by Carolyn Tate
I’ve tried giving up bread. I know my body is happier without it. My jeans fit better and I don’t get that awful bloated feeling. But without bread you can’t have Vegemite toast. And you don’t have anything to mop up those runny poached yolks on the weekend. And the easy, quick sandwich you throw in your bag on your way out the door in the morning? Gone. Let’s face it: bread is freaking awesome. If it were legal, I might even cut a gingerbread man shape out of it and marry it.
I’m not willing to give up bread, so I have made it my mission to find out which bread is best for me. I am lucky in that my kids think white bread is pretty much only for fairy bread at parties. They will eat almost anything I bring home, but they do draw the line at walnut sourdough – which is good because I get it all to myself.
Things to consider:
- White bread is bad. Sorry, but there it is. It’s too quick to digest and too high in GI – and it provides very little nutritional bang for your buck. Multigrain bread is generally white bread with grains in it. That means any of those multigrain breads that make you feel good about eating 17 different types of grain are all very well, but you can do better. And no matter how many grains are in there, there is no guarantee any of them are whole grains. Bad again.
- Bread companies add emulsifiers, starches, preservatives and softeners to make your bread nice and light and fluffy – and to stay that way beyond what is natural. The jury is still out on what health implications these products have. I’d rather not eat them, though.
- If you’re eating bread with yeast (and most of them will have yeast), sugar is necessary to activate the yeast. I avoid sugar as much as possible, myself, but I’m not a wowser about it. Just check that it is down the list of ingredients – you don’t want it being higher than the fourth ingredient because that means it’s too high – that amount goes beyond just activating the yeast. (We all know ingredients are listed in order of their quantities in the product, don’t we?)
So let’s take a look at a few of the best bread choices.
Wholemeal – the thing about wholemeal bread is that the information floating around about it generally compares it with white bread. Favourably, obviously, and rightly so. It’s true that wholemeal bread has a lower GI than white bread. It’s also true that it is more filling, and that it takes longer to digest. Wholemeal flour uses the whole wheatberry rather than just the endosperm, which is what white bread does. Great. But beware of wholemeal bread that still contains a lot of white flour as well. A lot of brands available at the supermarket use a bit of wholemeal flour and a whole lot of white flour. Read your labels.
Rye – if what you are buying is bread made with 100 per cent rye flour, you’ve hit the jackpot. Congratulations! But check it out. Apparently you can sell white bread with rye seeds in it and still call it rye. Sneaky. What you want is a good European-style bakery on your street corner. Got it? Good! Otherwise, check your ingredients.
Pumpernickel – pumpernickel is traditionally made with coarse rye flour, which makes it super awesome because it’s nutrient-dense, with low GI and takes ages to digest – keeping you full for ages. Trouble is, most commercially made pumpernickel is made with processed flour added in which erodes a lot of the goodness. Check the label or buy from that good old traditional European bakery.
Sourdough – some say sourdough is the ultimate bread. It has been credited with curing cancer, being edible for coeliacs and brokering a peace deal in the Middle East. In reality, it may not live up to all of those claims, but it’s still some freaking good stuff. The fermentation process and long rising time helps break down starches, proteins, gluten and phytates in grains, making them easier to digest, as well as boosting the availability of nutrients. It also slows down the absorption of starches – reducing its GI index. Studies have shown that white sourdough has a lower GI than regular wholemeal bread (but wholemeal sourdough is still a better option for the nutrients it offers).
So there you go, that’s my research so far. It’s ongoing though, because I’m obsessed with bread. My current favourite is that walnut sourdough I mentioned earlier – from Sol Breads. They sell their awesome artisan breads online.
Of course, if you want to be really impressive, you can make your own. First you’ll need to make your own sourdough starter. This is on my list of things to do when I have time. Yep, one day…
Another wonderful discovery was the Life Changing Loaf of Bread from My New Roots. Hot damn! That bread is magnificent – wheat-free, based on psyllium husks, oats and nuts – and so easy to make. Delicious served with coconut butter, or poached eggs and free range bacon. Or just butter. Mmmmm, butter…
What’s your favourite bread? Am I right to be obsessed or should I remove the stick from my bum and tuck into the Wonder White?