Wholesomeness at its best – whole wheat flour

by Sanjeev Kapoor

At our home white bread is a taboo. We eat only brown bread. And why is it called brown bread. Because it is made with whole wheat flour and not refined flour. Until a few years ago one brown bread was not easily available. I remember whenever I used to ask at the general stores at the corner of our road for brown bead, the shopkeeper used to stare at me as if I was talking in Greek. But fortunately now it is available at almost all the stores that sell baked products. In fact these days you even get whole wheat burger buns and also whole wheat pavs to enjoy with pav bhaji. So now pav bhaji can be enjoyed without any guilt because everything about this combination is healthy and wholesome.

As is evident from the name, whole wheat flour is made by grinding whole wheat grains to a fine powder. But why is it called whole wheat? It is so called because all of the grain, that is bran, germ and endosperm, is used and nothing is lost in process of grinding it. And because of this the flour has a textured, brownish appearance.

When did whole wheat originate
When you go deep into history you will find that people have been eating whole grains for thousands of years. Well when I say whole grains, it does not indicate only wheat grains but also seven more grains and these eight grains are called ‘founder crops.’ And they are among the earliest to be cultivated by human kind. These may have been grown as far back as 9000 BC.

Eat whole grains to weigh less
According to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, people who eat whole grains tend to weigh less than those who eat refined wheat. Not only that, people who regularly consume dietary fibre available from whole grains were less likely to gain weight.

Health benefits
Whole wheat flour contains vitamins, minerals and proteins and is a lot more nutritious than refined flour. Quite a few micronutrients that are lost during processing may later be added to the refined flour, it still does not contain the macronutrients like fibre and proteins.

Besides whole wheat flour is rich in calcium, iron and other minerals like selenium. Selenium helps in proper cellular function throughout the body and helps improve the immune system. Among the other nutrients the B vitamins (B-1, B-3 and B-5), which collectively support the metabolism to help the body derive energy from the food. Whole wheat flour is also a good source of phosphorus. This essential mineral makes up a primary component of DNA, cell membranes, and bone tissue.

Whole wheat substantially lowers Type 2 diabetes risk. They also help prevent gallstones. Wheat bran is a popular laxative. A third of a cup per day is all that is needed to ensure clear bowel movement. Research studies also support this. A fibre-rich diet is known to ease the symptoms of diverticular disease which causes pain, nausea, flatulence, distension, constipation, etc. Diverticular disease is a condition that often causes inflammation and lower abdominal pains in which chronic constipation and excessive straining results in a sac or pouch in the wall of the colon. This condition is typically treated with dietary roughage such as wheat bran, fruit and vegetable fibre, and plenty of fluids.

Culinary uses
Whole wheat flour is mostly used in the making of various Indian breads like roti, phulka, parantha and puri. It is also used in baked goods though it may not always be the main ingredient. This is because it adds a certain heaviness which prevents the dough from rising as high as the refined flour does. So it is often mixed with refined flour.

But this can be remedied if sufficient water is added to the dough and it is kneaded for a longer period of time to develop adequate gluten. Also the dough if allowed to rise twice before shaping the resultant baked product can be light as required. Add fats like butter or oil, and milk products like milk by itself or buttermilk or yogurt can also greatly assist the dough in rising.

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MasterChef Sanjeev Kapoor

Chef Sanjeev Kapoor is the most celebrated face of Indian cuisine. He is Chef extraordinaire, runs a successful TV Channel FoodFood, hosted Khana Khazana cookery show on television for more than 17 years, author of 150+ best selling cookbooks, restaurateur and winner of several culinary awards. He is living his dream of making Indian cuisine the number one in the world and empowering women through power of cooking to become self sufficient. His recipe portal www.sanjeevkapoor.com is a complete cookery manual with a compendium of more than 10,000 tried & tested recipes, videos, articles, tips & trivia and a wealth of information on the art and craft of cooking in both English and Hindi.