Carbicide: Breaking Bread Habits
“Bread is one of those things that has been hand in hand with mankind since mankind has been mankind.” So says pastry chef extraordinaire and co-author of a soon to be published book series entitled Modernist Bread whose aim is to revamp our attitudes to the humble loaf. Bread’s swift fall from grace has been well documented; sales of old-school sliced pan continue to plummet, while doughnut stalls mushroom outside the supermarkets. No- and low-carb regimes continue to prevail on the diet scene, while ‘treat yo’self’ meals feature truck loads of garlic bread and other carbs. Hands up if you’ve ever stopped yourself having another slice of warm, buttery toast only to roadrunner your way through through an entire packet of processed-to-bejaysus crackers half an hour later?
This evening, I’m going to have a cursory look at a few of the myths surrounding poor old bread and hopefully dispel them.
- Eating bread will wreak havoc with your blood sugar levels and make you gain weight? Bread itself is not especially calorific when – surprise, surprise – eaten in moderation, nor will a slice or two of it send your sugars skyrocketing, particularly if you pair it with a serving of protein and heathy fats. I don’t want to focus on calories but to illustrate a point, bread rocks up at 100 calories or so per slice, sometimes more for a chunkier hunk embellished with nutritionally-beaming seeds etc… Surely not bank-breaking when a KitKat bar comes in at c. 230? While eating half a loaf or more of white sliced pain which has been divested of most of its nutritional value during the refining process is not to be advised, attempting to resist any bread is more likely to result in you overdoing it when you allow yourself to do so and set in train cravings and binge cycles. In general, brown bread trumps white due to its increased fibre content but you must remember there is no legal definition for this and terms like whole wheat/grain/meal are bandied about like nobody’s business so examine labels carefully. Also good to note that nutrients lost during production are often re-added at a later stage so, again, read labels. Interestingly, white bread often contains more iron than its brown counterparts… And don’t forget, a slice of good old-fashioned white sliced pan is your only man for certain toasties!
- Low carb or the highway for weight loss? The reality is that we all process carbs differently, depending on our genetics and our environment, i.e. the eating habits to which our bodies have acclimatised over the years. I know people of my build and weight who eat less than I do, but I also know several who eat much more! The digestive system is a vast ocean comprising many glands, copious mucus (charming, I know!), countless enzymes and hormones and a microbiome with millions of bugs. I’d be very wary of further sensitising my body to carbs by eliminating them and knocking my complicated digestive system out of kilter – I want to keep my body in the lifestyle to which it has become accustomed!
- Bread equals bloat? A 2012 review by the British Nutrition Foundation concluded that there is no evidence that regular consumption of bread, whether produced by modern or traditional methods, leads to bloating or digestive pains, although some may experience these symptoms should there be a sudden surge in their intake of fibre. Over time, your gut bugs should adapt and these pesky symptoms should subside. Adequate hydration and exercise will expedite the process.
- Gluten-free bread is better for you (and when a lot of us say ‘better for you’, we’re often merely speaking with regard to weight loss unfortunately), even if you don’t have coeliac disease? The weight loss claims behind gluten-free diets are likely attributable to the surge in diet quality that results from eliminating often highly-processed, gluten-containing foods and replacing them with fruits and vegetables. Many gluten-free breads have been manufactured with all sorts of flavour-boosting oils and additives because gluten-free grains often don’t play ball on the bread dough forming field. So not necessarily and usually not at all!
Don’t be afraid to have some toast on this chilly October evening. Let me know if you’d like any specifics on any of the above.
Have a great week!11