Remember a few years ago, you were looking for whole wheat bread? Now you’re looking for gluten-free bread? And fiber content – how much? Are there too many carbohydrates in bread? In a nod to simplifying nutrition, I’ll recommend the one bread I think most people should be looking at.
Whether bread is good for you or not seems to be a hot button issue and we hear all sides of the debate. Honestly, we don’t see it as black and white in our practice. Seems to work for some, not for others… depends on YOU. There is a huge spectrum of quality though, that certainly leaves an overwhelming majority of breads in one of the “nothing but straight sugar once it passes your teeth” or “full of crap that’ll make you sick” or “hey, it’s cool that it never expires, but it’s also, not food” categories.
For starters, if you can’t do gluten, get out of the bread aisle. While there are some gluten-free breads out there, they’re usually incredibly processed and full of too many concerning ingredients. (Remember, gluten-free does not mean healthy.) But… so I’m not just taking something from you, you can stop by this link to get a Gluten-free Resource Guide for navigating gluten-free living. (This resource has an extensive list of web resources, books, recipes, reputable food companies, support groups, travel tips, and on… all in one place. Please use it and share.)
If you don’t have any issue with gluten, I believe the best choice for bread is traditionally-fermented sourdough bread. Awesome, right? Yes, I’m recommending the doughy, soft bread that everyone loves! Here it comes, though… there IS a catch… not all sourdough breads are created equal…
Sourdough: Here’s the Dough…
The process of making a sourdough starter takes time and great sourdough starters are handed down from generation to generation. (As a foodie, I have such romantic ideas of the beautiful ceremony surrounding the gifting of the starter… in reality, I have friends all the time sadly recount tossing their family’s 60-year-old starter in the trash.) This traditional method for making sourdough creates a bread with a broad array of beneficial probiotic strains (Fresh Dirt on Digestion), making it more easily digested and ideal for digestive health.
Now, let’s fast-forward to more modern times where we have managed to industrialize the sourdough process. We can make sourdough bread rather quickly – a little commercial yeast, a quick rise and voila – you have bread. Yes, it’s tasty, but without the delicate probiotic balance from traditional fermentation, its unique health benefits are lost. (The same can be said for most yogurts, too. Traditionally-fermented yogurts are far better for your health than quick, commercial yogurts… the almost plastic firmness is a good give-away for commercial yogurt.)
Here are some recommended brands (many you can find from your local health food store) that are using a traditional fermentation process. If you have other suggestions–please let me know!
You can also make your own! I highly recommend Jenny’s Get Cultured online class. Here’s a great DIY sourdough recipe from Nourished Kitchen to get you started.
If you know me well enough, you know I’m not a hardline-pusher of quick-fix diets, calorie counting, or “every-one must eat this way” diet teams, so I won’t wade into that broad part of the bread debate here. Simply put, though… the overwhelming majority of breads in the grocery store are not worth your time, your money or your health… Beyond the issue of quality, I find the issues around bread are multifactorial and depend on what works for YOU.
So, if you choose to eat bread, make a wise choice. Taste and feel the difference with traditionally-fermented sourdough.