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Bread - staff of life or a pain in the guts?

Bread - the staff of life or a pain in the gut?

Bread! For some of us (including myself), I just can’t live without it. I love all the different shapes and sizes and flavours and textures, I love the smell of it and the silky smooth feel of it when making it. I love the magic and the science of it. It is such a good metaphor for transformation and change.

Others though, literally cannot stomach it, at least those forms that contain gluten although purists might argue that definitionally bread without gluten cannot be truly said to be bread. I sit on the fence in this matter :-)

Luckily, we have a huge choice when it come to bread. Below is just a little overview finishing with a recent (re)discovery for me of the wonder(fulness) of sprouted breads.

Modern varieties of wheat, particularly those used for bread making, are quite a different beast to those grown in the past…….but not the dim dim distant past.

In the 1960s a lot of research went into developing a high yield wheat that was also resistant to various diseases. As a result the traditional wheat plant went from being a rather lush grass with a modest wheat head (the bit we get the berries from to grind into flour) to this long stalk of a thing with a rather large wheat head. In the absence of the natural shade the wheat plant had (which assisted in suppressing competing plants and other weeds) and the presence of a larger wheat “fruit”, both weedicide and pesticide use increased. In addition, modern wheat has up to 4 times more gluten than more traditional varieties - which is great for making fluffy white bread but maybe not so good for our guts.

Spelt and Khorasan are often described as Ancient Grains but I think it is more accurate to describe them as Ancient Wheat Varieties. It is like all the different rice varieties we have like long-grain, short-grain, basmati, jasmine etc. Spelt and Khorasan look and grow like wheat and also contain gluten. The difference is in how the gluten is expressed on a genetic level. Some people who experience bloating or pain with wheat find they can stomach spelt or khorasan much more readily. That said, some people also find that they are much less prone to stomach pain when they choose bread made from organic flours (that tend to be grown from more traditional strains of wheat) than those made from non-organic flours.

If you are looking for breads with less gluten then Oat and Rye breads are a good choice. Oat breads are surprising light in texture but perhaps not very robust while Rye breads are particularly flavoursome although perhaps a bit dense.

And then there are the gluten free and grain free paleo breads of which there are too many varieties to make sense of here (and more coming on the market everyday it seems). Suffice to say that they don’t have to taste and feel like cardboard and nor do they have to be filled with dubious additives to make them “act” like bread. One could almost say that you are more spoilt for choice with the emerging gluten-free/grain-free breads available than with your gluten breads?

And finally Sprouted breads. These breads are made from soaking and sprouting grains and either completely air-drying the resultant sprout and once dry, grinding into regular flour or grinding the fresh sprouts as is and using the resultant mash as the dough.

The benefits of sprouted bread are:

  1. You are using the whole grain so you are not losing any nutrients.

  2. The soaking process destroys phytic acid which is known to block our absorption of nutrients like magnesium and calcium.

  3. The gluten in sprouted grains is said to be predigested - that is has already been partially broken down so that makes it easier for us to digest.

  4. Sprouted seeds have been found to be higher in fibre than whole grains and hence better for assisting with eliminating wastes and toxins from our gut.

So if you are not celiac but still experience some problems with digesting bread, the good news is there are loads of options! If you have any questions on what options are available from us, please get in touch.