There’s an advert on TV in Spain for sliced bread. In it the celebrity squeezes one end of the loaf and then proclaims that it stays fresh from beginning to end. Sounds great I hear you say. No more mouldy slices after a few days – what convenience!
Well yes convenient it is but is this really such a good thing? Shouldn’t internal alarm bells be ringing and lights flashing.
If bread stays unnaturally fresh for unnaturally long periods…is it…er…unnatural?
Let’s just take a brief look at the nature of the bread we buy from the supermarket and you can make your own mind up whether sliced bread is part of the breakfast of champions or the crumbs of losers.
Surely white bread is so white because of the natural colour of the flour? Nope. It’s white because it is chemically bleached so that it becomes a brighter shade of white. Pure white is so much more attractive than pale white, silly.
And of course during this bleaching process, apart from numerous vitamins being zapped to dust, a collection of toxic chlorinated hydrocarbons and dioxins residues are left.
Take a lot of good stuff out
Grain is converted into refined white flour. This is known as 'refinement' and consists of removing over 30 essential nutrients in the process. These include Vitamin E (44% removed), Pantothenic acid (52% removed), Folic acid (65% removed), Biotin (76% removed), Vitamin B6 (84% removed) and 50% or more of over 20 minerals and trace elements, including magnesium, calcium, zinc, chromium, manganese, selenium, vanadium, and copper.
Put a bit of good stuff in
Hang on but didn’t they just take the good stuff out? Well yes they did. And now they’re putting it back in? Yep. It doesn’t make any sense. Er… Ah but this is not just the same nutrients. This is a lot of extra stuff that is not naturally there. This is the process of 'enrichment' and involves adding vitamins B1, B2, B3, and iron.
Put the chemicals in
Time to add the flour 'improvers', dough conditioners, and preservatives. A spectacular cocktail of... E150 (a-d) Caramel, E481 (sodium stearoyl-2-lactylate), E472e (mono- and diacetyl tartaric acid esters of mono- and diglycerides of fatty acids), E920 (l-cysteine), E282 (calcium propionate), E220 (potassium sorbate), E261 (potassium acetate), E300 (ascorbic acid), E260 (acetic acid) soya flour, vegetable fat, dextrose, ethylated mono and triglycerides, E280 (propionic acid), E281 (sodium propionate), E282 (Calcium propionate), E283 (potassium propionate), E924 (potassium bromate) , E262 (sodium acetates), E263 (calcium acetate), E270 (lactic acid), E301 (sodium ascorbate), E302 (calcium ascorbate), E304(ii and ii) (fatty acid esters of ascorbic acid), E322 (lecithins), E325 (sodium lactate), E326 (potassium lactate), E327 (calcium lactate), E452 (polyphosphates [sodium, potassium, calcium and sodium calcium]), E471 (mono and diglycerides of fatty acids), E472d (tartaric acid esters of mono and diglycerides of fatty acids), E472f (mixed acetic and tartaric acid esters of mono and diglycerides of fatty acids), potassium iodide, benzoyl peroxide, E341 (tricalcium phosphate), calcium sulfate, E510 (ammonium chloride) and E504 (magnesium carbonate) …phew… are added to increase shelf life.
Put the ‘processing aids’ in
In other words a bunch of extra chemicals which come under the umbrella of ‘processing aids’. These baking enzymes are usually not put on any label, but are sitting there all the same. Here’s a few of the main ones and their uses:
Phospholipase A2 is used to increase volume and prolong softness but can be extracted from a pig (yes, a pig) or from transgenic (GM) origin.
Fungal a-amylase increases volume, gives a darker crust and prolongs softness but is a known allergen by inhalation and ingestion.
L-cysteine preserves the bread but one source of the amino acid l-cysteine is human hair and another is chicken feathers. Mmmmmm, yum.
Maltogenic amylase prolongs elasticity but can be transgenic (GM) in origin. Hemicellulase increases loaf volume but can be of fungal, soil bacteria or transgenic (GM) origin.
Transglutaminase helps water absorption and dough elasticity but is linked to triggering the coeliac response.
Xylanase helps make dough more flexible and is a known allergen.
The labelling fiasco
Much of the bread marketed as ‘whole-wheat bread’ is not whole-wheat. It is refined white bread with brown colouring added (listed on the label as caramel). It is still legal to describe inferior flour as ‘whole wheat’ on the label, even when the bran and germ have been removed in high-speed roller mills.
An Oriental viewpoint
In Oriental medicine terms, bread is defined according to the type of flour used to make it. Most bread is made from Wheat. Wheat is cool and sweet but in its flour form it becomes warmer. Industrial farming processes have produced strains of wheat that generate great profits but have little nutritional value to the body. Wheat, when eaten in excess, forces the digestive organs to work hard in digestion. This can cause all kinds of problems like weight gain, bloating, digestive problems, nausea, headaches etc.
Toasting bread lessens this effect of wheat and then again the choice of what you put on the toast can lessen/worsen this further.
Other types of bread have different effects:
Spelt is neutral and sweet. It is a little less dampening than Wheat.
Rye is neutral and bitter and removes excess liquid from the body.
Corn is neutral and sweet and encourages the release of body fluids.
So, freshly baked bread made from 100% stone ground flour without any of the chemical additions just might make it as part of the perfect breakfast. As for a loaf of chemically enhanced baked goo from the local supermarket, I’m afraid it’s a no.
Thanks to Dr.Cranton’s article http://www.drcranton.com/nutrition/bread.htm and the Real Bread Campaign http://www.sustainweb.org/realbread/ for all your juicy details.