Monday, July 5, 2010

On Boosting Nutrients in Baked Goods and Cereals

Not too long ago I stopped adding wheat germ to my granola. For years I thoughtlessly tossed a few spoonfuls of wheat germ into my granola and banana bread recipes. We don't have any wheat sensitivities in our house, but I do feel that wheat-free foods, with their lower glycemic indexes, are more easily digested. I did a wee bit of research and was reminded about the process of refining flour, and just how terribly nutritionally vacant it is. Wheat germ is simply the embryo of the wheat kernal. It's a great source of fiber, folate, and essential fatty acids. And it's tossed out when turning whole wheat flour into white flour.

As a quick side bar to the difference between whole wheat and whole grain, while they sound like they should be the same thing, they aren't, necessarily. When choosing a sandwich bread, just look at the ingredients. If you see the word "Enriched" anywhere, you're not getting a whole grain product. You're getting ersatz nutrients, artificially added because the real essential nutrients were destroyed as a result of processing. Yet another sidebar: one thing I never discovered is the source of the vitamins used for enriching. Can their efficacy even be determined? One thing is for sure, and that is that "whole grain" has become such a buzzword that you can even purchase Whole Grain Pringles. Just read labels and use your noggin. Meaning, Yes, Virginia, Whole Grain Pringles are still bad for you.

I do keep whole grain flours in my pantry but traditional baking requires white flour. But there are opportunities for substitutions or boosting nutrients on your own. Take Raspberry Breakfast Bars. My wheat germ research was only barely digested when my youngest placed an order for breakfast bars. There is nothing remotely breakfasty about these sugary things. I have no idea how I get hoodwinked into making them in the morning. Anyway, I was totally disgusted by the flour and butter crust so I added a couple of spoonfuls of flax meal and wheat germ. It didn't counter the one-two punch of white flour and butter, but it went unnoticed and presumably did some good.

As for flax meal, that's probably its own post. I used to grind the seeds in an extra coffee grinder but now just buy the Bob's Red Mill stuff. It's a great source of EFAs and both soluble and insoluble fiber. As with wheat germ, store both in the fridge or freezer. Due to the oil content both go rancid pretty quickly, hence the advantage of grinding your own flax seeds.

I hope you all had a fine Fourth!

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