I don’t get it. Why is bread given such a bad rap these days? It used to be a family staple. What changed? Is bread actually good or bad for us to eat?
I thought I would attempt to answer these questions by looking into bread’s basic ingredients:
- the yeast;
- the salt; and
- the wheat.
The yeast. Why are people with candidiasis warned not to eat bread? I have wondered about this ever since my own misdiagnosis when, for a six-week period, I stayed away from sugar, caffeine, alcohol, dairy, gluten and yeast. I was told to avoid bread products specifically because of the yeast content. Although I followed my orders to the letter, I didn’t understand the full reasoning behind the ‘why’.
This I understand: those suffering from negative effects of candida albicans are advised keep their sugar intake low so as not to feed the infection. As well as the existence of natural sugars in the broken-down grains, many of our mass-produced loaves have added sugar to encourage the yeast to work faster.
Baker’s yeast, saccharomyces cerevisiae, works by reacting with sugars to aerate bread dough with carbon dioxide during proofing, also producing alcohol as a by-product. Depending on whether you use fresh or dry yeast, it is optimally active somewhere between 26 and 49°C (78-120°F), and yeast dies at 60°C (140°F). Bread is cooked when its internal temperature is in the range of 88-99°C (190-210°F).
If the bread is cooked, the yeast is dead, and this tells me that the yeast in the bread is therefore inactive – so why should the yeast content bother candidiasis sufferers? Personally, I think it’s more about the sugars and the yeast avoidance is a bit of a furphy. What do you think?
The salt. Salt’s bad, right? I mean, packaged food in Australia gets a little ‘heart health’ tick when it’s low in salt, so it can’t be good for you…right?
Image courtesy of worradmu / FreeDigitalPhotos.net.
Salt has played a major role in human history since ancient times; it’s use as currency exemplifies its value to past civilisations. Although excess salt intake is linked to a variety of serious health problems, our bodies need sodium as a primary electrolyte to perform everyday functions – and savoury food items are often what we turn to when we crave it [incidentally, eating celery can help to stave off salt cravings in a healthy way].
You may not be aware that conventional (granulated cooking/table salt) is often mixed with a filler/anticaking agent to stop the grains from sticking together. This added extra is not usually present in sufficient percentage to warrant its inclusion on a label (ie. under 5% of a ‘compound’ food item in Australia), however I am more than a little disconcerted that such fillers have been associated with allergic reactions [for a humorous look at this serious subject, check out this blog post from Health Myths You Still Believe].
When you do use salt, I suggest looking to the relatively unprocessed alternatives of Himalayan, Celtic or unrefined sea salt, which have no cosmetic additives as well as the natural benefit of trace minerals.
It seems to me that the beneficial/detrimental effects of salt come down to the amount that you are using and its source. Although you may be limiting the amount of salt you add to your food, it is important to look for the hidden salt in packeted and canned food items.
The wheat. One of the most common ingredients in bread is wheat flour, and one of the most common recommendations I hear from naturopaths is to cut wheat from your diet, regardless of whether you are coeliac or not. This warning comes as a result of the gluten content in wheat; non-coeliac gluten intolerance is also a proven condition.
Image courtesy of www.freepicturesweb.com.
The slow tradition of sourdough bread increases the nutrient content of the bread and breaks down the gluten to make it more digestible, even for coeliacs. The process of making your own sourdough is simplified on the Vegetarian Tips website and its importance is further explained via Kaslo Sourdough Bakery’s website.
The energy from wheat-based bread comes to us predominantly in the form of carbs. Carbohydrates are one of our body’s most important sources of energy, yet they too have suffered a less than positive image of late.
How beneficial a carbohydrate is for our bodies comes down to a number of factors, including the availability of the sugars to our system and whether the carbohydrate is simple or complex. White bread is low in fibre, full of simple sugars and gives a quick energy burst; if you are eating whole vegetables, fruits and grains, including wholegrain bread, you are likely to be accessing a richer source of complex carbohydrates, which have a lower glycemic index (ie. slower release energy source).
The Healthy Eating Advisor gives a useful rundown of commonly misunderstood ingredients on food labels, including “enriched wheat flour” [= white flour plus synthetic vitamins].
But wait – there’s more! There are pluses to eating bread, including the presence of the cancer-preventing antioxidant pronyl-lysine. Pronyl-lysine is 8 times higher in concentration within the crust than the rest of the loaf and is mysteriously not at all present in the raw ingredients – although it can be destroyed with over-browning. Finally it looks like there is a scientific basis for eating your crusts. And, with the early start to soup weather, bring on the croutons, I say!
These days, bread can be made from a plethora of grains other than wheat (like pepitas, sunflower seeds), and other techniques (such as sprouting) are also widely used. If you have a dehydrator, you can even try your hand at raw bread.
My choice. I love my raw bread and I won’t feel bad about eating baked bread when I feel like it either, particularly not those thick-cut slices of markets-purchased sourdough loaf with a generous blanket of homemade butter spread from antioxidant-rich crust to antioxidant-rich crust.
Hence a little bread isn’t such a bad thing in my books. Its health effects depend largely on the source, the ingredients and your body’s reactions. I have come to the conclusion that it’s all a matter of personal tolerances, mindfulness and balance. What do you think?