Is your daily bread a healthy choice, is there a better alternative, or would you be better cutting bread out of your diet completely?

Is bread healthy?

The bread we know today has come a long way from traditional breads. Most commercially produced bread is made using a method called the Choleywood process – a quick and convenient way for bread manufacturers to make a cost-effective loaf, using a method that includes the use of enzymes, preservatives and can produce a higher yield of loaves than traditional methods, but is it good for you?

In a word, no!  More than 80% of the bread we eat in the UK is made this way, to make the sliced bread most of us use for sandwiches and toast. Soft, spongy bread that lasts for ages without going off.

Today’s bread contains twice the amount of yeast of traditional breads, has added enzymes, bleach, emulsifiers and preservatives to help keep it fresh. Is it a coincidence that the number of people who cannot tolerate bread is on the increase?

Switch to sourdough

For many of my clients, switching from commercially produced bread to sourdough bread allows them to enjoy bread as part of a healthy diet without feeling bloated and uncomfortable.

Think of sourdough bread as the probiotic of the bread family. Using natural yeasts to leaven the bread in a slow fermentation process allows us to digest the bread more easily. The delicious and distinctive taste of sourdough bread comes thanks to a couple of friendly bacteria – lactobacilli and acetobacillis, which, along with the natural yeasts, help ferment the sugars in the bread and allow it to rise.

As sourdough bread is digested more slowly in our gut, it also has a lower glycemic index, helping you to feel fuller for longer and more satisfied by smaller amounts. Studies show that sourdough bread may be a better choice for people with blood sugar problems, as it helps maintain a better glucose and insulin balance than commercially produced bread. This effect is thought to be as a result of the lactic acid in the bread, as well as the reduced availability of simple carbohydrates, making it slow release.

The proving process also breaks down a natural ingredient called phytic acid, which binds with minerals and reduces their absorption. With the sourdough method, less phytic acid means iron, zinc and magnesium, antioxidants, folic acid and other B vitamins become easier for our bodies to absorb.

Consider the ingredients in a loaf – flour, water and salt are all you need to make sourdough bread. The ingredients in our daily bread can often read like a science experiment:

  • Wheat Flour (with Calcium, Iron, Niacin (B3) and Thiamin (B1)),
  • Water,
  • Yeast,
  • Salt,
  • Soya Flour,
  • Vinegar,
  • Vegetable Oils (Rapeseed, Sustainable Palm),
  • Emulsifier: E472e,
  • Preservative: Calcium Propionate (added to inhibit mould growth),
  • Flour Treatment Agent: Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C)

Make bread a healthy choice

Eating too much of any food is never a good idea, so if you find yourself eating toast for breakfast, sandwiches for lunch and tortilla wraps or pizza for dinner, give yourself a break, get more variety into your diet and try these ideas as alternatives:

  • oatcakes and rye crackers make a good alternative for snacks and lunch boxes
  • rye bread has a lower GI than wheat based breads
  • try making your own bread using alternative ingredients like buckwheat or coconut flour to get more variety and adda  nutritional punch to your diet. Give my buckwheat and coconut bread a go.
  • treat your treats as treats! Buy bread once a week and buy the best quality you can find. Check out your local bakery, farmer’s market or deli for sourdough bread, or have a go at m,making it yourself. You can find some good sourdough recipes on the BBC website.