Atta v/s Maida – Which is better ?

I wrote about food combinations some time back( There is another war seen when people passionately talk about Maida v/s Atta. Both are made from the same (or similar) wheat.

Every time someone told me that atta is more healthy and maida is “bad for health” I always found this health-based argument difficult to digest. I used to wonder, if most of the population in most of the “so-called” first world countries eats bread – a significant percentage eats white bread – there must have been some research done on this. We can’t simply brand something “unhealthy”. And then, I have seen those same people who are so picky about a brown bread instead of a white bread, do not seem to have any problems eating loads of “Pav Bhaaji” or “Vada Paav”. This Paav is also made of maida, isn’t it ? Same holds true with a Pizza – I haven’t heard of a “brown pizza” yet ! Though there are a couple of wheat variants – primarily the pizza base is made of maida !

One of naturopaths even told me that Maida was one of the 5 white poisons ! (the other 4 being – sugar, salt, buffalo’s milk and I don’t remember the last one !)

I do understand that just the fact that many people eat something, does not make it a healthy choice. But if it was indeed not good for health, then one would find some ill effects of the food across the population. There are no such common ailments caused by white bread.

So, before coming to a conclusion on maida – whether made from wheat or any other cereal – I thought of finding out more about what this maida is !

Typically, all cereals have grains which are covered by husk. The husk removed first and we have the plain grain. It has three layers :
1. The outer protective brown coat is called the Bran. It constitutes about 12% of the weight of the whole grain and consists of cellulose & minerals.
2. The next layer is a very thin one – it is called Aleurone and is firmly attached to the bran
3. The core – 85% of the weight of  the grain – is the Endosperm. It contains protein and starch. The germ or the embryo is rich in proteins fats, vitamin E and vitamin B1 or thiamine.

After grinding the grains, the coarser parts are removed and the white flour remains. During milling, the germ is also removed because otherwise the fat turns the flour rancid and its shelf life is reduced. Don’t ask me how – I found this technical stuff on the Internet out there. I would appreciate if someone could verify if this is indeed the case !

Now, the amount of flour remaining after removal of coarser parts is called the percentage extraction. For example, 95 percent extraction means that 95 percent of the grain has been extracted as flour while 5 percent has been removed as bran and thrown away. 65% extraction would mean that only 65% of the grain has been extracted as flour and 35% has been thrown away !! So, a “lower” percentage extraction means that there is lesser bran. Lower the percentage extraction, the flour is whiter. And conversely, higher extraction flour will have more bran content.

Now, if you look at the white bread sold in many of the developed countries, the pack shows a lot of additional minerals and vitamins that are added – so, you end up with a white bread made out of super fine maida, but at the same time, it is enriched with the necessary vitamins & minerals. So, if we are doing a comparison based only on nutritious value, then an enriched White bread should be considered equivalent to any brown bread.

I am told that a lot of Brown breads in India are made by adding caramel to maida ! Again, I don’t have any authentic source for verifying this information.

One of my Ayurvedic doctor friends told me the real reason why maida creates problems : according to him, maida being finer (as opposed to the coarse atta), there is a difficulty in pushing it out of our system. Maida, being more fine and sticky puts more strain on our intestines or whatever internal organs and hence, it may be harmful in the long run. I am not sure about this argument as I am not sure of the chemical changes that come into effect after the food goes through the process of digestion !

So…here I leave the topic wide open for debate. Can anyone out there help me understand (with a logical reason ! And not just because “someone said so ten thousand years ago” !!) why maida is considered bad ?

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2 Responses to Atta v/s Maida – Which is better ?

  1. Sonia Naikavde says:


    i would like to say little more about Atta and Maida. as you got right, Atta is coarser and contains more bran, whereas Maida is absolute no bran.

    so the problem about the Maida is ‘No bran’. Bran is the natural fiber with some vitamins and is present only in cereals, which is what makes the cereal a good food. Removing bran, makes the flour rich only of starch. As you may know of, starch means carbohydrate.

    More than 50% of the non-communicable diseases (Diabetes Mellitus, Obesity, Hypertension…) are due to disproportionate carbohydrate ingestion, the rest due heredity and some other factors. Carbohydrates are the primary source of energy to the body, as they are converted to glucose (metabolic energy). also there is concept about Glycemic load and glycemic index. These factors govern the hormonal response towards carbohydrate ingestion. higher the glycemic load/index, higher is the hormonal response to digest it. And Maida is high glycemic food.

    in simple terms, maida is pure carbohydrate, which gives pure glucose after digestion and nothing else. So the body acquires unnecessary glucose, than required plus no other nutrients. this contributes to Obesity (slow process). So this is a bad thing about it. Consuming Maida, increases your blood glucose levels to a peak within two hours. this is the primary reason we ask Diabetics to avoid maida. In fact you will be surprised to know that when a diabetic undergoes a hypoglycemic attack (low blood glucose levels), we can actually give him some sugar and white bread t eat to improve the present condition.

    Consuming White bread is not considered bad, provided you eat in right proportions. whereas Paav, it is harmful due to its moisture content. A toast has little moisture, white bread little more, paav has lots of moisture, and moisture attracts bacteria and fungus to grow. Apart from moisture, hygiene is also a factor to be considered for paav. Consuming brown bread does not produce that much glucose as compared to white bread, which makes it better from Maida. but unfortunately, as you mentioned, in India majority for the stores do keep brown bread which are actually white, but made brown by adding jaggery/ caramel to it.

    also the fifth white poison is rice. few nutritionists also mention artificial sweeteners. Rice is again considered as a poison due to its high carbohydrate content. however consumption of rice should not stopped due to this issue, but eat in proportion.

    Sonia Naikavde
    MSc. Clinical Nutrition and Dietetics

    • Dhanaji Musale says:

      Thank You Sonia and Abhijit,

      For such nice and understandable for non Medico person.

      Expect more articles for our health and our daily life.

      Dhanaji Musale

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