I have always liked bread. I used to eat it for breakfast with butter, at lunch time and in the evening to accompany my meals.
However, lately I was asked what type of bread is safe to eat without worrying about side effects. This prompted so many questions in my head that I felt I needed to write this article.
Be careful – This article is fairly long, but if you are a bread lover like me, then read it all, as it will be an eye opener.
First let me ask you, what kind of bread do you like?
Do you like the regular type?
Or you’re a fan of gluten-free bread (I like these, as my cousin is allergic to gluten, so make sure that we get some for her (and it is not an extra mile or effort like some says; it is a pleasure for me to get gluten free bread so that we can have lunch together and have fun to)?
Many of my friends feels and thinks that anything besides the regular type of bread is simply a joke.
But I tend to disagree and feel that the contribution of bread to our modern diet and that wherever we go is something to discuss and share.
Why am I saying this? First because I love bread (I think you guessed this), but also because an endless number of nutritionists are now highlighting the high importance of a gluten-free diet and ‘OF COURSE’ of bread.
Many people are now avoiding gluten, while others think that there is no need for that.
So we have two camps, the gluten free and those who thinks this is a joke.
Due to these two camps, scientists have spent years researching and investigating the different grains’ effects on our body and therefore on our health.
Obviously, it is clear that the gluten-free population is growing and is now considered as trendy to be a gluten free person (we all know this, YOU ARE DIFFERENT – and that is true).
The bread / dough question to pose ourselves is:
Why many of us can eat pizza, pasta and dough without dreaming of having a problem. But for others their digestive system will reject these food right after eating them. So s gluten the real problem, or is there something else that affecting our guts and digestive system?
The first reality that scientists have proven is that some of us are more sensitives than others to bread (hence to gluten).
In essence, my cousin is more sensitive than me and his guts do not respond as well as mine. This difference is great, as it always brings endless discussion around the table about what is gluten and what is good and bad food for your body.
Let us inspect how and why grains affect our gut integrity. Let us investigate what you can do about it too.
The rise and fall of the grain
Grains are small hard seeds with layers attached to them. They produce the popular cereal grains we eat. They are what we call a pseudo grain such as quinoa, buckwheat or amaranth.
These types of grains are labeled gluten-free and are considered safer for consumption. Historically, grains were cultivated easy and stored so they can last through the winter.
They have been an important part of the ancient diet, but over the years, the refining process made the grains to lose their key nutrients.
By the 19th century, the integrity of bread was at the lowest point. If stored, it quickly became rancid, but by stripping the grain of the germ, you could store it for longer.
The process was perfected when chemicals were added to pre-made loafs, although this left the bread with almost no nutritional value. Luckily, grains are now making a big comeback in the way nature intended them to
So What Makes Up a Grain?
A traditional cereal grain consists of:
1. Bran the outer shell of the grain that contains important antioxidants, nutrients, and most notably fiber. It is what makes the grain a slow release carbohydrate.
2. Germ is the embryo inside of the grain which contains important nutrients such as B vitamins, healthy fats, and protein. It has the potential to sprout into a new plant.
3. Endosperm is the inner part of the grain containing starchy carbohydrates, protein and a very small number of nutrients – this is where the gluten protein is found. It is essentially the germ’s food supply.
Now that we’ve covered our basics, we ask ourselves…
What Wheat Problems?
The common loaf of white bread is made from processed flour with no nutrients, which means that the loaf is made mostly from sugar. All the processed foods we eat have made our intestinal system weak, and the usual diet nowadays is only making matters worse.
What is gluten sensitivity?
Before going further, we’re not talking about celiac disease, the autoimmune disorder that affects 1% of the world’s population.
We won’t talk about wheat allergies as well. Non-celiac gluten sensitivity affect about 13% of all people. Gluten means “glue” in Latin, and is responsible for the chewy consistency of bread.
It is also added to sauces, ham, ketchup and ice cream. Gluten sensitivity is the immune system’s way of reacting to proteins in the grain.
This affects your intestinal system and causes symptoms in other parts of the body.
Once inflammation occurs (due to eating processed foods rich in chemicals), the intestinal system is weakened, and the microvilli (tiny structures that help us absorb food) are damaged.
A certain gene present in people with autoimmune conditions also gets activated when we consume gluten.
This increases the activity of zonulin in the body, which makes the gut porous and allows larger particles of protein inside, causing a host of problems.
Gluten sensitivity can be discovered in two ways: either by blood tests or an elimination diet. Here are the main signs of gluten sensitivity:
– Brain fog/Inability to focus
– Chronic fatigue
– Digestive issues: IBS like constipation, diarrhea, abdominal cramping/pain, bloating and gas
– Fibromyalgia/muscle pains
– Skin issues including something called keratosis pilaris (bumps on the back of your arms, like chicken skin)
– Hormonal issues for women: such as PCOS or PMS
– Mood issues: highs and lows or even ADD
Other bread problems
In addition to gluten, grains also contain lectins and phytates that are dubbed as anti-nutrients (although within them there are a few beneficial ones, that is a story for another post).
Lectins are present in grains and raw legumes as part of the plant’s defense mechanisms and they can cause damage to your intestinal lining by slowing down its natural repair processes.
