It’s very hard to live without bread. Must I? No.
With the rise of gluten sensitivity and real maladies like Crohn’s and Celiac (and I’ve read autism, diabetes, cancers and even Alzheimer’s) is the conclusion from the nutritional edge that all grains are toxic to human physiology.
Grains are considered hard to digest, can overwork your pancreatic enzymes and contain the anti-nutrient phytic acid and an abundance of dreaded gluten. In addition, our wheat crops have been genetically manipulated for industrial profit and the FDA has approved dozens of chemical additives for store shelves, many of which destroy the good ingredients like vitamins and fibers.
On the other hand, bread remains one of the most popular and satisfying food choices in the Western world. It is both history and culture, particularly across Europe, the Mediterranean and the Americas, and spreads its love elsewhere. My vacation to Kyoto with Matt and Jeff began for breakfast not with rice porridge, miso soup and sea weed but with French-style boulangerie of croissants and pastries. In the U.S., the grains and wheats at the base of bread are toast or bagel or donut for breakfast, sandwiches for lunch, rolls for dinner, cookies for dessert and crackers and chips between them all. Too much?
I have my own guess. Despite my Kyoto breakfasts, clearly the East consumes far less wheat than the West, and reportedly does much better with all the illnesses I mentioned above. So the response for healthy food eaters may be, how do I change my consumption of wheat so I can enjoy it every so often?
Basic bread is four ingredients: flour, yeast, water and salt. And sourdough is one of the most ancient of breads. Yeast is added to dough to make it ferment and rise. The substance is sometimes called “leaven,” which can be read about from the Old Testament to Wikipedia.
To get briefly technical, sourdough undergoes a longer fermentation process that results in a lower glycemic index than that of other breads – meaning, it doesn’t spike blood sugar as dramatically. This is because it depletes damaged starches within it, simply by its fermentative nature. Sourdough bread also takes longer to digest and may help regulate blood sugar levels. *
But most importantly, sourdough well-made also has superior taste and texture. It is chewy and a teeny bit more salty but doesn’t last long. Thus even in my best supermarket it is carried with a few additional ingredients such as fumaric acid, hydrogenated vegetable acid (to prolong shelf life) and L-Cysteine (an amino acid). I wish it most easy to get sourdough made of flour, yeast, water and a tad of salt. Residents of San Francisco may have the best luck in the United States.
I have also read these nutrient claims: vitamins B1-B6, B12, folate, thiamin, niacin, riboflavin, vitamin E, selenium, iron, manganese, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc and potassium (some of them in tiny amounts) in addition to uniquely balanced proteins and fatty acids.
If I want a little bread in a meal, I have concluded that sourdough is one of my options. Find it from a good bakery. Enjoy in careful moderation. One option is a summer party starter with the brief annual appearance of Grilled Mission Figs. Check out the approach in the Recipes section!
(*Other benefits? Sourdough bread contains a bacteria Lactobacillus in a higher proportion to yeast than do other breads. More means higher production of lactic acid, which means less of potentially dangerous phytic acid, which is good for mineral availability and easier digestion. Sourdough also has longer time to breaks down the development of the protein gluten into amino acids, again easing digestion.)