I often get asked what kind of bread I eat and realise more and more that bread can be a minefield for some people. There is also a common misunderstanding that many of us can’t actually eat bread, as we can’t stomach the wheat or start to believe we’re gluten intolerant. The truth is however, we can eat bread. It just needs to be real bread.
So what exactly is real bread?
Real bread actually should consist of just 4 ingredients, wheat, yeast, salt and water. Anything else on the ingredients list is added to it for taste only (seeds, grain, fruit and veg).
Real bread is without additives, enzymes, excessive salt, sugar, preservatives, E numbers and words we cannot pronounce.
These extra ingredients are usually added to help improve the taste, texture, shelf life or nutritional profile of the bread so that consumers will find it more appealing. Other manufacturers use additional sweeteners (like sugar, corn syrup, or honey) to make their bread—especially whole wheat ones—taste sweeter. Often, high fructose corn syrup replaces sugar in many breads to reduce cost and prolong shelf life. And many breads are enriched with vitamins and minerals so that they’ll appear to be more nutritious.
Commercial bread manufacturers have no interest in nutrition. If they are using refined white flour it is fortified with synthetic vitamins which are poorly absorbed. If they are using whole grains, the vitamins and minerals are all bound up in the bran where it is unavailable unless it has been properly prepared. The marketing for these products is geared towards sale of the product, not the nutrient content.
By law, a food company must list ingredients in descending order based on how much they weigh in the product. This means that the first ingredient is the most prevalent ingredient in the product, and so on.
White vs. Whole-Wheat Bread
Before processing, a wheat kernel is a whole grain that contains all three, healthy parts of the kernel:
1. Bran makes up the outer layers of the grain and contains B-vitamins, trace minerals and dietary fiber.
2. Germ is the part of the plant that sprouts to generate a new plant. It has B-vitamins, trace minerals, and some protein.
3. Endosperm is the inner part of the grain that contains protein and carbohydrates as well as small amounts of vitamins and minerals.
Whole-grain flours are made by grinding up intact wheat kernels; white flours have to be “stripped” of all the good stuff before they get sent to the grinder.
To make white flour, manufacturers remove the germ and bran (along with 80 percent of the fiber and most of the nutrients), then send the stripped grains through the mill. White flours usually get a dose of B vitamins, folic acid, and iron during processing, this fortification process replaces up some of the lost nutrient content, but the flour is still missing many healthy compounds such as antioxidants and phytonutrients.
To make sure you are getting 100% whole wheat bread, look at the ingredients list—not the front of the package. “Whole wheat flour” or “100% whole wheat flour” should be the first ingredient and the only flour listed. Don’t fall for mis-leading terms such as “wheat flour,” “unbleached wheat flour,” “multigrain,” “enriched,” or “stone-ground wheat flour.” These are just sneaky ways of saying refined white flour.
Please remember using the word whole grain is NOT the same thing as whole wheat.
There are of course many breads available that can fit into many dietary requirements and healthy eating plans and is a remarkably pure food – you just need to choose the right loaf.
I’ll write a post soon about the various breads available for non-wheat eaters..but one thing we could all do is look for breads that have shorter ingredients lists and recognisable ingredients in general.