The history of wheat and the history of man are closely related. Scientists believe that wheat was first cultivated between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in an area called the Fertile Crescent.
Throughout recorded history, man has ground wheat to make his daily bread. The Egyptians, about 3000 B.C. began the practice of sifting the fine flour from the coarser pieces too get white flour. The procedure was very expensive and only the royalty had the privilege of enjoying the light, white bread.
Enriched flour has been stripped of its bran and germ, and nutrients have been added back into the flour. An interesting history attends the origin of enriched flour. Until the nineteenth century, the use of white flour was confined to royalty or to the wealthy people who could afford it. In Paris in 1876, the first light, white French rolls were exhibited. The governor of Minnesota was in attendance at the exposition and determined that America must have the "benefits" of this discovery. He learned how to separate the various components of the grain to achieve the white flour he desired. He came back to America and developed the steel roller mills which accelerated the grinding of grain into flour. That was governor Pillsbury.
This product contained no wheat germ oil. It did not become rancid. Volumes could be ground and transported nationwide. This new process put all the stone-grinding mills out of business. This white flour became a status symbol, and light, white bread became the objective of virtually every homemaker. Few people thought about the bran, germ, wheat oil, and other nutrients that had been eliminated.
Illnesses relating to nutrition began to be more prevalent, and the cause was found to be the removal of the life-giving qualities from the grains. When beriberi, pellagra, and anemia reared their ugly heads, the milling industry was asked to return the flour to its original form. The markets the millers had procured for the "milled away" portions of the grain were so lucrative, however, that the millers refused to return to selling milled grain in its whole state. Instead, they added one mineral, iron, and three B vitamins, niacin, thiamin, and riboflavin, to enrich the white flour.
Although all-purpose flour in America is nearly always enriched, it has only a fraction of the food value of the whole kernel of wheat. Over thirty nutrients are known to exist in the wheat kernel, and most of them are removed in the milling process. When the wheat kernel is used in its entirety, the following nutrients are provided: thiamin, riboflavin, pyridozine, protein, pantothenic aid, niacin, barium silver, inositol, folic acid, choline, vitamin E, boron, silicon, sodium, calcium, iron, phosphorous, magnesium, potassium, manganese, copper, sulphur, iodine, and fluorine.
The white four, which is principally the endosperm of the grain, is nearly always bleached, and it contains none of the roughage inherent n the wheat kernel, roughage essential for adding bulk to the diet. Some bakeries add cellulose or sawdust to the bread to replace the bran and wheat germ that has been removed and given to the animal industry. The term enriched can be misleading.
from Natural Nine, Cooking with Whole Grains
Beware of caramel coloring on bread labels from store bakeries. They add that to the dough to give it more color, since they don't use all wheat flour in it. Check labels for chemicals and preservatives in the bread.