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What Is Enriched Flour?

Niki Acker
By
Updated May 16, 2024
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Enriched flour is white flour with added nutrients intended to compensate for the loss of natural nutrients that occurs during processing. Each pound (0.45 kg) of flour must contain the following nutrients in order to be considered enriched according to the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guidelines: 2.9 milligrams of thiamine, 24 milligrams of niacin, 0.7 milligrams of folic acid, 1.8 milligrams of riboflavin, and 20 milligrams of iron. Except for iron, all of these nutrients are B vitamins.

Some enriched flours also contain 960 milligrams or more of calcium per pound. Though some people refer to enriched flour as fortified flour, that term is not correct, because fortified implies the addition of nutrients that never existed in the food.

White flour first became popular during the medieval period in Europe, when it was perceived as cleaner and healthier than untreated flour. This may have been because the processing necessary to make white flour kills fungus, though people at the time would not have been aware of this feature. White flour remains more popular than other types of flour in the Western world, especially for baking. However, compared to darker flours, white flour lacks many essential nutrients. Enriched flour combines the flavor and texture of white flour with the nutrients found naturally in untreated flour.

Chemist Benjamin R. Jacobs was the first to discover the nutritional deficiencies of white flour and to suggest ways to correct the problem in the 1920s. During World War II, Jacobs' methods were widely promoted in Great Britain and the United States. Enriched flour offered a way to ensure that citizens of all social classes were eating nutritious diets despite rationing. In 1942, the United States Army announced that it would only use enriched flour, making the product immensely popular among United States civilians who wished to show their support of the troops. Today, enriched flour remains the most popular type of flour in the United States.

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Niki Acker
By Niki Acker , Writer
"In addition to her role as a DelightedCooking editor, Niki Foster is passionate about educating herself on a wide range of interesting and unusual topics to gather ideas for her own articles. A graduate of UCLA with a double major in Linguistics and Anthropology, Niki's diverse academic background and curiosity make her well-suited to create engaging content for WiseGeekreaders. "

Discussion Comments

By anon356143 — On Nov 22, 2013

The vitamins added to enriched white flour are only added to make it nutritionally equivalent to those that are present in whole grain flour. It does not have more vitamins than whole wheat flour and is also missing all the fiber found in whole wheat. There is a government mandate that it has to be added to all bleached white flour in the US. It is added at the mill.

It's pretty easy to avoid if you stay away from processed food. You can avoid it completely by buying whole wheat products and organic products. If my kids are dying for a white flour cookie for a change, I buy from imported food store. Gluten free is the way to go when in doubt, like on an airplane or restaurant. It’s easy these days.

To the poster who has a reaction when eating "enriched" products, or anyone else reading this who has digestive or allergic-type reactions from these products, you are fortunate that you have noticed the correlation between your symptoms and the enriched products. You most likely have a common genetic mutation called MTHFR that interferes with your ability to process the folic acid into folate. It doesn't manifest the same symptoms in everyone. My daughter and I get giant hives and facial swelling from it if we eat "enriched", but whole wheat and any organic product is fine. Also many imported products are fine. Please visit the website for detailed info on what to avoid and what can help symptoms. You likely have other symptoms that you didn't even know were related to this.

When I stopped eating it, not only did I stop having the "allergic" reactions (not really an allergy, technically), but my arthritis disappeared and my cracked heels and peeling cuticles I’d suffered with for decades immediately healed.

To the poster in India: hand milling is fine! It doesn't destroy nutrients. The problem is only with the modern, high-speed, high heat process used to mill tons of grain at a time. And the chlorine gas bleaching process kills any vitamins that remain. There was never a need to add vitamins before the industrial revolution.

Oh, and white flour doesn't make you gain weight any more than any other flour, but it is what is termed "empty calories", so you may still want to eat again soon as your body isn't satisfied with the food value. In addition, those who eat a lot if white flour may also eat a lot of processed foods, sugar, and fat. It’s part of a generally unhealthy lifestyle that makes you gain the weight.

By anon327827 — On Mar 31, 2013

I am wanting to know if e920 is added to the flour at the mill or is added by the baker when making the bread items?

By anon291581 — On Sep 15, 2012

@anon40754: I believe what they are told to avoid is refined flours and go for whole grains as for example, whole wheat, instead. I tried to buy plain unenriched unbleached white wheat flour and could not find any in town! I don't want ingredients in my food I didn't add, so that's why I didn't want the enriched kind.

By stevejm — On Feb 25, 2011

The truth is, so many of the good things that were originally in it have been stripped out through refinement that they had to add a little something back in. Now here’s the really scary part. What they are adding back into your flour is actually toxic!

Iron is one of the “nutrients” added back into enriched flour, except that the type of iron that is added in is not really a nutrient at all, but is considered a metallic iron. Metallic iron is obviously not available for use by the body, and was never meant to be consumed in the first place.

By anon144668 — On Jan 20, 2011

At first, sorry for my english. I'm from Spain. Anybody knows what's the law or legislation that sets the parameters for considering whether or not a flour is enriched? Thanks!

By anon75982 — On Apr 08, 2010

B vitamins are generally made using a yeast process. Therefore, I would assume that the vitamins in enriched flour contain yeast unless the package says "yeast-free" (and it never does as far as I know).

By anon51795 — On Nov 09, 2009

In India, villagers hand mill their own grain. Are they losing nutrients by doing this, or is this method actually preferable because they don't lose nutrients by doing this? What is it about milling grain that causes nutrients to be lost? Are the additional vitamins added to the flour in Western countries in order to replace what was lost, or to add vitamins that weren't naturally occurring to the flour?

By anon43652 — On Aug 31, 2009

Enriched flour has vitamins added to it. Vitamins don't grow on trees, like fruit and leaves. How are these "vitamins" made? Some sources say they are made in a yeast. I need to know. I get a bad case of diarrhea, gas, bloating and malabsorption from enriched flour. I am not allergic to wheat. If I avoid enriched food, I am okay. I am not allergic to gluten.

Without going over the known history of enrichment, the fda requirements for vitamins, if an item is listed as being enriched, etc.

Can anyone address the question of: what is the source of these "vitamins";

are they made like some brands of vitamin pills?

A lot of vitamin pills are made from different kinds of yeast.

Are the vitamins in enriched flour made from yeast, or created in a yeast?

I can't seem to find this answer anywhere, even when I write to the manufacturing companies.

By anon40754 — On Aug 10, 2009

why is enriched flour considered to facilitate weight gain and thus avoided by people who are more health conscious, when the enriching process only adds nutrients?

By anon5720 — On Dec 04, 2007

is enriched flour filed or classified as a carbohydrate or a protein or a lipid???

Niki Acker

Niki Acker

Writer

"In addition to her role as a DelightedCooking editor, Niki Foster is passionate about educating herself on a wide range...
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