Image: It might be time to get reacquainted with bread (via Thinkstock)
Bread has been a dietary staple for much of humankind since at least biblical days, hence the talk of “bread of life” and “our daily bread”.
Look to traditional communities all around the world and they have their own form of bread.
Roti, chapatti and naan in India; pumpernickel and dense heavy grainy breads in Eastern Europe; tortillas in Mexico; baguette in France; pita breads in the Middle East; Irish soda bread and Cuban bread are just some examples. So how has such a long established dietary staple become such a controversial food choice?
I had friends over for a BBQ recently and amongst my buffet of different salads, seafood and meat, I put out a freshly sliced loaf of grainy sourdough from my local bakery. One friend said to me “Wow bread – remember we all used to eat that?” My response was “I still do!”
My friend is not alone.
A recent survey of Australians found that only 37% consider bread to be a healthy daily staple, 7% avoid it completely and 54% said they try to eat bread in moderation. Those who diet regularly were most likely to be trying to cut down or completely cut out bread.
I find that interesting in itself – are the non-dieters those at a healthy weight and happily eating some bread? That’s certainly what studies show, particularly if you choose mostly wholegrain varieties.
Overall, those who consume a diet high in whole grains tend to be leaner, with a smaller waist circumference (indicating less abdominal fat) and a reduced risk of weight gain. They also have a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and certain cancers.
Michael Pollan famously said, “Don’t eat anything your grandmother wouldn’t recognise as food”. I’d bet most of our grandmothers ate bread everyday and that generation was not fat.
I know what you’re thinking: ‘Hang on - bread is a carb, and they’re fattening aren’t they?’ But here’s the thing. While the popular approach is to demonise carbs, just as we once demonised fat, it’s time for us to step back and consider foods in their entirety rather than assessing them on one nutrient alone.
Speaking of carbs, here are 8 you should be aiming to eat more of:
Bread does indeed provide us with carbohydrates, but that’s not all. It contains a significant amount of protein with every slice providing 3-5g depending on the variety. For comparison, a large egg has on average 5.5g. So when you team a couple of slices of toast with your boiled eggs for brekkie, the bread is actually providing pretty close to half the protein in the meal.