In Defense of Bread

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Food critic Jeffrey Steingarten proposed that the world could be divided into two types of people: those who can enjoyably live on bread alone, and those who need all the other food groups for gastronomic pleasure. I am of the former group, but with one condition: The bread must have butter.

As a health and nutrition enthusiast, I know this is a particularly dangerous love affair. Isn't bread the enemy? If so, it is a delicious enemy. I can't live in a world where it isn't allowed.

In the diet section of Barnes and Noble, next to ridiculous titles like Eat More, Weigh Less, I came across The Complete Idiots Guide to Total Nutrition by Joy Bauer. Bauer explains that despite what critics say, carbs are still our prime source of energy and, if you eat the right ones, a great source of vitamins, minerals and fiber.

What are the right carbs? Basically, as long as it's whole grain, you're in the clear. According to mypyramid.gov, whole grains can help reduce the risk of coronary heart disease and constipation, and also help with weight management. On your bread's ingredient list, "whole wheat" or "whole grain" should be first. Central Market and Stone Mill Bakers both have great selections of whole grain options.

White bread, made from wheat without its germ and bran component, may be delicious, but it just can't bring it when it comes to nutrition. Basically, some jerk took all the healthy stuff out of your wheat. Why? Because it gives the flour a longer shelf life, and most bugs won't eat the leftover starch. The fancy-sounding "enriched" label just means that they injected a small fraction of the original nutrients back into bread as a consolation prize.

So should you say goodbye to white bread forever? Of course not. Just make sure that the majority of your daily carbs are made with true whole grains and save your white bread intake for when you've got a truly delicious, freshly baked loaf.

In French Women Don't Get Fat (stop rolling your eyes), Mireille Guiliano explains, "in American sandwiches, the bread seems incidental; in French sandwiches, it's the filling that offers the occasion to eat bread." It's high time we cast away the prepackaged, processed garbage that fills our bread aisles these days and get back to enjoying quality bread. Perhaps with just a bit of creamy, salty butter.

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13 comments
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BWayne
BWayne

Your articles are as entertaining as they are informative (they are high on both). Doc Pricky has too much time on his hands. Perhaps he should become an editor to fill all that empty void. Orodinapoli I don't think she is taking a shot at Ornish, and the content of the book may be inspired. But I have to agree with this blog post and say that the title (Eat more, Lose Weight) sounds like it came from an SNL commercial skit.

Francesco Orodinapoli
Francesco Orodinapoli

The premise of the Ornish book is that by reducing the amount of meat and switching to a higher concentration of vegetables in one's diet, one can truly "eat more". Although there is definitely a side to Ornish that is in it for the money, much of the information in his book(s) is a direct result of reducing patients risks of heart disease through modification of their diets to include more vegetables.

Unterdersteinleben
Unterdersteinleben

Gee, I'm 46 years old and have never heard this idea before. It's truly groundbreaking.

Francesco Orodinapoli
Francesco Orodinapoli

You could have done better than to take a potshot at cardiologist Dean Ornish's superb book on rethinking the way one eats. If we were on a date and you were just talking this essay to me, I could let it slip. But when you put something in print, you should take the time to think about what you're writing.

Kristen Majewski
Kristen Majewski

Thanks for the feedback! Are you asking me out on a date?

Matthew
Matthew

mmm... fresh bread and butter

Kristen Majewski
Kristen Majewski

Some bugs will (flour beetles), but most won't (http://www.drlwilson.com/ARTIC..., apparently it causes many insects like ants and even roaches (http://www.wikihow.com/Get-Rid... to get sick and in some cases, die. White bread may not be able to stand up to true whole grain bread in the health department, but what it lacks in nutrition, it definitely makes up for in taste when made with quality ingredients. I agree, moderation is always the key.

Doc Ricky
Doc Ricky

Hi, I know you mean well, but please read your citations more carefully. Dr. Wilson is far from a qualified source - his website sells coffee enemas, for example, and is dedicated to such pseudoscientific concepts as nutritional balancing and sauna therapy. And the wikihow article uses flour as a glue to deliver boric acid - which is the real poison that gets roaches sick.

Here's a list of some common insects that can infest refined and whole grains, at least in the Colorado area. Add a little water, and all sorts of things can grow on white flour.

http://www.ext.colostate.edu/p...

Doc Ricky
Doc Ricky

Correction: bugs will happily dine on white flour devoid of "healthy stuff". White flour does have a longer shelf life because it's free of what will go bad at room temperature: oil. Yes, "whole grains" carry enough lipids to go rancid, specially in our humid atmosphere.

Now, this demonification of white bread (like its compatriot high fructose corn syrup) is a bit unfounded. Moderation, as always, is key.

http://food.drricky.net/2010/0...

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