White Sugar Vs White Flour: Which Is More Unhealthy?

author avatar Dr. Eric Berg 11/06/2023

Today, we are going to talk about what's worse: white sugar or white flour? To find out which it is, let me explain in more detail what you should know about these dry ingredients. 

RELATED: Sugar The Bitter Truth

In this article:

  1. What Is Sugarcane?

  2. What Is White Flour?

  3. The Glycemic Index (GI) of White Sugar and White Flour

  4. How Manufacturers Process White Sugar

  5. How Manufacturers Process White Flour

  6. Flour Contains Potassium Bromate

  7. Flour Has Gluten

  8. White Flour Is Acidic

Which Is Unhealthier: White Sugar or White Flour?

What Is Sugarcane?

Before I talk about which dry ingredient is unhealthier, let me give you a little background on what white sugar is. When I talk about sugar, I'm not talking about beet sugar or coconut sugar, but cane sugar or sugarcane. Beet sugar is a genetically modified organism (GMO) and so is high fructose corn syrup. Cane sugar is not.

Sugarcane is a tropical/subtropical grass originally from Papua, New Guinea, spreading across the southern U.S., the Caribbean, the Mediterranean, and Southeast Asia. It is comprised of a root system, leaves, and stalks, which have the juice to make sugar. When it matures, farmers harvest it for sugar processing to make coarse sugar, sanding sugar, and others. People use these types of sugar in making ice cream, sugar cookies, chocolate chunk cookies, and other sweets. 

What Is White Flour?

Dough roll, baking | White Sugar Vs White Flour: Which Is More Unhealthy? | refined sugar

Let me also give you some information about the white flour you typically use for baking. White flour is a type of whole grain with three parts: endosperm, germ, and bran. The bran is the outer coating, and the germ is the innermost layer. The endosperm is in the middle, which is the starchy part of the whole grain and is mostly carbs. Manufacturers remove the germ and bran when processing white flour, which leaves the starchy endosperm. Although endosperm has a long shelf life, it loses its nutrients.    

The Glycemic Index (GI) of White Sugar and White Flour

On the GI, we have 63 for table sugar and 71 for flour. This shows that white flour is worse than regular granulated sugar, even though the sugar has both glucose and fructose, in terms of GI. Nonetheless, both of them are going to spike Fat Storing Hormone. As a result, these are what you can experience:

  • Weight gain

  • Fat around the belly

  • Fatty liver (if there’s too much Fat Storing Hormone)

  • Complications of prediabetes

  • Fat Storing Hormone resistance

  • Diabetes

  • High cholesterol

  • Other health issues

How Manufacturers Process White Sugar

Dough roll, baking | White Sugar Vs White Flour: Which Is More Unhealthy? | refined sugar

Like most brown sugars, such as muscovado sugar, turbinado sugar, and Barbados sugar, white sugar (confectioners' sugar, caster sugar, and other types of sugar) is processed without the use of bleach. Manufacturers of white sugar take the sugar cane and extract vitamins and minerals (molasses flavor and molasses content) from it, leaving only granulated sugar. This type of sugar is pure carbs without the nutrients.   

The problem in consuming this concentrated white sugar is it depletes your body of essential nutrients. To metabolize refined sugar, you need those vitamins and minerals. If you can’t get them from the sugar crystals, your body reaches its reserve and pulls the nutrients out to use them to burn the sugar. So, you end up with potassium, magnesium, B1, and calcium deficiency.

RELATED: Sugar Toxicity

How Manufacturers Process White Flour

When manufacturers refine white flour, they also take out the vitamins and minerals, leaving you with only carbs. Most flour on the market is fortified, so manufacturers add in some synthetic vitamins and iron but not the type of iron you want. Those nutrients they put in create a problem, especially if you have iron issues, which a lot of people do. 

It's very difficult to get rid of iron. Your body tends to accumulate it, but you have a hard time getting rid of it. If you are consuming extra iron from the wrong source, it can create a lot of problems. 

With refined flour, manufacturers use dough conditioners to make the dough easy to turn into bread and pastries. They also use a bleaching agent called benzoyl peroxide that combines with certain proteins in wheat like gluten and make alloxan, which scientists use in experiments with rats. 

When you feed these rats with alloxan, it kills the cells in their pancreas. This makes them diabetic. I’m not saying this creates the same effect in humans. If you have pets like hamsters, make sure you don't feed them flour containing benzoyl peroxide.  

Alloxan Definition: An organic compound and a toxic glucose analog selectively destroying cells that produce Fat Storing Hormone in the pancreas when given to experimental animals. 

Flour Contains Potassium Bromate

Baking | White Sugar Vs White Flour: Which Is More Unhealthy? | potassium bromate

Here is the big negative about flour: potassium bromate. It is an oxidizer used to enhance and strengthen the dough's elasticity. Europe, China, Brazil, and Canada have banned this substance because it's been known to cause cancer in animals. Yet, it’s not banned in the U.S. Manufacturers put this in flour to perfect the texture of the dough when you make pastries.

Flour Has Gluten

Let's not forget about gluten, a type of protein in grains. It aids many kinds of foods to keep their shape as it serves as a "glue" holding the food together. You can find gluten in rye, barley, and wheat. 

Many people have a problem with gluten primarily because it is a protein that is difficult to digest. This difficulty in digestion allows the peptides (large sections of amino acids) in the body to cross through the small intestine wall and travel to the rest of your body. As a result, it can trigger an autoimmune disease and create severe inflammation in your gut.

White Flour Is Acidic

Because the refining process of white flour removes all the nutrients in it, this makes the flour acidic. The acidity in the flour, when consumed in high amounts, forces your body to take the calcium from your bones, negatively affecting your bone density. High levels of acidity in the body can cause chronic inflammation, leading to chronic illnesses like arthritis.   

If you compare white flour with white sugar, there are more problems with the flour than sugar. But it’s still essential to remember that powdered sugar is also carbs, so you should avoid it or minimize its consumption as much as possible. You can always get healthier and opt for keto-friendly alternatives for raw sugar (stevia sugar syrup and raw honey) and flour (almond flour) if you need to use them in your baked goods, desserts, and other keto-friendly recipes.

What healthy natural sugars and flour alternatives can you suggest for use at home? Share them in the comments section below!

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Disclaimer: Our educational content is not meant or intended for medical advice or treatment.

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