck-
                         Triticale     Wheat       Rye
Nutrient                   Flour       Flour       Flour
--------------------------------------------------------
Food energy               100.6%       97.7%      105.7%
Protein                   101.0%       95.2%       63.6%
Total lipid (fat)          86.6%       91.2%       70.8%
Carbohydrate, by diff.    101.4%       98.7%      111.1%
Total saturated fat        86.9%       91.4%       69.0%
Ttl monounsaturated fat    86.7%       91.3%       68.6%
Ttl polyunsaturated fat    87.0%       91.3%       68.8%
Cholesterol                       Not applicable2
Sodium                     40.0%     1100.0%       50.0%
Total dietary fiber       100.0%      100.0%      100.0%
Vitamin A                         Not applicable2
Alpha tocopherol           22.2%         ? %       61.7%
Ascorbic acid                     Not applicable2
Thiamin                    90.9%      412.9%       90.8%
Riboflavin                 98.5%       44.7%       45.4%
Niacin                    200.0%       87.6%       40.4%
Vitamin B6                292.0%      277.1%       91.2%
Folacin                   101.4%      180.0%       31.7%
Vitamin B12                       Not applicable2
Potassium                 140.4%      125.4%      128.8%
Calcium                    94.6%      227.8%       72.7%
Phosphorus                 89.7%       97.1%       55.3%
Magnesium                 117.7%      108.7%       62.0%
Iron                      100.8%      184.5%       79.4%
Zinc                       77.1%      130.0%       53.4%
Pantothenic acid          163.8%       35.7%       33.8%
Copper                    122.3%       46.8%       63.8%
Manganese                 130.4%      156.2%      203.7%
Ash                        83.0%      121.0%       74.3%
Water                      95.2%      114.4%       90.0%
Food energy               100.6%       97.7%      105.7%
Myristic acid (14:0)       88.9%       92.0%       66.7%
Palmitic acid (16:0)       86.9%       91.3%       69.0%
Stearic acid(18:0)         87.1%       91.5%       66.7%
Palmitoleic acid(16:1)     88.9%       91.3%       70.0%
Oleic acid(18:1)           86.5%       91.3%       68.6%
Gadoleic acid (20:1)       86.7%       91.7%       69.2%
Linoleic acid (18:2/n6)    86.9%       91.3%       68.8%
Linolenic acid(18:3/n3)    86.9%       91.0%       68.8%
Histidine                 101.0%       95.1%       56.9%
Isoleucine                101.0%       95.2%       65.9%
Leucine                   101.0%       95.2%       66.2%
Lysine                    101.1%       95.2%       53.7%
Methionine                101.0%       95.3%       56.5%
Cystine                   101.1%       95.2%       56.2%
Methionine+Cystine        101.0%       95.3%       56.3%
Phenylalanine             100.9%       95.2%       70.5%
Tyrosine                  101.0%       95.4%       54.6%
Phenylalanine+Tyrosine    101.0%       95.3%       65.2%
Threonine                 101.0%       95.3%       61.1%
Tryptophan                100.6%       95.3%       68.8%
Valine                    101.0%       95.3%       62.9%
Arginine                  101.0%       95.2%       52.3%
Alanine                   101.0%       95.2%       54.6%
Aspartic acid             101.1%       95.1%       54.9%
Glutamic acid             101.0%       95.2%       71.6%
Glycine                   101.1%       95.2%       51.1%
Serine                    101.0%       95.2%       75.0%

References:
1: All data was computed from USDA data downloaded from fatfree.com
2: Data not applicatable because the whole grains the flour came from contains none of this nutrient.