Whole grains and bread. Synonymous?
Not so much.
The whole concept of whole grains is generally quite confusing to people.
Especially as many bread companies use the term on their label, "Made with Whole Grains!" to add to the complication!
Bread is more than just food. Just think of how we use that word: Your “bread and butter” is your source of sustenance, while bread or dough can be cash, plain and simple. When people “break bread” they share more than just a meal: you are together in body as well as spirit. Bread holds special meaning, its a vital food source for people around the globe.
Over the centuries it has evolved, reflecting the diversity of human culture, and the ability of people to adapt to their environment. Just like all fermented foods, it has gone through some challenging times in the way its prepared, taking the quality, attention to detail, and respect for traditions out of the picture, and now we are looking at going backwards to the "real" (traditional) way because we understand why it's just not working for us now. More on that, later.
I have had many people ask me this week about bread and gluten, no doubt due to this piece done by CBC this week.
In the audio one part that stood out for me was when they talked about celebrities' influencing our nutrition with their 'cultural foot print' and the role celebrities play in these types of trends. I know anyone can write a book about what worked for them, but nutrition is so specialized for each person, how would we trust that a celebrity knows what feels right for our body?
I mean, I'm pretty obsessed with Robert Plant & Jimmy Page, but if they openly went _______ <---- insert nutrition label here: vegan/paleo/macrobiotic etc. I wouldn't scramble to follow them as I know that what works for them doesn't have to work for me. We need to trust ourselves, learn from ourselves, for ourselves - not simply copy others.
So one of the biggest problems here is actually just people hopping on band wagons. Buzz words. When we hear 'gluten is bad' and we rush into a gluten-free diet in hopes of feeling better and/or losing weight - we haven't really given our body a fair chance. I believe strongly that we need to allow our body tell us what IT needs and respect it that way, do proper research on whether or not something will work for us, and quietly experiment, taking note of how it feels for us rather than taking others' choices & opinions and applying it to our life and our own body without a second thought.
I'm going to take you through a series of common questions that I get - with the answers' goal being to help clear some of the murkiness away.
What is gluten?
Gluten is the protein-carbohydrate mixture that is contained in wheat, rye, and barley.
What is the trend about with gluten-free?
When we started eating more processed foods, packaged foods, refined, chemicalized foods, genetically modified foods, fast food and moved away from what our ancestors ate (whole, real foods) we started to get sicker and sicker. And, allergies became a growing problem, well more like prevalent.... Many schools of thought targeted gluten as a very common allergen that people were experiencing plus celiac disease (an autoimmune condition) became a popular topic in the nutrition and medical world: people were looking for answers. This coupled with the fact that the Wheat Belly book spread the education of of the state of our modern wheat, many folks were moving to gluten-free diets simply as a way to lose weight. This equaled the 'gluten-free products' section we see in grocery stores today. (What people don't realize is that a lot of those foods are NOT healthy.) The 'trend' is frustrating because if we all understood the logic behind the 'quality' in our food then we wouldn't have to try a "diet" such as gluten free. Many people who try the diet still eat too many packaged (labeled gluten free) foods and don't lose or maintain it, so it is not meant to be used as a diet. It is meant for people who are sensitive to gluten and are trying to heal allergies by cutting out foods they are sensitive to. I'm strongly against both diets and labels, and I've never put anyone on a 'gluten-free diet' - I've just tried to increase the quality of the bread they are currently eating. We aren't sure if gluten-free products are a fad or a trend, but with enough education people will see that they simply need a high-quality, whole foods diet to heal their body from the gluten intolerance symptoms appearing, and to switch to bakeries that use traditional baking techniques (eg: fermented starter culture, whole grains freshly milled, no additives.) Yes, it exists in our modern culture, and I'll share with you my favourite local bakeries below.
What's the deal with bread: yay, nay?
Quality, quality, quality.
Cant' stress this enough.
Not all breads are made equally.
It is a concern that in our culture we obtain many of our grains from package cereals, crackers, and refined flour breads that provide much less nutrition than whole grains themselves.
Bread - the classic sign of harvest. Nostalgic at breakfast time. It certainly can be a comfort food.
The refinement of grains in our culture is a major issue within the realm of nutrition. There is a huge loss of nutrients, especially most of the B vitamins' and many minerals that are found naturally in whole grains. Enriched breads do not fix the problem. The best breads you can buy are traditionally-baked (with a culture) sourdough, rye or other whole grain breads.
It's easy to buy cheap bread because its so available, that's what they want you to buy - cheaper = more plentiful food, more profits. This is especially evident than in the baking business. There are so many ways to cut corners, to use cheap fillers and add sugar, to "puff" up bread to sell people air, preserve it and ship it great distances to sell at low prices.
I support bakeries' who commit to connecting the farmer to the miller to the baker. I buy organic bread - the way it is supposed to be done. It is so much better tasting and better for us and our digestive systems because the body can break it down properly. In grocery stores, look for bread that uses 'sprouted whole grains' - but preferably find your local bakery that wants to provide you with the best of the best. (I've listed my favourites at the end of this blog post.)
To sum it up, bread baked with integrity and using traditional methods can be a great, healthy addition to your diet. If you suspect you have a gluten sensitivity, work with your local nutritionist or naturopathic doctor for the issue. As with chocolate, wine and all things good - everything in moderation is key.
Does gluten make me gain weight?
If you are regularly eating refined breads, pastries (ie. refined carbohydrates) then you may have a direct link in your mind to your weight gain. It's always good to think about how we feel and what we ate - we may be craving 'sugar' or 'bread' to get our blood sugar levels up but since the carbohydrates we are eating are refined (nutrition, minerals are gone, leaving more naked sugar!) we are going to spike our blood sugar but then crash again, which we know can definitely lead to weight gain over time.
Often, its not just a certain food we are eating that is making us gain weight - it's how we're eating, or the quality of our food, or our stress levels, there are many reasons we may be gaining weight, not just one particular issue. Take a look deeper.
Again, I don't like 'diets' so if you're working on losing weight, your first goal is to start eating more real food, from nature.
If you choose very high quality bread, and eat it in moderation there's no reason to assume that it's the culprit of weight gain. Weight gain is usually a few issues combined. Talk to someone if you suspect a sensitivity.
If bread isn't really a whole grain, than what is?
Bread isn't a whole grain itself - it can only be potentially made from whole grains. Some breads do use whole grains ground into flour - you have to ask the baker where they get their flour from. The problem comes when breads used refined flours (white flour) and then add a bunch of other ingredients such as sugar, hydrogenated oils and other additives to keep it shelf stable.
If you are looking to cut bread out of your diet, you can still enjoy real whole grains. Whole grains haven't had anything taken away from them = amaranth, corn, millet, barley, buckwheat, oats, quinoa, rice, rye, wheat. You can find these in lots of stores, you can also find these grains in certain health food stores for bulk and often can grind your own right there if you are using them for homemade bread. You can cook these grains up and eat them in salads, put them in soups, or eat them on their own (or mixed with veggies and butter!) as a side dish.
I hope this clears some of the murkiness, comment below if you have had a great experience by switching to a healthier, traditional bread! (And go out quick and find your local artisan baker to make you the most amazing breads!)
Enjoy the staff of life!
My favourite bread baskets...
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