A single grain of wheat consists of three parts: the germ, the endosperm, and the bran.
Combining these different parts creates different flours:
White flour: is made up of only the endosperm.
Whole wheat flour: is made up of the endosperm and the bran.
Whole grain flour: is made up of all three parts: the germ, the endosperm, and the bran.
Each part has different nutritional value and contributes something different to our health, making the anatomy of a wheat kernel very important:
Endosperm: makes up most of the grain and is the plant’s primary source of energy. It is also considered a simple sugar and is digested and metabolized very quickly in our bodies.
The bran: is the second largest part of the grain kernel and holds the majority of the fibre in a wheat kernel. The bran also contains a variety of essential fatty acids, which also makes it susceptible to rancidity. To prevent it from going rancid too quickly, you can store it in the fridge.
The germ: is the smallest part of the grain, and contains the living part of the grain. You can buy and bake with wheat germ to add more nutritional value.
Both the germ and the bran are separated from the endosperm during wheat processing and then added back in to create different flours. Removal of the germ and the bran dramatically changes the nutritional value of the grain.
All parts of the wheat kernel can be used in a variety of ways:
All varieties of wheat flour can be used in baking and white flour is used in some cooking applications as well. Wheat bran and germ by themselves can be added to cereals to give additional nutritional value. They can also be used in baking, by substituting part of the white flour measurement with wheat bran or wheat germ.
White flour is most popular and provides the best tasting end product, in most cases. Anything from cookies to cakes to breads and doughs will have more palatable end products with white flour. Adding whole wheat flour in place of some all purpose flour in a recipe may add a little more nutrition to some recipes, without affecting the taste too much. Whole grain flour is probably the most difficult flour to incorporate, however, it does make a very hearty loaf of bread!