Low Carbing and Whole Foods : Bread: The Staff of Life
By April S. Fields
Whole grains have served humanity very well for thousands of years. Bread, in all conceivable forms, has been the principle food for most of civilization, deemed more important even than vegetables and meat, since before recorded history.
The term, "staff of life" referencing bread is a Biblical term and means, figuratively, a support of life. So what is the problem with bread? Does bread really make us fat? Let's take a closer look.
Food that comes to the table with the least amount of natural nutrients removed by processing, i.e., fiber, vitamins and minerals-including vitamin E, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B-6, iron, zinc, copper, magnesium, and manganese, is considered to be complete and whole. This includes fresh fruits, vegetables, and grains, for the most part, but can also include fish and other meat products that have not been embalmed with sodium and nitrates.
Some whole foods lend themselves better to low-carb dieting than others but the focus of this article is about basic nutrition and not necessarily about carb-count. Foods defined as complex carbs are generally also full of other important nutritional elements vital to good health. This trade off is important to understand when you are talking about a long-term Carb-Controlled lifestyle.
Low-carb is often synonymous with "no bread or grains' among other things. Some like to refer to it as the "nothing white" diet. While dieting to lose weight, this is a good rule of thumb. But once the excess weight is lost, returning high value, nutritious foods, including whole-grains, back into the diet is essential to maintaining a well-balanced, albeit carb-managed, life-style eating plan.
This is where it gets tricky. Pay attention.
The average human digestive system is designed to effectively metabolize fresh natural healthy meats, and vegetables found in our natural environment, including the normal levels of fats and nutrients. However, human internal systems cannot deal well with modern highly-processed, unnatural, manufactured foods and food preparation methods, such as trans fatty acids found in foods fried in hydrogenated oils, margarine or shortening, salad dressings, and commercially baked goods such as bread, cookies, cake, pie and pizza. Modern bread might be better described as the "broken" staff of life.
The whole issue of low-carbing and dieting to lose weight, in general, would be a non-issue if we could eat the way our ancestors ate. It isn't real food that makes us fat, it's what we consume, masquerading as food, that has contributed to the overall epidemic of obesity. Cutting to the chase, it's the modern food processing that is killing us.
For so many years, excessive fat consumption has been dubbed the villain, all the while, highly refined low-fat foods have been incorporated into our daily diet, quietly replacing nutritious whole food. Low-fat, low-fat, low-fat has been the mantra, even from respected health professionals. And even yet, it is the stubborn standard, based on the now completely discredited and crumbling food pyramid, for the meals our children are fed in school lunch rooms and snacks out of vending machines, the convenient "dinner-in-a-box" foods, we stock in our pantries and, worst of all, drive-thru food.
Let's narrow the discussion down to bread products. Never mind that nearly every important nutrient has been stripped from the grains that eventually are baked into loaves and then chemically enhanced to add color and shelf life, so long as the label reads "a low-fat food" we buy it, swallow it, and then wonder why we grow fatter and less healthy every year.
Regardless of overwhelming new evidence, the US Department of Health and Human Services, American Heart Association, and American Diabetes Association currently still advocate a low-fat diet in the prevention and treatment of obesity.
Recently, however, new data has failed to show a consistent association between dietary fat and body fat. Additionally, and perhaps more significant, the average fat intake in the United States reportedly has decreased over the past three decades by 8% but the rate of obesity continues to rise. Perhaps it isn't the fat in the hamburger that is poisoning us after all, but the empty carbs in the bun.
Modern baked goods, in stark contrast to ancient whole grain breads, begin with highly refined white flour. While it is still called "bread" it has no real resemblance to bread that could be genuinely referred to as food. Today's white flour makers start with wheat seed, no legumes, and remove the fibrous outer shell called the bran. They either throw it away or sell it to health food stores. Dietary fiber promotes the growth of beneficial bacteria, such as acidophilus, which produces essential vitamins and controls unwanted yeast in the intestinal tract, not to mention helps to maintain important regularity that helps in the prevention of colon cancer. Then they remove the valuable wheat germ, which contains the nutrients that contribute to human health and sell it to health food stores. What remains is the endosperm, and they grind it into a fine powder and bleach it, using an agent that is similar to chlorine bleach.
While this white flour is very good for making craft paste, gummy paste in our digestive tracts does unimaginable damage over time. You might be asking yourself, why do they do this? The answer is complex but begins with the reality of shelf life and profitability.
Breads made with multiple whole grains deteriorate quickly. They must be refrigerated. They are tougher. coarser and less palatable than soft, white bread. White bread, and bread dyed to look like healthy whole grain, sells and keeps well as it travels in trucks and sits on shelves waiting to be purchased. An average bread processing plant (let's not call them bakeries) can produce 250, 000 loaves a day, and ship to all parts of the country with no fear of it becoming stale. Apparently, product stability is far more important than the health and well being of the general public.
Realizing that most health conscious people want assurance of nutrition on the FDA-mandated label, the flour and bread makers infuse into their fiber-less, nutritionally-empty products, some artificial, coal-tar-derived vitamins and minerals, some of which have now been documented by the FDA as carcinogenic. Then they slap on the misleading label, "enriched" and we, the easily deluded consumers, blissfully think we are eating healthy, all in the interest of profit.
Everything usually boils down to money doesn't it? So, what are we to do? How do we reclaim our health and make better choices for ourselves?
Well, the first most obvious choice is to make our own breads, pastas and cereals. I'll pause here to give you a minute to stop laughing. I'm not delusional, really. I know what it takes to make meals from scratch. I've been doing it for the past five years. I also know modern life-styles don't include time to plan and execute complex food made with fresh ingredients. I understand that everything is about "fast and easy" now. Believe me, I know you don't have the slightest desire to grind your own wheat berries and spend hours in the kitchen. There are those who do, and I salute them. But I need a compromise and so do most other busy people.
For this reason, I experimented until I came up with a basic recipe that can be used as the basis for a variety of cakes and quick breads. With just a few alterations of the ingredients in the Vanilla Pound Cake, you can make Chocolate-Vanilla Pound Cake, Pumpkin Spice Cake, Apple Walnut Caramel Cake, Banana Nut Loaf or Cranberry Orange Walnut Loaf. And this is just the beginning. Add your own ingredients and see what you can come up with. These are all flour/gluten free, soy free, sugar free and low-carb. Yes, I use artificial sweeteners and who knows for sure what these are doing to us in the long run, but it's hard to believe it's as bad as refined sugar.
We do the best we can with what we've got to work with. I've said this before but it bears repeating, you and I are the only ones who really care about our health. Bureaucracy doesn't care. Clearly, food manufacturers don't seem to care. I'm not even sure that science and medicine cares enough to take action fast enough to halt the health decline that erroneous information and modern food processing has inflicted on the public for the past fifty years.
Multi-million dollar industries depend upon and have grown up on the false food pyramid and this includes the diet industry. The wheels of change grind slowly. In the meantime, those who are willing to leave their most precious possession, health, to chance and lies, slowly get sick and die of diabetes, heart failure, hypertension, colon cancer and other degenerative diseases. Those who are supposed to care blame the cause on everything but what it is because the truth might upset the economy, which is now firmly established on the cycle of mass production and consumption.
The good news is that we still have choices.