What's in Your Bread Bag?

15 March 2012

When people ask me what bread I would feed my family, the answer is always the same: organic sprouted bread. I highly recommend sprouted bread; however, I understand not everyone lives in a sprawling urban area and has access to stores that carry healthier options at lower prices. If sprouted bread is not an option, then please check your ingredients! High fructose corn syrup, sugar, food coloring, and many times a high level of salt fill the bread that is a common staple in most American's diets.

Before eliminating grains, I was able to read Bread Matters and it really opened my eyes to what was lurking in my bread bag. This chart is taken from the book. I aded the "Questions to Ask" category, and everything else I added is in italics.

IngredientWhat does it do?What’s the problem?Questions to Ask
FlourMain ingredient: source of carbohydrates, protein, fat, minerals, vitamins and other micronutrients.Many nutrients are depleted in refined (white) flours.If, as a society, we believe grains are a part of a healthy diet, are we referring to bleached and refined flours or wholesome grains that haven’t been stripped?
"Vitamin" replacements: Calcium Sulfate, Folic Acid, Nicain, Reduced Iron, Riboflavin, Thiamin MononitrateReplaces vitamins and minerals lost while processing the flourSynthetically derived; synthetic vitamins lack transporters and co-factors for your body to recognize, assimilate and utilize the nutrients.If the vitamins and minerals were not removed, would we have a whole food source of vitamins and minerals?

Necessary to make flour into dough.
SaltAdds flavor; strengthens the gluten network in the dough; aids in keeping the quality of the bread (as a water attractant and a partial mold inhibitor.)Under pressure from food agencies, the bread industry is gradually reducing levels of salt in bread.What is the source of the salt? Is it the cheapest table salt that is normally stripped of minerals with chemicals to keep it from clumping?

Types of Salt
YeastAerates bread, makes it light in texture, and may contribute to flavor.Excessive use may lead to digestive problems. Excessive yeast can wreak havoc on a digestive system.With the significant rise in grain consumption, why are we surprised that we now hear so much about gluten intolerance, candida overgrowth, and “leaky gut?”
FatHard fats improve load volume, crumb softness, and keeping quality. Hydrogenated fats have been commonly used, though plant bakers are phasing them out.Not essential in traditional bread making, though often used. Hard to do without some fat in industrial bread.What are the sources of fat?
High Fructose Corn SyrupHFCS is an artificial sweetener derived from corn that has undergone an enzymatic process to convert glucose into fructose. Bakery items use HFCS 42 – meaning 42% fructose and 58% glucose.All HFCS is derived from genetically modified (GM) corn. It is labeled “generally recognized as safe” by the FDA, yet has health and environmental concerns, and some HFCS contains mercury, a neurotoxin.Are you familiar with the facts about HFCS? How about genetically modified foods? There is not enough room to write about GM corn, but here are some guidelines from the Mayo Clinic.
Non-fat dry milkDecreases staling rate, and improves crust color and softness.Not needed in bread-making.As a consumer, do you care about whether or not hormones and antibiotics are given to the cows whose dairy you consume?
Flour Treatment AgentL-ascorbic acid (E300). Can be added to flour by the miller or at the baking stage. Acts as an oxidant, which helps retain gas in the dough, making the loaf rise more.No nutritional benefits to the consumer (because degraded by the heat of baking.) Increased loaf volume may give the false impression of value.Have you noticed that homemade bread is often more dense than store-bought bread? This is why.
BleachChlorine dioxide gas to make flour white, used by millers for decades until banned in the UK in 1999. In other countries, eg theUS, flour may still be bleached.No nutritional benefits to the consumer. Chlorine is a potent biocide and greenhouse gas.Most of us would not intentionally ingest bleach, so why do many not think twice when making a bleached sandwich?

Great article from
Weston A. Price
Reducing AgentL-cysteine hydrochloride (E920). Cysteine is a naturally occurring amino acid. Use in backing to create more stretchy dough, especially hamburger buns and baguettes.No intended nutritional benefit, though also sold as a supplement. May be derived from human hair or duck feathers:
Cysteine & Hair
Soy FlourWidely use in bread as “improvers.” Has a bleaching effect on flour, assists “machinability” of dough and volume and softness of bread. Enables more water to be added to the dough mix.More than likely derived from genetically modified soybeans. Over 90% of the acres of soybeans planted in the US are genetically modified.Again, are you familiar with genetically modified foods, and why they are not good anyone? Have you read about the dangers of soy? If not, here is a good read: Weston A. Price

EmulsifiersWidely used in bread “improvers” to control the size of gas bubbles, to enable to dough to hold more gas, and there grow bigger, to make the crumb softer, and to reduce the rate of staling. They include:
E471: Mono- and diglycerides of fatty acids
E472e: Mono- and diacetyltartaric acid of esters of mono- and diglycerides of fatty acids
E481: Sodium strearoyl-2-lactylate (SSL)
E422: Glycerol mono-stearate (GMS)
E322” Lecithins – naturally occurring, mainly derived from soy
No nutritional benefit to consumer.
Soy lecithin may be derived from GM soy.
Increased loaf volumes gives misleading impression of value and post-baking softness may be confused with “freshness.”
Are you getting the most value if health is affected by emulsifiers? Do you associate softness with freshness?
PreservativesCalcium propionate (E282) is widely used. Vinegar (E260 acetic acid) is also used, though less effective. Preservatives are only necessary for prolonged shelf life. Home freezing is a chemical-free alternative.No nutritional benefit to consumer. Calcium propionate can cause “off” flavors if over-used and may be a carcinogen.Have you had the opportunity to see how long store bought bread versus homemade bread or sprouted bread?
EnzymesCame to the rescue of industrial breadmakers when additives like azodicarbonamide and potassium bromate were banned. Bread enzymes fall into various categories and have varied functions in breadmaking;
Maltogenic amylase

No nutritional benefit to consumer.
No requirements to be included on ingredient declarations, because they are currently treated as “processing aids.” Even if the EU law in amended, the single word “enzymes” will be all that is require on label, leaving consumers in the dark about the origin the particular enzymes used.
Often produced by genetic engineering, though this is unlikely to be stated on consumer product labels.
Use of phospholipase derived from pig pancreas would be unacceptable to vegetarians and some religious groups, but there is no requirement to declare enzymes, let alone their source.
Some enzymes are potential allergens, notably Alpha-amylase. Bakery workers can become sensitized to enzymes from bread improvers.
Amylase can retain some of its potency as an allergen in the crust of loaves after baking.
Transglutaminase may act upon gliadin proteins in the dough to generate the epitope associated with celiac disease.
There are many concerns over added “enzymes.” Are you concerned about added potential allergens, another genetically modified food source, and the lack of exact information provided?

When we were purchasing bread, I bought two large loaves of organic sprouted bread from Costco for $7. Kroger, Target, and Walmart sell Nature’s Own whole wheat breads and buns which are HFCS-free, and Nature’s Own has an organic bread. Ezekiel bread is also a great company, and can be found at Kroger, Sprouts, and Whole Foods in the freezer section.

Or you could try making your own! I have tried several times to bake my own whole wheat bread and I was never satisfied with the results. Kitchen Stewardship did a great series on finding the perfect homemade whole wheat bread recipe that is worth a read. If you have a recipe to share, or you try one of Katie's, please share with readers.


Susy said...

This is Such a great resource. Hope you don't mind me blasting this all over fb. People will see I'm not the only crazy out there.

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