Is Bread Bad?
Now days, many people believe that bread is bad. They think that all carbs are a vice and that the secret to good health is following a gluten-free diet. How can a traditional element of our diet that has been around for centuries suddenly be so evil? Before you know it, there will be a push to remove the line “Give us this day, our daily bread…” from the Lord’s Prayer. I don’t believe that bread itself is bad. I do believe that the modern day processed loaf of perfectly shaped, square pieces that turn into a gluten-ness mass in your mouth when you eat them, is. Our family has made the transition to using fresh ground wheat and making sourdough bread. It’s time to take a new look at this old favorite.
Back to Our Roots
When I began studying more healthful ways to eat, I read an excellent book called Nourishing Traditions. This book studied the traditional diets of many cultures as they existed prior to the innovation of factory farming and food production of the 1950s. It was fascinating to read how people had naturally stumbled upon ways to process their food that also happened to increase its health benefits. A great example is making sauerkraut. This method of processing cabbage not only increased its shelf life, but it had the added benefit of imparting millions of beneficial bacteria to the cabbage. The bacteria would flourish in our intestines strengthening them against harmful bacteria. This is just one of many examples of traditional food processing which also includes products like yogurt, bone broth, and other fermented vegetables.
Factories not so Fantastic
You see, bread used to be made in a way that eating it actually contributed to your overall health. Wheat, itself, is extremely high in protein, fiber, vitamins, nutrients and antioxidants. As food production became more industrialized though, certain elements of creating it changed. Instead of freshly grinding wheat at the town mill, it could be ground at a factory. Then it had to be packaged, shipped somewhere, and eventually used. Once a wheat kernel is ground, its nutrients quickly begin to break down. This renders the once healthful wheat basically useless (to understand the health benefits of using freshly ground wheat, check out this article). Instead of making bread fresh daily or even weekly, plasticizers could be added to it to increase its shelf life. Like white sugar, the general population equated white flour with prosperity and richness and no longer preferred the brown bread of days past (good-bye fiber!). Bread no longer used wild yeast, which varied greatly in its composition and could be captured through the fermentation process to help it rise. Now, a single strain of yeast could be produced, packaged and used for fast, easy, guaranteed rising.
People are Waking Up
Fortunately, people are waking up and realizing that quicker, faster and cheaper isn’t always better. There’s a great article in the Wall Street Journal about the growing trend of “artisanal” bakeries that create loaves in the traditional manner. This includes using fresh ground wheat and fermenting the bread (the only technique that creates true sourdough loaves). There’s a rise in home bakers using fresh ground grains, soaked or sprouted grains and fermenting their products. You can even buy sprouted grain at most grocery stores now. (To understand the health benefits of soaked vs. sprouted vs. sourdoughed wheat, check out this article.)
Our Path to Sourdough Bread
For our family, the transition to an appetite for healthy bread began by making our own at home. My grandmother has always ground her own wheat and made her own bread. After spending a weekend learning with her, I was on my way. Bread no longer became a cheap commodity in our home, but a prized and treasured aspect of a meal that we truly appreciated. We quickly realized how little of it we needed to eat to become full, due to its naturally high fiber. After reading Nourishing Traditions, I realized there was more I could do to improve the healthiness of our bread by making it sourdough. I failed at my first attempt to grow a wild yeast starter and killed my second batch. But my third starter has been growing strong now for over 5 years. When I first began making bread with it, I failed way more than I succeeded. Brick after wheat brick got cut into croutons or made into breadcrumbs as I just couldn’t master it. Finally, I began to see success. Our taste buds adapted to the delightfully pungent sourness and my family has transitioned to eating it full time. We also regularly make sourdough pancakes, corn bread, English muffins, cinnamon rolls, crackers, and biscuits.
Is it Worth It?
In the beginning, we could not “feel” any benefit from eating homemade or sourdough bread. Nor could we see the benefit of cooking mostly from scratch, reducing our sugar, eating more vegetables, etc. No one in our family had been experiencing any health crisis; we were just interested in eating healthier. However, after a year of eating this way, we began to notice the difference when we traveled to the in-laws or out of town and ate SAD (standard American diet) food. All of us would experience indigestion, constipation, fatigue and stomach aches. We usually couldn’t wait to get home and eat our normal diet again. Now, I usually bring our own food with us, including bread, so we can avoid the inevitable unpleasant feelings.
Try it For Yourself
If you would like to experience the benefits of healthy homemade bread for yourself, check out our homemade Organic Wheat Bread. Or for a sweat treat, try our Cinnamon Raisin Organic Wheat bread. If you are ready to take healthy bread to the next level, our Organic Whole Wheat Sourdough Bread is as good as it gets. All our bread products are made in small batches (2 to 3 loaves at a time) using the best ingredients we can find. It is our mission that the bread we bake will make you want to say “give us this day, our daily bread…”