Should You Put Down the Bread?

I freakin' love bread as much as the next person, I am a slut for grains if you will, but during this past year of really researching what foods and products are truly beneficial to our body, mind, and planet, I am near ready to break up with the bread.


To preface this, I think traditional grains, wheat, and breads had their benefits, but the modern way grains are processed and then made into bread can have negative health consequences.


Wheat has been bred over time to ensure higher yield varieties, drought resistance, etc., however, this comes at a cost. With these new breeds of wheat, we've lost what is most important, the nutrients. Wheat has lower nutrient content and a different protein structure compared to what our ancestors ate. The combination of lower nutrients and the change in structure is believed to be directly related to inflammatory conditions (Our Heritage of Health).


Bread made the traditional way used homemade yeast as the rising agent, which consisted of either a sourdough starter or from a distillery. Homemade yeast could also be made from hops, potatoes, or a flour-water-sugar mixture. Traditional homemade yeast made from sourdough sours caused fermentation, which then allows the anti-nutrients such as phytic acid to be broken down, making minerals and vitamins more accessible. Studies have even shown that this fermentation process can make the proteins in wheat, such as gluten, easier for us to digest (Our Heritage of Health).


Traditional bread has a much longer rise time compared to modern bread. Modern bread consists of rapid rise yeast, and for commercially-prepared breads, they often contain additives allowing them to rise even faster - increasing production. (FYI - the modern yeast we use today wasn't invented until the late 1860s) (Our Heritage of Health). Traditional bread recipes typically consist of 4-5 ingredients (flower, water, yeast, salt, and possibly some sweetener or herbs). Now, go look at the ingredients on the loaf of bread in your kitchen - how many ingredients do you count? You are likely looking at preservatives, artificial flavoring, stabilizers, and enhancers - all to increase production and shelf life - aka Monaaaaaay$$.


Of course, we can't talk about bread without addressing flour. With the invention of the modern steel roller in the 1800's, flour became more refined and became what we now know today as white flour and whole-wheat flour (the spruce eats).


White flour goes through a process where it loses all natural nutrients, often causing bread manufacturers to "enrich" the bread with added nutrients after processing. However, these nutrients are not in their natural form, nor at the level you would find in whole-wheat bread (the spruce eats).


So what about whole-wheat? Surely this is has to be better for us... yes and no. Whole wheat naturally has more fiber than white flour and has the same nutrients found in wheat, which white flour does not. Whole-wheat flour also has vitamin B-1, B-3, and B-5 along with riboflavin, folate and more iron, calcium, and protein than white flour (the spruce eats). So what's the down side? An excess amount of wheat can cause constipation, water retention, bloating, and gas (MedicineNet). Also, if the wheat flour is refined, it loses up to 80% of it's nutrients when the bran and germs are removed. Just like with white flour, vitamins and minerals are added back into the bread, but it still has a lower nutrient count and fiber (nutritionstudies).


It all comes down to how the wheat is processed and how the bread is made. Yes, you can still enjoy bread from time to time, but be conscious in the bread you are choosing, or...make it yourself. This post doesn't even address celiac disease which can cause liver disease, intestinal cancer, malnutrition, etc., or wheat allergies which can cause respiratory and/or gastrointestinal symptoms (nutritionstudies). We'll save those topics for another day.


Sources:

  1. MedicineNet -https://www.medicinenet.com/is_eating_wheat_bad_for_you/article.htm

  2. Nutritionstudies - https://nutritionstudies.org/whole-grains-good-or-bad/

  3. Our Heritage of Health - https://www.ourheritageofhealth.com/4-ways-modern-bread-different-traditional-bread/

  4. the spruce eats - https://www.thespruceeats.com/whole-wheat-flour-vs-white-flour-2238373




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