In the culinary sense, flour is a powder made of cereal grains, other seeds, or roots.
It is the main ingredient of bread, which is a staple food for many civilizations, making the availability of adequate supplies of flour a major economic and political issue at various times throughout history. Wheat flour is one of the most important foods in European, North American, Middle Eastern and North African cultures, and is the defining ingredient in most of their styles of breads and pastries. Maize flour has been important in Mesoamerican cuisine since ancient times, and remains a staple in much of Latin American cuisine.
Flour contains high proportion of starches, which are complex carbohydrates also known as polysaccharides. Leavening agents are used with some flours, especially those with significant gluten content, to produce lighter and softer baked products by embedding small gas bubbles.
The production of flour has also historically driven technological development, as attempts to make gristmills more productive and less labor-intensive led to the watermill and windmill, terms now applied more broadly to uses of water and wind power for purposes other than milling.