Earlier this year I stopped in the baking aisle at the supermarket to grab some cake flour and came across High-Fibre white flour. I usually try and use a large proportion of wholemeal flour in my baking due to the numerous health benefits of dietary fibre (including bowel and cardiovascular health). I was intrigued with the idea of achieving the same results as white flour while getting the benefits of added fibre. So I bought some and I have to say the results for baking were excellent. I did a small experiment myself and found that I couldn’t tell the difference between baked donuts made with the High-Fibre and regular white flour.
The question of course is: Just how is fibre added to white flour and are there really the same health benefits as the fibre we find in wholemeal flour?
High-Fibre white flour has a kind of resistant starch added to it which is made from maize. Starch is basically a string of sugar molecules linked together and gives the characteristic texture and flavour we find in carbohydrates such as rice, potato and bread. Starch is usually digested and absorbed in the stomach and small intestine. Resistant starch on the other hand has a slightly different chemical structure which results in it avoiding digestion in the stomach and small intestine. Resistant starch reaches the bowel where it can be fermented by the bacteria that reside there. Fermentation of resistant starch in the bowel produces chemicals called short chain fatty acids which are good for bowel health. One of these short chain fatty acids, called butyrate, has been shown to have anti-cancer properties (1).
Other sources of resistant starch in the diet include Under-ripe bananas; cooked potato, rice and pasta that have been allowed to cool; and legumes.
The particular brand of flour I am talking about claims to have as much dietary fibre as their wholemeal flour. Gram for gram this is probably accurate, but the types of fibre are different and will have different actions in the body. The wholemeal flour, while it may contain some resistant starches, will mostly derive its fibre from a type of indigestible structural plant components called non-starch polysaccharides, such as cellulose from the bran layer of the wheat, and lignin. These type of dietary fibres are not fermented as readily in the bowel and exert their health effects mostly through providing bulk to the diet and increasing stool size and speeding stool passage through the intestine. Wholemeal flour is made by grinding the whole wheat berry (which includes the bran which contains fibre, minerals and protein, the germ (embryo of new plant) which includes oils and proteins and the endosperm which contains the starch). White flour is made from the starch in the endosperm. So wholemeal flour naturally contains more nutrients than white flour, however most white flours are now fortified (particularly with B vitamins such as niacin, thiamin and folate) usually lost during milling.
So while both of these types of flour have health benefits derived from the fibre found within them I have decided to use a mixture of both as variety seems to be the most important factor in a healthy diet. I also like the flavour and texture of wholemeal flour in many products. It should also be pointed out that it is difficult to separate the health benefits of fibre from other components of the foods it is typically derived from (fruit, vegetables, wholegrains) and a diet high in foods from these groups is likely to have additional health benefits to isolating a component such as fibre and adding to foods.
On balance though I think that High-Fibre white flour has a health advantage over regular white flour and since it doesn’t seem to change the quality of the finished product I’m going to continue to use it in my baking.
Baked Doughnut Recipe (adapted from Everyday Cooking by Allan Campion and Michelle Curtis)
250g High-fibre white flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground nutmeg
1/3 cup olive oil
150g caster sugar
¾ cup milk of choice
I cup chocolate buds (for icing)
Rainbow sprinkles (for icing)
Preheat oven to 180°C
Grease wells of doughnut pan
Sift dry ingredients into large bowl. Mix wet ingredients together in separate bowl. Add wet ingredients to dry and stir until combined. Half fill the wells of the doughnut pan. I like to pipe the batter in, but some people prefer to spoon it in. It’s one of those things that you have to try for yourself and find the most efficient (least messy and frustrating) way.
Bake in preheated oven for about 20 mins or until risen and golden brown.
Ice by dipping in melted chocolate and topping with rainbow sprinkles or hundreds-and-thousands.
1. Bird AR, Conlon MA, Christophersen CT, Topping DL. Resistant starch, large bowel fermentation and a broader perspective of prebiotics and probiotics. Beneficial microbes. 2010 Nov;1(4):423-31. PubMed PMID: 21831780.