On the label of most cookies, cereals and bread, you’ll see enriched all-purpose flour or enriched wheat flour listed as the main ingredient. Both are exactly the same thing- good ‘ol white flour. Although it started out as a wheat berry, it has been processed and highly refined to remove the bran, the germ and any nutrients that the berry once contained. It contains little, if any fiber, and is converted into sugar (glucose) very quickly in the bloodstream.
The reason it says “enriched” is because the natural nutrients and vitamins that the original wheat berry contained have been stripped away leaving only the endosperm. Because flour/wheat is one of the most widely consumed foods in the United States, back in the 1940’s the FDA mandated the addition of certain nutritional ingredients (to all-purpose/white flour). It was felt that its “enrichment” was the most direct and effective way to alleviate certain diseases caused by vitamin deficiencies (pellagra, beriberi, rickets). Never mind that if the wheat berry was just left intact (as it is in whole wheat flour), it would be unnecessary to add niacin, thiamine and riboflavin’s back into the flour (as they are naturally occurring in the bran layer and the germ.)
Unbleached vs. Bleached
You’ll also find white flour labeled as unbleached all-purpose flour, bread flour and organic all-purpose flour. If the label says all-purpose flour then it has been bleached (a wheat berry starts out brown, so just like fabric, how do we get it to turn sheet white? Bleach), so unbleached is a better choice. I have never detected any difference in flavor or texture between unbleached and bleached all-purpose flour.
Bread flour, is basically the same as all-purpose flour only it is formulated especially for bread which means it generally contains more gluten and protein.
Unbleached organic all-purpose flour is your best bet when it comes to all-purpose/white flour. Organic guarantees that a product has not been genetically modified (GMO) and has been grown under the organic guidelines for allowable pesticides and fertilizers. Click here for the brand I recommend.