Bread – is it making us ill?
Our eating habits have always been inextricably linked to the state of our health. Take bread, which used to be regarded as the staff of life. Around 9,000 years ago in the Middle East, Stone Age Man began mixing wild grains with water into a thick paste. The mixture was formed into cakes, then dried in the sun, creating a primitive, prehistoric bread.
Since then, thankfully, various cultures have refined the art of bread baking. The ancient Egyptians used closed ovens and were the first to experiment with yeast, producing a raised loaf. Now, we see large automated baking units and faster industrial methods that satisfy demand and increase productivity. Modern food technology has managed to perfect the art of light-textured ‘cotton-wool’ bread which can be stacked easily and stored for long periods of time.
If we look at the food labels, we see our convenience bread of today bears no resemblance to the wholefood of our ancestors. Here are some common ingredients found hidden between the soft, squishy, wimpy slices: bread improvers, enzymes, raising agents, preservatives, emulsifiers, stabilisers and partially hydrogenated oils. As for brown bread – it may be white bread disguised with caramel colouring.
Apart from large amounts of added chemicals, the flours have been so heavily refined that over half the nutrients and most of the fibre have been removed. Refined foods coat and clog the intestines, interfering with the rhythm and proper functioning of the entire digestive system. Stagnation of waste lead to the development of undesirable micro-organisms which promote disease and degeneration. Is our daily bread literally making us ill and if so, are there healthier alternatives?
Increasingly, bread companies and bakeries are trying to introduce nutritious whole-grain products but some can be rather ‘heavy-duty’. Ingrid Greenfield believes the length of time it takes for the dough to ripen and rise is of prime importance. Her bakery, Artisan Bread, has gone back to basics using a traditional fermentation process and natural enzymes without having to resort to added yeast or synthetic chemicals. Ingrid maintains that the slow mixing, long fermentation and proofing process makes the bread easy to digest and allows it to develop taste and vitality.
The grains are freshly milled every day and all have been grown biodynamically or organically without artificial fertilisers. The company only uses pure spring water from the Kentish hills. There are six different types of bread, enriched with natural vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids and amino acids from organic seagreens. Some varieties contain freshly sprouted grains, some are wheat-free and suitable for those suffering with food intolerances.
Artisan Bread is available in many different varieties from Sunny Foods, Beaconsfield Rd or Down to Earth, Portland Rd, Brighton or mail order via www.artisanbread-abo.com
©2011 Martina Watts MSc Nut Med, first published Brighton Argus 2005