Sure, grinding your own grain can save money on your grocery bill; quality whole grains are usually inexpensive, especially when purchased in bulk. And yes, it’s true, breads made with freshly ground flour often taste better; they have a wonderful, nutty flavor, far superior to the taste of store bought breads.
Most important, though, is that freshly-ground grains are full of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and beneficial enzymes that are paramount to your health, especially if you are also “soaking” the grains overnight, like quality bakers and traditional cultures have practiced for many years. Freshly ground grains give you the full nutritional benefit of the entire kernel of wheat: endosperm, germ, and bran.
Let’s take a brief look at how commercial grain is milled today. Typically, large rollers crush the grain, and it is then separated or sifted into different areas depending on various factors, such as the fineness of the flour. The bran and the germ are totally removed in this process, yet they hold most of the nutrients. Often they are passed on to use as feed for livestock. What’s left (mostly starch and moisture, with a bit of protein) is used for white flour.
It’s staggering when you consider that 95% of the flour sold in the US is white, without the beneficial bran or germ, and has also been bleached. Most commonly, it has been bleached with benzoyl peroxide, the same chemical used to treat acne. Did you know that it’s explosive in large quantities?
The whole wheat flour that you can purchase in the store is a slight improvement, but not by much. The bran is added back in, but the germ is still left out, because it is oily and tends to go rancid quickly. The germ, though, is loaded with lots of powerful nutrients, like vitamins B and E, protein, and minerals.
Store-bought breads just add insult to injury. Not only do manufacturers use inferior flours, but chemicals such as propionic acid, sodium propionate, calcium propionate, and potassium propionate are often found in these breads. In Germany, these preservatives have been banned for over twenty years due to research conducted that showed a correlation betweens rats fed these preservatives and the development of tumors.
Perhaps the most convincing research can be found in the paper “Nutritional Characteristics of Organic, Freshly Stone Ground, Sourdough & Conventional Breads,” published by the Ecological Agriculture Projects team at McGill University in Quebec. This is their finding that stood out to me the most:
“The nutritional importance of using fresh stone-ground grains for bread-making was revealed in the results of feeding studies in Germany (Bernasek, 1970). Rats were fed diets consisting of 50% flour or bread. Group 1 consumed fresh stone-ground flour. Group 2 was fed bread made with this flour. Group 3 consumed the same flour as group 1 but after 15 days of storage. Group 4 was fed bread made with the flour fed to group 3. A fifth group consumed white flour. After four generations, only the rats fed fresh stone-ground flour and those fed the bread made with it maintained their fertility. The rats in groups 3 to 5 had become infertile. Four generations for rats is believed to be equivalent to one hundred years in humans.”
In light of this research, and the fact that as many as 1 in 6 couples now struggle with some level of infertility, reconsidering our daily food choices is not only important, but perhaps even critical.
Convinced, but worried that grain mills are too expensive? Pray that God opens a door for you to find an inexpensive mill to get started. I found my current Messerschmidt mill on Craigslist a couple of years ago for only $60, and it had only been used a couple of times. I’ve also seen some older, manual mills at thrift stores. Once we knew that grinding grain was a practice we would continue, we began budgeting for a new, higher quality mill. We’ve been saving for the once-in-a-lifetime purchase of a Tribest Grain Mill, and we hope to reach that goal this summer.
I think I’ll let the white flour sit on the supermarket shelf and keep on grinding my own fresh flours for our family. How about you?
[UPDATE AUGUST 2010: In June we purchased our new mill! It is the German version of the Wolfgang Tribest Mill I linked to in the post above, and it is called the KoMo Fidibus Classic Mill. You can find my review of the KoMo Mill here.]