Is bread healthy?
Home made bread is made up of four ingredients, yeast, water, flour and salt. The bread found on the supermarket shelf is a very different story. That consists of up to 15 ingredients. Bread has changed drastically in the last 50 years in its production. The healthy nutrients that would be found in home made bread are replaced by extra additives. The method currently used for massed produced bread giving it a nice texture and quicker method of baking. Uses more yeast and flour improvers making the dough stronger, but argued as being just as healthy
Low fat bread
Bread is classed as a low fat food, things such as vegetable oil, soya, malt flour, these contribute and help the bread pass through the production process more easily. Other common ingredients that can be found are skimmed milk, vitamin C, ascorbic acid (to improve the bread), helping it to rise. Ingredients to increase shelf life include acetic acid and vinegar, not to mention emulsifiers (mono and diglycerides of fatty acids) to boost volume and texture.
Over the past 20 years additives are being constantly reviewed giving bread a healthier profile. The UK doesn't allow genetically modified ingredients in its bread. That's a relief. Enzymes used must be shown to be safe to European and international standards. There are things which are mentioned in the list of ingredients, things to improve the process of the bread, which may have been genetically engineered, to simulate the traits of a home made loaf. There are no investigations made into the long term effects of the enzymes used. When choosing a loaf make sure it makes the gold standard, containing only yeast, flour, salt and water.
Sodium in bread
The salt content of bread is of huge concern. One slice of bread alone could contain up to 0.44g. Fortunately this level has fallen by 20% since 1998. Dropping to 0.3g. It's definitely worth looking at the label just to make sure the salt content isn't too high.
There is an argument that would say that mass produced bread can make you feel bloated. The traditionally made loaf or home made loaf reduces the level of wheat protein fragments, which are connected to intolerance. The 2% of the country that have that particular intolerance towards wheat will react anyway.
The simple fact is, as long as you read the label from the bread on the supermarket shelves, make sure it only contains lower levels of additives and salt.
© 2011 Helen Bolam
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