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Maida flour: your tastebud’s favourite, but your health’s downfall

Medically reviewed by  Dr. Pallavi Mhaskar, Senior Nutrition Coach

Parathas and Bhaturas are people’s all-time favorite. Primarily made using maida flour, they are utterly delicious and one cannot stop gorging. However, if you are leaning towards a healthier lifestyle, you should consider replacing or making changes to these foods or any foods that have maida as a base. 

However affordable and delicious maida might be, physicians and nutritional experts across the globe have constantly recommended against consuming maida. Apart from being high in glycaemic index [1], often consuming maida can lead to visceral fat accumulation, which in turn can invite heart problems. 

The Indian maida flour and widely known refined flour are quite similar. When maida is a by-product of wheat, refined flour can be extracted and refined from any grain. Since maida is refined from wheat, sometimes it also considered as refined flour.

Table of Content

How maida is produced?

One could say that maida is the Indian version of all-purpose flour [2]. When wheat grains are stripped of bran and endosperm and bleached either naturally using atmospheric oxygen or bleaching agent, we get maida flour.

maida refined flour side effects
maida refined flour side effects

In the process, the original wheat grain loses most of its fibre and nutritional values leaving the flour white (thanks to the bleaching) and unhealthy – or in a more common term, maida.

Below we have listed the processes wheat grain undergoes in order to produce maida. 

1. Wheat procurement 

The wheat is harvested from the field and taken for harvesting to mills.

2. Sorting 

The wheat grain is stored in storing bins and made sure it is free from infestation.

3. Separators

The grain is then sent to magnetic separators to remove the iron filling and other dirt, as well as debris, clinging onto the surface of the grain.

4. Brushers 

The outermost layer is called the bran which is rich in fibre. Iron stickle brushers run over the wheat to remove the bran leaving the endosperm exposed.

5. Milling 

The endosperm is milled into wheat flour. At this stage, the wheat is called Atta or Chapati flour.

6. Sieving 

 The wheat flour is pressed through a very fine micro sieve to obtain finely refined flour.

7. Bleaching 

The flour is now bleached either naturally by using atmospheric oxygen or approved bleaching agents like organic peroxides or calcium peroxides. Bleaching changes the composition of the flour changes its structure. 

8. Softening 

Though alloxan is not deliberately added in maida, traces of alloxan can be found in maida due to the various processes and addition of bleaching agents in it. This helps in the softening of the flour and makes it light and stretchy.  

9. Packaging 

The maida flour is packed and then sold in retail and wholesale markets. [3]

Different Stages of wheat = Whole Wheat → Broken Wheat or Dalia → Whole Wheat Flour → Wheat flour without the Bran → Refined Flour / Maida

The downside of maida flour

Benzoyl peroxide is commonly used in organic peroxide for bleaching maida [4]. This peroxide is also used in the skincare industry and as acne cream. Though there are no studies indicating the ill-effects of benzoyl peroxide in maida, consuming the latter often sure has ill-effects on health in the long run.   

As mentioned previously, maida has traces of alloxan due to added bleaching agents. A study published by Avinashilingam University for Women, Coimbatore has emphasized the harmful effects of consuming white flour (popularly maida flour, refined flour, self-raising flour etc), especially among diabetic patients. The study had published that alloxan can destroy selective insulin-secreting pancreatic cells [5]

refined wheat flour side effects
Refined Flour – side effects which are countless

Owing to the above reasons, many experts have strongly recommended replacing maida/white flour with wheat and other whole grain flours. Since maida is actually a by-product of wheat, why is the latter considered healthy over the former? 

This is because wheat flour does not go through the fine refinery process of maida flour and thus retains most of the nutrients, unlike maida. 

Wheat Atta vs Maida Flour

CharacteristicsWheat AttaMaida / All Purpose Flour
Wheat grain partsHusk, Bran, Germ and EndospermEndosperm
TextureCoarseFine
NutrientsPresentAbsent
Dietary fibrePresentAbsent
Used inChapathi, rotiNaan, Cakes, Pasteries

In any event, it is better to avoid maida and look at other healthier alternatives.

Here we bring you the reasons for why one should choose wheat

1. Rich in fibre

Whole wheat is richer in fibre when compared to maida. This is because wheat retains the endosperm that gets stripped during the production of maida and endosperm is rich in fibre.

Fibre increases the weight of your feces and softens it. Due to this fact, it helps in the easy movement of the faeces in the intestinal tract with fewer strains preventing the problem of constipation. [6]

In addition to this, fibre also acts as food for the intestinal flora and promotes pro-biotic growth leading to a healthy bowel movement. Above all, it helps in the control of sugar level as the fibre slows down the release of sugar from food into the bloodstream.[7]

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The fibre not only acts on sugar but also lowers LDL-Cholesterol levels. Since it takes a longer time to eat and digest wheat-based foods, the stomach is fuller for a longer period of time.

This promotes weight loss. One can also eat wheat bran to get the full benefit of wheat fibre. A lot of brands sell wheat bran separately. [8]

2. Vitamins overloaded

Whole wheat flour is rich in vitamins such as Vitamin B1, B5, B12, Folate and Riboflavin. Each vitamin in wheat flour has its own health benefits. For example, these vitamins help in digestion renews of blood cells in the body and breaks carbohydrates into smaller forms.

However, during processing, these natural vitamins are stripped and the manufacturer externally fortifies them in the flour. Therefore, it is wise to read the nutritional values printed on the package before buying. [9]

3. Controlling sugar levels

Wheat flour is particularly good for diabetics since it has a low glycaemic index and therefore, it will not shoot up the blood glucose soon after eating. Not only people with type 2 diabetes but also pre-diabetic and patients who have coronary heart diseases will be benefitted by eating wheat flour.

On the other hand, maida is higher in glycaemic index making it an unhealthy choice for diabetic and pre-diabetic patients. [10]

4. Rich in amino acids

Wheat flour has plenty of amino acids that can help with muscle health. This makes it an ideal food for people who indulge in exercises. And these amino acids decrease fatigue and muscle soreness.

5. Aids in weight loss

maida refined flour health effects
All the goodness is in whole wheat flour

Unsaturated fats that are present in wheat flour greatly helps in weight loss. The consumption of Rotis made out of wheat flour makes one eat less owing to the rich dietary fibre mentioned earlier. It keeps the stomach full for long.

Ill-effects of maida

Maida had little to no nutrition. 

Maida has a range of side effects when consumed often. Some of the problems caused by maida include,

  • Increase in blood glucose level
  • Leading to inflammatory diseases like arthritis
  • Increased food cravings leading to weight gain
  • Intestinal bloating
  • Imbalance in the acidity and alkalinity within the body

Though both maida and wheat flour have gluten it in, it is wise to choose wheat flour since it not only has less gluten when compared to maida but also has numerous health benefits.

With the internet being flooded with healthy food options, opting for healthier alternatives is quite easy and doable. Making fewer changes here and there can alter one’s lifestyle altogether.

Eat Healthy, Live Healthy!!

FAQs

1.Why Maida is not good for health?

Maida is extracted from wheat by having its bran and endosperm stripped. This process also strips Maida of its nutritional value making it unhealthy.

2.What are the side effects of eating maida?

Maida increases blood glucose level; it can cause intestinal bloating, weight gain and inflammatory diseases.

3.Is refined wheat flour healthy?

Any refined flour is unhealthy since it is stripped of its nutritional value.

4.Is corn flour Maida?

No, corn flour is not Maida. While corn flour is extracted from maize, Maida is extracted from wheat.