Avoiding bleach in our homes
There are so many little processes that are used in industry that we don’t ever know about. There are also lots of processes that we do know about, but we just don’t give it a second thought. One problem with discussing these things is that it can be too much for the mind to handle. This is why the saying ‘ignorance is bliss’ exists. There is some peace in just trusting that all is fine and not being ruffled by it if it isn’t.
Let’s think of the next bit of information as just that – information. It is not meant to scare you or bully into buying something that isn’t dangerous. It is just information that can be calmly used to navigate the world around you. You were taught to look both ways before crossing the street to keep you safe, not to feel like someone was looking to run you down. You’ve got this.
So, in an informative, thought provoking way, did you know that flour is often bleached? Probably, right? This isn’t a hidden secret. You can buy unbleached flour that is clearly labeled as such. If you can buy unbleached flour it does suggest that other flour is bleached.
Treating ground wheat with chlorine is not a new practice. It began in the early 1900’s as a way to speed up the aging process of milled wheat. Once grains are milled into flour, the flour used to be stored for a number of weeks to allow the proteins to oxidize which improved the performance of the flour in baked goods.
Foods that are produced on a mass scale often have to undergo some kind of short cut. The freshly milled flour is too plentiful to be stored, so it is treated with various forms of chlorine and other oxidative gases. This treatment oxidizes the flour in hours rather than weeks.
If you are a serious baker you may agree that bleached flour produces a ‘tighter’ product with a desirable texture.
We have questions about this process. Are the workers in these facilities really protected from the daily spread of these gases? What residue is left on my flour when I eat a cookie? What does the mill emit into the atmosphere and the surrounding soil and water from this process?
We don’t know the answers to all of these questions. We do know however that when the protein in wheat combines with the chlorine, a byproduct called alloxan is produced. Alloxan is a substance that is used in the laboratory on mice and rats to cause the formation of diabetes (by destroying beta cells in the pancreas) so that they can then study different diabetes treatments.
There is not much research into the amount of alloxan residue that remains in the flour and the industry deems this as something that is so low that there is nothing to consider about it. It doesn’t seem that anyone knows for sure and it doesn’t seem that anyone is trying to find out.
If you are looking to enjoy foods that haven’t been through the gas chamber, there are options. There are small batch flours that have been grown, milled and aged the old fashioned way. Many of these flours are also grown right here in Alberta. You can also buy flour labeled as unbleached and buy bread made in local bakeries in the area that is made using artisan ingredients and processes. In fact, if you have a high-powered blender or small mill appliance of your own, you can buy whole, organic wheat berries and mill them yourself if you are so inclined.
Another consideration is to relish in the enjoyment of whole foods. Flour is quite a refined food even in the best growing and processing conditions and could take a back seat to whole foods like vegetables and fruits that can often be enjoyed with very little tampering.
In addition, if the body is well cared for with lots of clear water, a diet rich in vegetables and fruit, stress that is managed and sleep that is prioritized, it is actually well functioning as a filter system. This is great news for anyone that thinks about the ‘this and that’ that contaminates our air and food. The body is meant to separate the bad and remove it. So, if you follow the 80/20 rule when it comes to clean living, most of us should be okay. If you have a medical condition that makes you more susceptible to the contaminants around you, you might need to be more cautious.
Amaranth is proud to resell a variety of local bread products made using traditional techniques as well as truly sprouted varieties using no flour at all (think Manna bread). Raw ingredients of the unbleached kind are also readily available. Bleaching is also regular practice when it comes to coffee filters, paper towels, toilet paper and diapers. There are options available to you for many products!