“Refined!!!” Or “Refined???”

Among the many foods available to us, many are refined. And there is a lot of material about them on the web and in the media, mostly describing the enormous harm these products do to health. But isn’t this an exaggeration, or has blind imitation taken over from critical analysis?

Refining is the purification of impurities. Metals, oil, sugar, oil, flour are refined.

Refining is a part of the technology for manufacturing products from plant-based raw materials, including sugar.

For example, in the production of sugar from sugar beet, refining is required to separate mineral and organic impurities in the manufacture of refined sugar. Ion exchangers and activated carbon are used for this purpose, as well as potentially hazardous sodium hydrosulfate, which, when broken down into hydrogen and sulfuric acid, discolors the refined sugar solution, ensuring transparency. Granulated sugar does not undergo such treatment, but primary purification takes place, because raw sugar has an unpleasant odor and taste. On the contrary, unrefined cane sugar has a pleasant taste and smell. Molasses is the molasses that envelops its crystals and contains calcium, potassium, iron, chromium, copper, sodium, phosphorus and magnesium, as well as B vitamins and plant fibers.

Refined sugar, whether from beets or cane, contains almost no of these elements, with less than 0.1% of impurities. That is why brown cane sugar is so recommended for consumption. What about calories? The calorie content of sugar is the same, regardless of its origin. Another thing is that brown sugar, maple syrup or honey have a richer taste and flavor, and therefore are used in smaller quantities to achieve the desired effect.

Higher-grade flour, which we are used to, is essentially refined, as it is produced by removing all the outer hulls of the grain and most of the seed itself, losing most of the fiber, vitamin E and B, but retaining the amino acids arginine, methionine, tryptophan, glutamic acid. Lower grades of flour, especially upholstery and peeled flour, have a high content of bran, which is a source of fiber and trace elements that are beneficial for the digestive system. So, if it is important to us, despite the caloric content, in fact, the amount of starch in the flour, not to deprive our body of the beneficial parts of cereal grains, we should consume coarse flour and lower grades.

The oil that is in every kitchen is also a refined product. If the refining is mechanical, it allows you to preserve all kinds of fatty acids and fat-soluble vitamins that are in the oil.

However, its shelf life will not be long and will require special conditions. To eliminate odor and remove fatty acids (which give an unpleasant aftertaste), deodorization and hydration are used, in which caustic soda and superheated water vapor are used. The resulting oil is transparent, yellow, odorless and tasteless. Unrefined oil has a lower smoke point, which means it is better suited for salad dressings and sauces, while refined oil smokes at higher temperatures and is more suitable for frying. Thus, the quality of oils, mainly the composition of fatty acids, depends more on the raw materials from which it is produced than on the degree of refining.

We can see that refining (purification) has a production argument, as it significantly extends the shelf life and cooking properties of the product, but negatively affects the nutritional value of the product. Therefore, having familiarized ourselves with the technologies, we will try to supplement the extracted nutrients from other sources (fiber from vegetables and fruits, for example, consumption of nuts rich in fats) or consume lower-grade, less refined products with a higher proportion of useful “waste”.

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Written by Bella Adams

I'm a professionally-trained, executive chef with over ten years in Restaurant Culinary and hospitality management. Experienced in specialized diets, including Vegetarian, Vegan, Raw foods, whole food, plant-based, allergy-friendly, farm-to-table, and more. Outside of the kitchen, I write about lifestyle factors that impact well-being.

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