Bread has gotten a bad rap in recent years, but a new trend in baking is trying to change that. A growing number of bakers are using fresh-milled flour—i.e. flour that they’ve ground themselves or gotten from a local mill—in their breads, all in the name of health.
According to the Wall Street Journal, bread made from freshly milled flour not only tastes better, it has more vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants than bread made from “regular” flour. In fact, they say it’s better for you than bread made from your standard whole wheat flour, which is typically made by mixing white flour with small amounts of wheat bran.
Is this for real? Experts say yes.
“Fresh-milled whole grain flour provides the goodness of all the parts of the grain, so it contains superior levels of fiber, magnesium, selenium, vitamin E, and phytonutrients,” registered dietitian nutritionist Karen Ansel, coauthor of The Calendar Diet: A Month by Month Guide to Losing Weight, tells SELF. “Any bread made completely from whole grain fresh milled flour is going to give you the benefits of these nutrients.”
Here’s why: Freshly milled whole grain flour grinds up the wheat kernel, which contains the bran (the outer layer packed with fiber), the endosperm (the starchy middle layer), and the germ (the inner layer). White flour, on the other hand, is made just by grinding just the endosperm so that it’s shelf-stable.
“These breads will likely contain more fiber and nutrients that commercial white bread,” says New York City registered dietitian Jessica Cording. “However, it’s possible that because there is some slight variability between nutrient profiles between different grains, the amount may not be as consistent.”
And, while bread made from freshly milled flour is extremely rich in nutrients, Ansel says it doesn’t necessarily surpass the nutrition of 100 percent whole wheat bread. “As long as the bread you’re buying lists ‘100 percent whole wheat flour’ as the first ingredient, it’s loaded with nutrition and is an equally good choice,” she says.
There is a downside of fresh-milled flour, though: It starts to lose its flavor immediately after milling, and is supposed to be used within a week. Breads made from the flour have a very short shelf life, so you’d need to buy it fresh regularly or even every day. “For many people, that’s not practical,” Ansel points out.
Bread made from freshly milled flour comes out on top, nutritionally speaking, when compared to white bread, but not on all fronts. “It does contain less folate, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, and iron because these nutrients are added to white flour to prevent nutritional deficiencies,” Ansel says. “A little known fact is that one reason the Dietary Guidelines recommend making half of our grains whole is that if Americans were to cut out all enriched white flour we wouldn’t be able to meet our folate needs.”
But bread made from freshly milled flour can fill you up more because of its hearty grains, registered dietitian nutritionist Beth Warren, founder of Beth Warren Nutrition and author of Living a Real Life With Real Food, tells SELF. And, she points out, it freezes, so you can slice up a loaf, set aside what you want to eat for the next day, and pop the rest in the freezer until you’re ready to use it.
Overall, experts say bread made from fresh-milled flour is a good option if you can get it. But, Ansel says, “if store-bought whole wheat is easier, don’t sweat it.”
—By Korin Miller