We’ve been led to believe in recent years that bread is the devil incarnate. It’s apparently going to give us everything from an enormous muffin top to heart disease, and even dementia. But, as is the case with so many headlines, and best-selling books, the scales have tipped way too far in one direction. And, the baby has been totally thrown out with the bath water. After all, bread is the staff of life. This basically means that bread supports life, which is why some form or other, it’s found in virtually every culinary tradition across the globe.
So why has bread gotten such a bad rap from health experts and authors over the past few years? There are a myriad of purported reasons…. phew, let me just bullet point a few:
- The gluten in bread is inflammatory, even to those who are not celiac
- The kind of wheat that’s grown today (particularly in the United States), is a variety that is very high in gluten, which has led to an explosion of gluten insensitivity.
- Bread is a “carb”, which basically turns to sugar, which in turn creates thunder thighs and a massive muffin top.
- Paleolithic man didn’t eat bread – he was way too busy running around eating berries and bucket loads of saturated fat (apparently!)
- Bread will make you fat, period.
And the list goes on…
While there is some truth to a couple of the aforementioned bullets, most of these ideas are blown way out of proportion. However, the most important thing to realize is that there’s good bread and bad bread. The latter is the refined stuff that is full of added sugars and additives and will, for sure, contribute to ill-health. And don’t be fooled by a loaf of sliced whole wheat bread in the grocery store – 99.9% of them are filled with less-than-healthy ingredients. But what about the gluten-sensitivity thing?
You might want to snag a copy of Dr. John Douillard’s latest book, Eat Wheat. It’s fascinating and super informative. But, if you can’t be bothered to read it, I’ll try to summarize his philosophy in a couple of sentences: If you have trouble digesting certain foods or if you have food sensitivities (including one to wheat or gluten), you probably need to look beyond the symptom to the cause. He believes that if your main organ of detoxification, which is your liver, is functioning correctly, you should be able to eat wheat. The obvious exception is if you are Celiac.
He also feels, as do I, that we are making a massive mistake by eschewing healthy grains. He points to the Paleo diet as being a dubious (if not dangerous), trend. Moreover, whole grains actually feed the good bacteria in our gut. He worries that the gluten-free trend is leading millions of Americans to be even worse off. Gluten-free foods are very often full of highly refined flours and sugar.
As to the muffin top thing – Does bread make us fat? Not if you eat the right kind of bread (about to get to that). Sure it’s a carb, but we need complex carbs for energy and good gut health. I have seen so many women over the years freak out about carbs – as if a piece of bread or a potato is the devil incarnate, but SERIOUSLY, ladies! It’s NOT the bread you have to be worried about. It’s the low-quality oils, added sugars, preservatives, and refined grains. So what constitutes a healthy loaf?
Here are the only 4 ingredients you need to look for:
- Whole wheat flour (or some variation on a whole grain such as rye, millet or buckwheat)
If you see anything else in your loaf, put it back on the shelf. The only exception would be added seeds such as flax, chia, sunflower and pumpkin.
Why, you might ask, would do I need to avoid oil in bread? Even olive oil? According to Dr. Douillard, oils are added to store-bought bread to increase shelf life. Nearly all of these oils are rancid. Go figure! And the other additives such as sugar and preservatives don’t need any further explanation…they have NO place in your loaf.
Easier said than done because a bread with just 4 ingredients in hard to come by. Even in my trusty Whole Foods Market, I couldn’t find a loaf that met my simple criteria. In the end I found some at my local farmer’s market. This is the reason why I’ve taken to bread making. Yep – I’m beginning to fancy myself as an Artisan baker of sorts … what with my new cast iron baking pot and bread hook at the ready. I never thought I’d use that darn hook that came with my gorgeous Kitchen Aid stand mixer (almost tossed it), but now I’m a baker…watch out! I’ve even got an evil-looking sourdough culture bubbling on my counter. And if anyone dares to disturb it, put a lid on it, or shove it in the fridge, they get yelled at. My sourdough starter is like a precious child that needs to be fed and nurtured everyday.
I encourage you all to either whip out your bread hooks this week, and check out my new bread making series on You Tube. Or, begin the search for a 4-ingredient loaf. Good luck with that!