How many people do you know that have banned bread? Cast it aside to help them lose weight, go gluten-free or cut out the carbs?
Be gone grains and thou waist shall shrink. So sounds long-held diet wisdom.
Perhaps you’ve toyed with the idea or gone the whole hog and given up bread for good. But do you miss it?
The first bite of a crusty tiger bread, the soft white centre of a farmhouse bloomer or the simple joy of a thickly buttered slice of white toast.
Has there ever been a more deliciously despised food?
Is it fair to hate bread? Why do we feel such guilt for tucking into a slice of toast? Is bread the real enemy?
When it comes to our daily diet, there seems to be so many rules we hold ourselves up to: eating greens good, bread bad. Congratulate yourself for eating the former; chastise yourself for eating the latter.
On a diet – forget bread. Cut it out with a decided flourish. No good can come from eating bread. It’s carb-loaded and stodgy. Right?
Use Your Loaf
As we all know, bread is a source of carbohydrates - and when did they get so bad? If you’re binge eating bread and biscuits then you’re getting too many carbohydrates – and a lot of other substances your body doesn’t need.
Likewise, anything in excess is never going to be good for you – drinking too much water can be dangerous; eating too much spinach, tomatoes, oranges or brazil nuts can be dangerous. As we’ve heard countless times before: everything in moderation.
Carbohydrates, when eaten moderately, provide energy and fuel for the body, which is no bad thing.
Grain on the Brain
What about gluten? Isn’t gluten bad? In a word: no. For those with coeliac disease or a gluten-intolerance then yes. For everyone else, not so much. Find out more about gluten here.
Whilst it seems more and more people are suffering from gluten sensitivity, it might be the breadmaking process which is at the heart of the problem.
Over 80% of the UK’s bread is made using the same method: the Chorleywood bread process.
For an independent baker, or if you were making bread at home, you’d use flour, water, salt and yeast. You’d allow the bread to prove before baking in the oven or your breadmaker.
Whereas, the Chorleywood bread process combines a mix of additives, lower-protein wheat, high-speed mixing and no proving time. For industrial breadmakers this is a win win: high volume, low cost and double quick time. But there’s another secret you should know.
Pick up a loaf of bread at your supermarket. Read the ingredients on the back. After flour, yeast and salt, you’ll probably find a list of emulsifiers, preservatives and treatment agents. What you won’t see listed are enzymes.
In a nutshell, enzymes are molecules that help complex reactions occur. In bread, enzymes are used to make bread softer – and stay softer for longer. Many enzymes used for baking are sourced from substances not part of a normal human diet. These enzymes – not listed on ingredients list (because of a technical loophole) may turn wheat protein toxic to those with gluten sensitivity.
Wait, what about the wheat?
The wheat used can make a massive difference to the nutritional value of bread.
White, refined flours only contain a small part, the endosperm, of the original wheat grain. Whereas, whole grains, as the name implies, use all elements of the grain: the bran, germ and endosperm.
With wholegrains, no nutrients are lost during the flour making process and they retain fibre and nutrients like vitamin B, calcium and iron. Whilst white, refined flour loses much of its nutritional value in the refining process.
Most industrially baked breads have a poor nutritional profile; factory-baked white and brown loaves will contain extra ingredients like sugar, preservatives, flour treatment agents and salt to improve the taste and shelf life.
To check if your bread contains wholegrain flour: check the ingredients list closely. Don’t be deceived if the bread looks brown or seeded – it doesn’t mean it’s ‘healthy’. Many manufactures dye bread brown or add a few seeds to give it a more wholesome appearance.
On the ingredients list, look for ‘wholegrain’ or ‘wholemeal’ as one of the first ingredients on the packet. Most breads list ‘wheat flour’ as their first ingredient but this is still a refined flour.
Can I ever enjoy bread?
Yes. Be a savvy shopper and choose wholegrain bread or, better yet, bake it yourself.
As we’ve seen, industrial scale breadmaking is not designed for your body. It’s designed to be made quickly, cheaply and most efficiently. If you don’t want to be misled by packaging, and have more control over your food: bake your own – with wholegrain flour.
It’s easy. You don’t need a lot of ingredients: just wholegrain flour, salt, yeast and a little oil and water. The only thing you’ll need is time. Time to prove the bread (a couple of hours) and time to bake (around half an hour).
Once you’ve tried making your own bread, we don’t think you’ll go back to store-bought.