These days with more diets and eating trends than search results when the words “shape shake” are entered into Google, eating correctly and understanding what's ok or not ok to eat is becoming more and more confusing. Try to say “shape shake” quickly 10 times in a row… Lately, I've been seeing and hearing a plethora of weight loss articles, TV segments, and friends/acquaintances commenting about the pitfalls of eating bread. Oh, how bad it is for us and how to limit or exclude bread totally from our food list and diet.
Why they say bread is bad?
Their claims are mostly based on either the refinery or gluten arguments which are:
Refinery – some say bread is the end product of over-processing what was once a natural food (like a wheat grain) into a form nothing like it once resembled. Therefore, we humans (specifically our bodies) find it difficult to recognise bread and use this food in any valuable way. Also, they believe the concentrated refined form has little nutrients and due to the processed nature is too quickly absorbed by the body and thus turned into fat.
Gluten – Bread made from wheat, rye and similar grains contain gluten (a protein which helps bread rise and gives elasticity) without it bread wouldn't be bread – so it's essential. Gluten free has become a buzz-word on food labels. Trendy city talk blame gluten for all sorts of aliments from diarrhoea and mental health issues to just getting fat.
Whilst some of the points above are true, to an extent, the weight behind the spin for excluding bread from a normal persons diet is unwarranted. Scaremongering about eating bread is like saying prunes are bad for you, which in certain quantities is probably true, and we all know what'd happen if we ate a bucket of prunes… if you don't, then take up my challenge to give it a go (and post the results in the comments section below).
Seriously though, bread is probably the most famous food the world has ever known – Jesus ate it for Christ's sake! My grandfather loved bread and he lived to 91 and many more bread lovers live longer and aren’t fat either.
In Europe, the Mediterranean, Middle-East, or North Africa it's difficult not to eat bread because it's so traditionally woven into their society ridding it as an appetiser or accompaniment to a meal would be an absurd thought. Realistically, bread eaten sensibly as part of a well balanced diet is good for you and perfectly ok.
There are people, of course, who (tragically in my opinion) are unable to eat bread due to medical conditions such as: celiac disease (an immune disease where gluten is not tolerated by the body and causes intestinal issues, which can be life threatening); and wheat allergy, which like any allergies can be serious. These people unfortunately have real reasons for keeping bread out of their diet and need to either completely exclude wheat products or try to substitute with other foods, for instance, rice flour.
For the other 99% of people in the world (statistic according to Wiki of people who don't suffer from gluten intolerance) we needn’t worry about any negative effects from eating bread; therefore, if one enjoys eating bread they should continue to do so. I'm not saying we should all eat a loaf a day but a moderate intake of bread should be fine for most of us.
If it's weight gain people are worried about let me assure them it's not the bread making us fat it's too much food and not enough exercise – full stop! If we eat good quality bread in moderation it's never going to be an issue and in fact it probably does more good than harm. Bread is a good “gap filler” and can be a way to actually eat less by filling us up before we eat too much other stuff. Furthermore, a sandwich is generally a better take-away choice for a quick lunch than other more fatty and less nutritious fast foods.
Additives in some breads
However, not all breads are the same, and I don't mean the different types of bread what I mean is the extra unnecessary ingredients that are deliberately added to preserve shelf life or make the bread softer. I'm sure there's even more artificial tricks commercial operators use in bread, but in my view bread improver, preservatives, or anything artificial in a loaf is a good reason not to buy it.
Simple bread is best
I believe the best bread is the peasant style loaf found in traditional bakeries around the world that has remained unchanged for centuries – basically flour & water. I did a bit of work in the Sahara Desert in the early 90s and one of my fondest memories from that region (French influenced) was the bread. So rustic yet so very good broken by fist and dipped into extra virgin olive oil or topped with fresh sardines, or even salami from the nearby Spanish Canary Islands – I can taste it now…
Simple Peasant Bread Recipe
Below is a really simple bread recipe for making bread round loaf found in most traditional European or middle-eastern style bakeries. I guess it's more than just flour and water – I reckon Jesus would have loved it.
400ml luke-warm water;
600g plain white bakers flour;
2 x tspns dry bread yeast;
1 x tspn sugar;
¼ x tspn of salt; and
Sprinkling of poppy or sesame seeds (optional).
1 x egg (optional)
Place the water, flour, yeast, sugar and salt into a bread maker in that order and set it for dough only. Depending on your machine, this first step should take about 1 hour and includes the “first rise.”
If you don't have a bread maker then just kneed it by hand for about 15 minutes and then leave the dough in a bowl to rise for about 40 minutes.
Remove the dough from the bread maker onto a floured bench give it a dusting with flour and mould into a high dome roughly 7 inches wide and 5 inches high. Don't be too worried if the dough seems quite sticky initially.
Place the moulded dough onto a shallow baking tray lined with baking paper and a bit of dusted flour.
If you would like to add poppy or sesame seed then do this now by beating the egg a little in a cup and then using a kitchen basting brush paint the egg wash onto the top of the dough. Sprinkle with your choice of seed or mix and leave rest for at least 30 minutes to rise again.
Turn the oven on conventional (not fan forced) and preheat at 180 Cº.
After the dough has risen, carefully place it into the middle rack of the oven and bake for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes the loaf should be brown and sound hollow when tapped – if unsure poke with a skewer and if it comes out clean the bread is done. If not, bake for a further 5 minutes.
Remove from the oven and place on the stove top (preferably on a rack) to cool.
Slice and enjoy.
1. You can experiment with different types of flour like wholemeal, grain, etc.
2. In step 2 ensure basting for seed sprinkling is done prior to the second rise if done after the dough will deflate before it gets into the oven and turnout too heavy. Also, the basting could be done with milk or even water if preferred instead of egg (but egg sticks the seed best and gives a better crust finish).
Those of us who enjoy eating bread and don't have a gluten intolerant medical condition should continue consuming it regularly because bread is not bad for us. We should not let the latest diet fad make us feel guilty about eating a sanga (sandwich) or dipping our home-made crusty bread in olive oil and savouring the mouthful – think about it, what would Jesus have done…?
Feel free to use the comment section below and have your say (no email is required).
Thanks for reading and thanks for your support,
Look, and see the Earth through her eyes
Mark Valencia – Editor SSM
Plain butter is fantastic on fresh bread isn't it?