White flour has been getting a bad press from the health conscious and uber-fit people of the world for a while now. Yet the staple of the Mediterranean diet – plentiful bowls of white flour pasta – seems at odds with this belief. So should you steer clear of white bread and white pasta, or is it not as bad as it's thought to be?
If you’ve ever tried to diet your way to weight loss or worked on a healthier you, cutting out pasta or white flour was probably one of the first things you were told to do. Surprisingly, new research might prove that old wisdom completely wrong. Is white flour really not as bad as you might think? Here’s the lowdown on white flour and whether or not it is good for you.
White Flour And The Mediterranean Diet
One of the major reasons most people cut back on their white flour intake is due to the popularity of low-carb diets and because of the strong case for whole-grain foods. The Mediterranean has long been lauded for how it ticks all the boxes of eating right – with fresh ingredients and plenty of fruits, vegetables, and heart-healthy foods like fish and olive oil. This in turn translates to protection from or lowered risk of cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, among other things.1 A fact that was often skimmed over, however, was that the diet in Mediterranean doesn’t do away with carbohydrates. In fact, they are a fundamental component of any meal – whether it is in the rice of a risotto or the white flour in fresh baked breads or pasta. Which is where the latest study comes in.
Pasta And Your BMI: The New Reality
Until recently, it was assumed that pasta typically made from white flour would make you fat, and that one of the most effective ways to diet was to cut out any kind of refined products, including white flour, from your dietary vocabulary. A breakthrough study from Italy has now turned some of that theory on its head, at least in part.
The researchers studied the link between body mass index (BMI), as well as waist-to-hip ratio (another vital fitness indicator), and pasta consumption for a group of over 14,000 participants over 35 years of age. Two separate populations from the Mediterranean were studied and findings revealed that there was actually a negative link between pasta consumption and both general obesity and BMI. In addition, because the intake of pasta was positively linked with the consumption of healthy foods like fresh tomatoes, onions, garlic, and olive oil, it upped the case for pasta and, by extension, for white flour.2
Why The Bad Press For White Flour?
It isn’t just what’s in white flour that’s the problem, but what’s not. White flour is usually refined so the inner germ layer and the outer bran are stripped away. In the process, much of the fiber is lost as are essential nutrients like vitamins and minerals, as well as phytochemicals.3
In addition, the bleaching process used to give white flour its distinctive white color is done using chemicals. While these may not be harmful or dangerous, they are still artificial ingredients that can be easily avoided. Some studies also suggest that by-products of the bleaching process can be harmful. For instance, the alloxan produced when chlorine gas is used to whiten flour created free radicals in the body and triggered insulin-dependent diabetes in animal test subjects.4
Who Should Avoid White Flour?
While healthy individuals can indulge in their white flour foods once in a way without fear of health problems, some types of people are better off avoiding these. If you have a problem with your weight, have metabolic syndrome, or run the risk of developing diabetes, you should choose whole-grain flours over refined white flour. Not doing this can increase your chances of developing any or all these problems.5
References [ + ]
|1.||↑||Trichopoulou, Antonia, Miguel A. Martínez-González, Tammy YN Tong, Nita G. Forouhi, Shweta Khandelwal, Dorairaj Prabhakaran, Dariush Mozaffarian, and Michel de Lorgeril. “Definitions and potential health benefits of the Mediterranean diet: views from experts around the world.” BMC medicine 12, no. 1 (2014): 1.|
|2.||↑||Pounis, G., A. Di Castelnuovo, S. Costanzo, M. Persichillo, M. Bonaccio, A. Bonanni, C. Cerletti, M. B. Donati, G. de Gaetano, and L. Iacoviello. “Association of pasta consumption with body mass index and waist-to-hip ratio: results from Moli-sani and INHES studies.” Nutrition & Diabetes 6, no. 7 (2016): e218.|
|3.||↑||Okarter, Neal, and Rui Hai Liu. “Health benefits of whole grain phytochemicals.” Critical reviews in food science and nutrition 50, no. 3 (2010): 193-208.|
|4.||↑||Lageson, Carly. “Dangerous Food: A Look at Three Toxic Substances That Might Be in Your Food.”|
|5.||↑||Amin, Faridah, and Anwar H. Gilani. “Fiber-free white flour with fructose offers a better model of metabolic syndrome.” Lipids in health and disease 12, no. 1 (2013): 1.|