Health Check: Lighten Your Loaf

Back in the hippie days, whole wheat bread was not for the frivolous. Dense, dark and dry, it was more of a political statement than something too many people really wanted to eat - at least, not without about half a stick of butter melted on it. At least not me. But something's happened to whole wheat in the last few years. It's lighter on the palate, lighter in color and all together a whole lot easier to like.

In some cases this is because supposedly healthy loaves are falsely advertised as containing "wheat flours" when they are, in fact, refined and bleached, and then loaded up with high-fructose corn syrup and mysterious compounds. Other products - like so-called whole wheat bagels and pasta - contain a mix of refined and unrefined flours, allowing consumers to take baby steps toward a healthier diet. But still others contain a little-known whole grain called white wheat.

Lighter in color and texture than your mother's whole wheat, but still containing comparable nutrients, white wheat is most definitely a real, whole grain. But since it is missing the darker bran found in traditional strains of wheat, its flavor is milder and often calls for less sweetening than darker wheat. It's also much kinder to taste buds used to refined flour.

White wheat has been popular in the rest of the world for many decades (accounting for most of the flour grown in Australia), but it currently accounts for only about 15 percent of the U.S. market. Look for white wheat products made by King Arthur, Farmer Direct Foods and Hodgson Mill. For more information about white wheat, go to

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- Larissa Phillips