In Search of a Miracle – Why Not Flour?

Plants Protect Themselves

Why not flour? That was the question posed last week. Why does grain, most often ground into flour, frequently produce mineral deficiency in human consumers like you and me?

It’s that plant protection thing that is at issue with flour. Unfortunately technology got ahead of us humans, and the traditional processes required to minimize the chemical protections built into plants got lost in the commercial shuffle.

Plant Reproduction

Plant chemical protections (anti-nutrients) all have to do with plant reproduction. For that to make sense, it helps to understand that all plants reproduce from seeds.

Seeds are destined to germinate at a certain point, the point when the soil and air temperature, moisture, and light are just right for that particular plant.

When the time is right, an enzyme in the seed is activated, releasing the nutrients required for the seed to grow into a new plant. Those nutrients are there for the plant, not for anyone choosing to eat that plant. Just so you know.

Anyway, that’s just what enzymes do, cause or stop things from happening.

In order to avoid germinating too early, the mineral nutrients in the seed are “locked up” and not digestible until the right time. This is sometimes unimportant when we, the people, eat the products of germination like peppers, lettuce, avocados, oranges, etal. Sometimes but not always.

Often, however, we don’t eat the products of germination themselves but rather the seeds destined to be the next generation of plants. That would be things like beans, nuts, corn, even wheat seeds (and acorns).

Remember the part about the mineral nutrients in seeds being “locked up” and not available until the time is right? Those seeds are just chock full of nutrients but aren’t ready to give them up. Consequently most of the minerals like the iron, magnesium, calcium, phospherous, amd zinc are not available to the animal eating the seed.

We, the people, are among the animals.And while some animals make the enzyme to unlock the minerals, we, the people, are not among them.

Mineral Deficiencies

All flour, be it wheat or corn, comes from a seed not ready to germinate, Technically this would not be such a big deal if these seeds were only a minor part of a human’s diet. We could take up the nutritional slack with some other food.

However, grain is not a minor part of the human diet. In fact, grain is considered by many to be the fix for world hunger. So if you’ve ever wondered why a really large percentage of the world’s population is deficient in iron, zinc, magnesium, phosphorous, calcium and even copper, you may now know why.


As chapter 13 “What the Heck is Phytic Acid” in my book It’s All About the Food explains, the goal is to trick the seed into believing that now is the right time to germinate, freeing up most of those minerals for your nutritional benefit.

Note that this whole phytic acid thing is equally appicable to beans and nuts which are also seeds. But volume of beans and nuts seems to be less an issue in the American diet than wheat and corn.

Phytic acid is only one of a significant pile of chemical protection ploys (anti-nutrients) in plants. All anti-nutrients lock nutrients (usually one or more of the same ones) away in some fashion or another.

Examples are oxylates (as in spinach), lectins (including gluten in wheat), tannins, glycoalkaloids (in potatoes) – the list goes on. Just as an example, there is a ton of calcium in spinach but about 95% of that calcium is locked away and not absorbable by the consumer.

If you would like to study anti-nutrients in greater detail, here is a good place to start.

Plants are very protective of their seeds because reproduction is first priority. Grains and beans have particularly high amounts of several anti-nutrients including phytic acid and lectins. The more of those in a person’s diet, the less nutrition is absorbed.

Two Ways to Avoid Nutrition

The nutrients in grain (and beans) are in the outside of the seed, the bran and germ layers. The outside layers have been removed in refined grains, thus no nutrients. Our goal is to get the nutrients so it isn’t helpful if they aren’t there to start with.

Whole grain makes all the nutrients available if treated properly to release the minerals. Untreated – you know.

So you can avoid nutrition two ways, eating refined or untreated whole grains. Avoiding nutrition is not the right idea.

Fool the Seed

Three ways to “fool” the seed. Soaking, sprouting, and/or fermenting (called treating) the seed creates the environment likely to allow the release of the nutrients.

Soaking, sprouting, and fermenting will require some work on somebody’s part. It’s not hard work but it does take time. Read It’s All About the Food and do your own research. Decide for yourself.

In the meantime (or instead of committing extra time) literally minimize the amount of seeds, particularly all grains, in your diet and replace them with other, less troublesome vegetation.

I realize most people have never heard of this but there has actually been a lot of research over many decades. You will find that animal farmers often know more than you think about nutrition in animal diets. They just haven’t realized it applies to themselves as much as it does the animals in their charge. This link, is an excellent summary/analysis over time.

Next week we can take a closer look at the consequences of those mineral deficiencies.

Pat Smith is the author of “It’s All about the Food,” a book that guides nutritious food choices as the way to avoid illness and maintain a healthy weight. Proceeds from her book benefit the Montgomery County Food Pantry. Her website is She can be contacted at, 501-605-3902. Her Facebook page is ______________________________________________________