I wrote about food combinations some time back(http://discovery.abhijitpandit.com/2010/01/13/food-combinations/). 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 ?