The quick answer: Your bread should be like your breakfast cereal, whole grain with more natural fiber than added sugar.
Peering into the distant past in search of ancestors can be fascinating. The TV program Who Do You Think You Are?, follows celebrities as they discover their origins. Reba McEntire, the country music singer, followed an ancestor from the 1700s that came to America as an indentured servant. He came at the tender age of ten but survived to prosper in the New World. Reba traced his steps back to England to learn his story. Walking in the footprints of our ancestors helps us to understand who we are.
Want to connect with your ancient ancestors by doing something they did? Make bread. There’s something primeval about making bread, especially if you hand knead. The traditional ingredients—flour, water, yeast, salt, honey, and oil or butter—have scarcely changed in mankind’s history. One pillar of the food reformation is the rediscovery of traditional whole grain breads.
Americans eat their weight in flour each year, roughly speaking. Most of this flour is eaten as bread but only 10% of flour, on average, is eaten whole; 90% is refined. Whole flour is rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber, and other needed nutrients. So this post is about the importance of whole grain bread.
How did flour, and bread, lose these needed nutrients? They were lost in man’s restless and relentless search for the next new thing. In the 1873 Vienna World’s Fair flour from a new invention, the roller mill, was introduced. The roller mill efficiently separated the bran and germ from wheat, leaving flour that was white and sweet, but lacking in nutrition. Pastries made of this refined flour became a new taste sensation and healthier flours were soon pushed to the sidelines. Brown bread was out; white was in.
With each generation, as human health declined, reform movements called for a return to whole grain flours. Governments are indifferent to the health of the people except at wartime. Wars can’t be won without strong bodies. In England, before World War I, the Bread Reform League restored whole grain breads with a law defining standard bread. It’s said you can still buy standard bread in the UK.
In the U.S., at the start of World War II, the poor health of army recruits was a concern. Congress quickly approved enriched flour, in which synthetic forms of a few of the missing ingredients were returned as additives. For better or worse, we still use this so-called enriched flour, though further adjustments have been made.
Waking Up In The Bread Aisle:
Last year the beautiful wife and I spent a Friday night in the bread aisle of a typical grocery store, searching out the healthy breads. It was our most widely commented food post. We applied two criteria to the breads:
- The flour must be whole grain.
- The grams of natural fiber must exceed the grams of sugar.
The first rule was more for information because natural fiber can only exceed added sugar, if whole grains are used. Of the 70 breads available that night, just five met the rule. Three were from Oroweat; Milton’s and Food For Life each had one.
In a recent post, The Good Breakfast, we applied the more-fiber-than-sugar rule to breakfast cereals. The rule is a good guide for all cereal products regularly eaten.
In this post, we shared a reader’s time-tested recipe for whole wheat bread.
Please comment. What is your family’s favorite bread? Do you have a great recipe to share? Any bread making tips to share?
Need a reminder? Download our Healthy Change. Print and fold, then place in your kitchen or on your bathroom mirror to help you remember the Healthy Change of the week.