We’re used to having white bread around - our children demand it, in restaurants (and schools) it’s often it’s the only option and many of us just can’t seem to resist the appeal of a freshly baked baguette. We know it’s not exactly a health food, but maybe it’s time to consider giving it up all together. Here are a few reasons why:
- Too much Gluten: The wheat used to make white bread today is’nt the same stuff used to make bread 50 years ago. Modern wheat is the result of hybridization - combining different strains to create a product that is unnaturally high in gluten. Of course, gluten is the darling of the food industry because it is perfect for making the soft, fluffy, white bread that many of us have come to love (and for thickening many processed foods). Unfortunately, it is also very difficult to digest. Gluten intolerance is on the rise and is blamed for a variety adverse health issues including fatigue, abdominal bloating and even depression.
- Too few Nutrients: The refining process removes the best part of the wheat. Whole wheat may not be particularly good for our health either, but at least it contains fibre, minerals and vitamins. To make white flour - hence white bread, the bran (B vitamins and trace minerals) and the wheat germ (antioxidants, vitamin E and healthy fats) are stripped away – only the nutrient-poor endosperm remains (mainly starch). Don’t be fooled by breads (or cereals, for that matter) that are ‘enriched with vitamins and minerals’. Re-adding synthetic nutrients cannot replace the unique balance that nature intended. It is as if someone stole 1,000 euros from you and then gave you 2 euros back.
- Too much Salt: We don’t normally think of bread as being an especially salty food do we? Actually, bread (packaged or fresh) is the largest contributor of salt to our diet. One recent UK study found that one in four loaves sampled contained as much salt per slice as a packet of crisps! In France it’s no better - one baguette contains 4.7 grams of salt, almost our entire daily requirement of 5 grams per person!
- Too much Sugar: It’s not exactly sugar, but our body treats it as if it were. White bread is a refined carbohydrate with no nutrients to slow down its’ conversion into glucose - or blood sugar. In fact, white bread has a higher glycemic index than white sugar, so in terms of keeping our blood sugar levels steady, eating white bread is actually worse than munching on sugar cubes.
Our daily bread of a bygone era has been replaced with a product of that offers little in the way of nutrition and may actually be having a negative effect on our health. Opting for bread made from whole-wheat (or wholemeal) flour is a better alternative (read labels or ask) but bread (or crackers), made from ancient varieties of wheat, like spelt (epautre) and kamut, or buckwheat (sarracin) are the even healthier option – although you may have to visit the Bio shop or make your own. If we don’t let our children get used to white bread, they won’t miss it - and chances are they might actually prefer the healthy stuff!
(Susan Tomassini – Foodwise)