Before the 1920' s most people made bread at home and in many countries still did all the way up until the 1970's. In Western Europe and America however industrialization brought with it many changes some which were not so great for human health. Bread has always been proclaimed as being the source of nutrition, rich in vitamins, starch, fibre and helping to keep us fuller for longer, but along came the iron roll mill in the 19th century which removed all the healthy parts of the bread leaving us with a completely devoid of nutrient product - white bread!
White pasta, white bread and most pastries all contain white wheat flour unless they are made with other healthier flours such as buckwheat flour, rice flour and almond flour.
But whole wheat does contain nutrients that we benefit from.
Wheat contains three main parts: Bran - the multi-layered outer skin of the edible kernel. It contains antioxidants, B vitamins and fibre. Germ - the embryo which can form a new plant. It contains many B vitamins, some protein, minerals, and healthy fats. Endosperm - the largest portion of the kernel which provides energy to the young plant so it can send roots down for water and nutrients, and send sprouts up for sunlight’s photosynthesising power. It contains starchy carbohydrates, proteins and small amounts of vitamins and minerals. Refined grains are milled to take out the bran and germ of the wheat kernel, leaving only the endosperm. Carotenoid pigments in fresh milled flour give it a yellowish hue that fades naturally over time, leaving unbleached flour with an off-white or very pale yellow colour. The milling process to create white flour removes practically all the nutrients - B vitamins, vitamin E, magnesium, fatty acids, calcium, phosphorous, fibre and iron, which are often then added to animal feed. Some manufacturers add these nutrients back in but you still have a product that is far removed from its natural state.
We are left with a product with very little nutrients, as well as being high glycaemic causing a rapid increase in blood glucose levels. Moreover, what might be considered worse is that some manufacturers whiten flour with chemicals such as chlorine and peroxide to speed up that process and to give it a bright white appearance. White bread is actually ‘dead bread’…..
…..and to add insult to injury, if you are buying bread in a packet with a shelf life then you are also consuming all the added chemicals which soften ans preserve the bread. Have a look at the ingredients at the back of the packet. Did you ever notice how incredibly long that lovely soft sliced white bread lasts for even after it has been opened? Of course, packaged brown bread with a long shelf life is almost just as bad! All these added ingredients have a negative effect on our guts and some are linked with gut dysbiosis (an imbalanced gut microbiome).
So what bread should you eat? The answer is buy whole grain bread or if you really like white bread, opt for sourdough varieties, ideally ones that have some whole grain flour in the mix.... and choose bread that not come with a shelf life. Good bread goes stale if left uneaten within a few days. Unfortunately, this doesn't mean that it is completely free from additives. The best bread is the one you make yourself or the one you buy from a baker that only uses natural ingredients.
Less convenient perhaps, but convenience should not come before health?