Phytates are a storage form of phosphorus in grains, legumes, nuts and seeds and they are also part of the plant’s defense mechanism.
Phytates bind to minerals such as iron, zinc, and calcium in your GI tract making those minerals inaccessible.
What Not To Eat
So we have gone through the history, the wheat, what gluten sensitivity is and now you must be thinking that we are leaving you with NO BREAD to eat! How could we do something so cruel?
We are nutritionists, and we love our food, so we are here to tell you that there are options and we are listing them for you from the things you’re better off without to your delicious healthier alternatives.
As we said, the process of making commercial bread leaves the loaf stripped of nutrients. Even gluten-free products are made with starch and sugar and contain a lot of chemicals.
These types of bread are high on the Glycemic Index list and can cause blood sugar spikes and make you irritable.
Sugar is not something you need from a loaf of bread. It’s added to increase taste and volume, and can cause numerous health problems.
Canola and soybean oil
Both oils are genetically modified and are used in most of today’s food. They are however, very processed and are essential a “non-food” food.
Acetylated Tartaric Acid Esters of Mono and Diglycerides
DATEM is a lab-made emulsifier often used in commercial breads. It gives the bread the chewy structure, although eggs and milk can provide the same effect. However, they cost the producers much, which is why they stick to this harmful compound.
Another ‘what is this’ in an ingredient list. Usually, if you can’t understand what the ingredient is, it probably it’s probably made in a lab.
Calcium Propionate is also known as E282 (so it’s not even a word, it’s a number), and it is added as a preservative to maintain shelf life. This ingredient’s primary role is to kill bacteria and prevent mold.
That being said little studies had been done with this ingredient and human consumption. One study on children showed that it increased inattention and irritability.
You can avoid this by buying freshly baked bread, which usually doesn’t contain it or ensures to read the ingredient list.
Oh gosh, make it stop. When you have to look up what an ingredient is in BREAD, it’s a red flag. Sodium stearoyl-2-lactylate is an FDA approved food additive used to improve the mix tolerance and volume of processed foods, and it is generally recognized as safe;
However, caution is recommended in pregnant women and children which for us is a red flag.
Better Bread For You
Here is an example of Ezekiel’s 4:9 Sprouted Whole Grain Bread ingredient list: Organic Sprouted Wheat, Filtered Water, Organic Sprouted Barley, Organic Sprouted Millet, Organic Malted Barley, Organic Sprouted Lentils, Organic Sprouted Soybeans, Organic Sprouted Spelt, Fresh Yeast, Organic Wheat Gluten, Sea Salt.
So we don’t have to do much explaining here. All these ingredients are plucked from the ground (minus wheat gluten) and are all whole, minimally processed foods. These are our top five reasons to switch to whole grain, healthy selection loaf.
Grains that aren’t processed are rich in vitamins from the B group which can control your metabolism and improve your energy production.
Slow release carbs
A grain stripped of protein and fiber can spike your blood sugar levels and increases the risk of diabetes.
Whole grains are healthier for you and won’t make you crave food afterwards like commercial bread does.
The North American diet lacks fiber, which is very important for your digestion and overall health. White bread doesn’t contain fiber, but whole grain bread does. Fiber will keep you digestive system running and clean your body of toxins, while also improving your gut health.
Sprout it for even more benefits
Sprouting seeds is beneficial as it allows for better nutrient absorption and the richer nutritional value. Sprouted grains are definitely best for eating.
What to look for when shopping for bread?
So now that your bread knowledge is very detailed and you have some pretty solid reasons to avoid certain types of bread at the supermarket, we should probably tell you what to look for when you are shopping.
Again, this means the entire grain is intact. No fiber, no B vitamins, no minerals have been taken away.
The less processed, the better, and try to look for brands that explain the exact grain they are using: wheat, barley, rye, etc. Most whole grain bread will be a blend of grains – ’12 grain’ being one of the most popular term used.
If you can see 12 different types of whole grains on your ’12’ grain bread, then that’s a good thing. Some of those loaves of bread will have added flaxseeds or chia seeds so added anti-inflammatory omegas.
Whole Grain Sprouted
Exactly the same as whole grains but the sprouting process has taken place (see above for sprouting benefits). Some of the healthiest loaves of bread out there are sprouted loaves of bread.
The best thing is that these loaves of bread basically taste the same as a whole grain bread so if you can choose between sprouting or the latter, go sprouted.
Ancient whole grain
Ancient grains are not so processed and are great for your health. Spelt, amaranth, millet, quinoa and Kamut are some of the most popular ancient grains Some of them might contain gluten, while some of them don’t.
Whole grain gluten-free
People usually think that gluten-free is the healthiest bread for you, but it’s not like that. Some gluten-free brands go through the same processing like white bread, which is why you need to avoid gluten-free products with potato starch, tapioca and white rice.
If you’re looking for gluten-free bread, look for amaranth, buckwheat, quinoa, millet and brown rice bread.
Grain free bread
This bread is very easy to make. Sweet potato bread, almond flour bread and coconut bread are some of the most popular grain-free breads. These loafs often contain nuts and seeds and are rich in protein and healthy fats.