Is flour biodegradable? (3 types of baking flour) 

This article shall answer the question, “is flour biodegradable?”. 

It shall also cover other areas that include:

  • Definition of biodegradation.
  • Types of flour.
  • Types of flour additives.
  • The nutritional content of different flours.

Is flour biodegradable?

Yes, flour is completely biodegradable. Flour is an organic compound derived from parts of plants, mostly from cereal grains.

Since flour is obtained from organic sources, it is susceptible to microbial degradation. 

The components of flour, such as sugars, fibers, and proteins are broken down by bacteria or fungi into small biomass.

What is biodegradation?

Biodegradation is the process by which naturally occurring organic materials are broken down by microorganisms such as bacteria and fungi into small particles which are not harmful to the environment.

Biodegradation is carried out by different agents such as UV radiation, light, wind, and water but the most effective agents of biodegradation are bacteria and fungi.

Biodegradation occurs in three distinct stages: biodeterioration, bio-fragmentation, and assimilation.

The biodeterioration process loosens up the structure of the organic substance. For instance, the cell wall of plants is weakened by light, wind, water, and UV radiation.

Bio-fragmentation involves the breakdown of organic matter into smaller, nontoxic particles by bacteria and fungi, releasing water and carbon dioxide in the process.

Assimilation is the last stage of biodegradation and it involves the microorganisms taking up the products of bio-fragmentation into their biological machinery to be used to make energy.

Biodegradation can either involve the microorganisms using oxygen, aerobic biodegradation or it can involve the microorganisms which do not use oxygen, anaerobic biodegradation.

Aerobic biodegradation breaks down organic matter into small biomass, producing carbon dioxide and water.

Anaerobic biodegradation breaks down organic matter into small biomass and in the process carbon dioxide and methane gases are produced.

Aerobic biodegradation occurs at a faster rate than anaerobic biodegradation whereas anaerobic respiration is more efficient and produces more gases and other products.

What is flour?

This is a food-grade powder that is made by grinding cereal grains, nuts, or roots such as wheat, beans, rye, millet, sorghum, corn(maize), groundnuts, etc.

The different types of flours are used for various purposes: 

  • Corn flour, also called corn meal, is used in Africa to make corn cake, a staple food in the region.
  • Groundnuts, millet, sorghum, and beans are ground and used to make porridge.
  • Wheat is ground and used for various cuisines such as making cakes, and bread.
  • Rye is ground and is used for baking in Northern Europe.

Wheat flour is the most popular cuisine in the whole world. Almost every country uses wheat flour to make various food products.

The most common use of wheat flour is baking bread and cakes, although it is also used for other reasons such as making spaghetti.

There are different types of wheat flour grades depending on the purpose of the flour.

The grades of flour are acquired depending on the ground parts; the endosperm, the bran, or the germ. When endosperm, bran, and germ are ground together, they form a whole meal flour, when only endosperm is ground, refined flour is formed.

What are the constituents of flour?

Flour contains different mineral nutrients, with each nutrient concentration depending on the type of plant or the part of a plant ground.

Flour contains proteins and carbohydrates in terms of starch and fibers. The amount of proteins in starch determines the hardness of the flour.

Categories of flours.

There are categories of flours depending on their composition, and their source.

They include the following:

Gluten-containing flours.

These are flour types that contain gluten protein.

Gluten is a structural type of protein that is found in cereal grains. Gluten is mostly associated with wheat grains but is found in all cereal grains, albeit in different concentrations.

Gluten is a general term for the combined prolamin and glutelin proteins found in cereals. Gluten helps the dough to be elastic and helps it to rise. 

Wheat flour contains the highest concentration of gluten.

  • Atta flour is a whole grain flour used to make bread such as chapati and rotis.
  • Common wheat and durum wheat are the most used kinds of wheat baking bread.
  • Noodle flour is used to make noodles.
  • Semolina wheat is used to make pasta and puddings.

Rye flour is used to make sourdough bread in eastern Europe.

Gluten-free flours.

These are flours that lack gluten. Some people are affected by gluten and therefore prefer this flour. 

Gluten-associated diseases include coeliac disease, non-celiac gluten sensitivity, and wheat allergy.

  • Acorn flour is obtained from ground acorns and used for baking.
  • Almond flour from almonds.
  • Amaranth flour from amaranthus.
  • Apple flour from apple pomace.
  • Buckwheat flour for making pancakes.
  • Cassava flour from cassava.
  • Coconut flour has the highest fiber content.
  • Corn/maize flour for different cuisines around the world.

Types of baking flours.

There are different types of flours depending on the nutritional constitution and the additives used in making flour.

The different types include:

  • All-purpose flour.
  • The self-raising flour.
  • Cake and bleached flours

Bleached flour.

This is a type of refined wheat flour that contains a bleaching agent to make the flour more white.  

The flour is popularly known as white flour, and it does not contain bran and germ. The flour also contains a maturing agent. 

The maturing age affects the development of gluten protein in wheat flour. It helps in weakening or strengthening the gluten protein, therefore softening or hardening the flour.

Enriched flour.

During the flour-making process, the bleaching agents lead to the loss of some nutrients and therefore the end product contains fewer nutrients. 

These nutrients are reintroduced into the flour through the process of refining to come up with enriched flour.

Cake flour.

Cake flour contains the least amount of gluten proteins so that the flour is less sticky, making the cake crumble easily.

Pastry flour.

Pastry flour contains the second least gluten concentrations after the cake flour. It is more sticky than the cake flour but generally, it produces flaky or crumbled crusts.

All-purpose flour.

This flour is also called plain flour. It has a medium gluten content. The flour contains adequate protein content for bread and pizza bases.

The flour can also be used to prepare biscuits. 

The world ‘plain’ emanates from the fact that this type of flour does not contain any leavening agent.

Bread flour.

Bread flour is mainly acquired from winter wheat; red hard wheat is planted in the fall and harvested in the spring.

The wheat is high in gluten, which makes its dough more elastic. The high gluten protein binds the flour together and traps carbon dioxide released by yeast; a leavening agent that produces carbon dioxide during the fermentation process.

The carbon dioxide enclosed in the dough makes it rise and gives the dough a better chewier texture.

Hard flour.

This is a type of flour that contains very high gluten content. The flour is used in recipes that require a strong dough to bind together.

Gluten flour.

This is refined flour that contains almost 100% gluten content. It is used to produce hard doughs. 

This flour is usually added to a whole grain meal that has high fiber content to increase the binding properties of the dough, increasing the rising of the dough.

Unbleached flour.

This is a type of flour that does not contain any bleaching or whitening agent. This is used by some quarters that believe bleaching agents are unhealthy.

Self-raising flour.

This is baking flour that contains leavening agents such as yeast or baking soda. It is used to prepare sponge cakes, scones, and muffins.

What are the types of additives used in baking flour?

There are several types of bleaching or maturing agents used in baking flour.

They include:

  • Potassium bromate strengthens the gluten development and does not bleach the flour.
  • Benzoyl peroxide; bleaches the wheat. Does not affect gluten.
  • Ascorbic acid; is also called vitamin C. It is a maturity agent that develops gluten.
  • Chlorine gas; is used both as a bleaching and maturing agent. It weakens gluten development and oxidized starches, making them good for water absorption.

Is flour eco-friendly?

Yes, According to an article, all types of flours are biodegradable and compostable. They can be broken down by microorganisms into nontoxic compounds that do not pollute the environment.

Conclusion.

This article has answered the question of the biodegradability of flour.

It has also covered other areas such as:

  • Categories of flours.
  • Types of baking flours.
  • Types of additives used in flours.
  • Biodegradation process.

For any questions or comments please use the comment section below

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): is flour biodegradable?

How do I get rid of old flour?

The old flour can be composted because the flour is biodegradable and therefore can be used in compost.

Can bread be composted?

Yes, bread can be composted because it is made from cereal grains ground into flour. These cereal grains are biodegradable because they are organic.

Can coffee grounds be composted?

Yes, coffee grounds are organic substances that can easily be broken down by microorganisms in compost.

Citations.

Arzani A.: Emmer (Triticum turgidum spp. dicoccum) flour and bread. In Preedy V.R., Watson R.R., Patel V.B. (Eds. 2011), Flour and Bread and their Fortification in Health and Disease Prevention, Academic Press, California, pp. 69-78

Bass, E.J. (1988). Y. Pomeranz (ed.). Wheat Chemistry and Technology Vol. II Chapter 1: Wheat flour milling. American Association of Cereal Chemists. pp. 1–69. ISBN 978-0-913250-73-0.

Gelinas, Pierre; McKinnon, Carole M. (2006). “Effect of wheat variety, farming site, and bread-baking on total phenolics”. International Journal of Food Science and Technology. 41 (3): 329. doi:10.1111/j.1365-

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