Updated: Mar 31, 2020
I spent the last 24 hours perfecting a single loaf of bread. One, single loaf of bread. Why not just go to the store and buy one? That is what most average people are thinking...it's quick, easy, and tastes good. Going to the store for groceries, is sometimes inevitable for me. However, two summers ago, I could count on only one hand the number of times I went to the grocery store, and it was mainly to buy spices I didn't grow or condiments. That summer, I ate only what I grew or raised, and I really think that's how it should be. I like to know where my food comes from.
That brings me to my next point. Below is a nutrition label for a very popular bread brand you can buy in your local grocer. This specific product was said to be the "Healthiest, Multi-Grain" option. I will not give away the name of the brand, because I do not believe in product bashing. I think the consumer ultimately needs to make the decision of where he/she buys their food from. I am only here to help make educated decisions. :)
Did you notice anything strange? Well, if the red arrows I added didn't give it away, then I think you should actively try and read some food and drink labels when at the store. Just being aware of what is in your food is a great start! Baby steps...
I will be honest, I hardly ever paid attention to what was in my food, or let alone what any label said as long as it was delicious, I didn't care! That was until I was studying in college to get my second Bachelor's degree, this one in Biochemistry, that I realized all of these ingredients, break down in different ways in our body and can have HUGE impacts on the longevity of a healthy body.
For those that noticed the ingredients list right away...I count 26, TWENTY-SIX ingredients in this single loaf of bread, and that is not even counting the ingredients that were listed out in parenthesis. How many ingredients did my loaf contain? Four. The only ingredients I used were flour, yeast, sea salt, and water. I used garlic sea salt, and added dehydrated rosemary from my garden to give the bread a little extra flavor! This is the best bread recipe I have been using for the past few years. It takes an overnight rising of the dough, but it's no-knead, and bakes perfectly in my cast iron dutch oven! For the recipe, follow the link to Girl Versus Dough: http://www.girlversusdough.com/2015/08/13/no-knead-dutch-oven-bread/.
Let's break down just a few of these 26 ingredients. Wheat gluten, modified wheat starch, cornstarch, and a few other ingredients listed are primarily used to strengthen and provide elasticity to the bread dough. Now, take a moment to look at the picture of my 4-ingredient loaf of bread that contains none of those ingredients, and see how real dough should look. Also, with more and more people either having celiac disease, or just steering clear of gluten, this bread can be very problematic.
In summary, people that have celiac disease have an intolerance to gluten, so when gluten is digested, their immune systems attack the villi of the small intestine. The villi line of the wall of the small intestine and act like microfiber material that is becoming popular in household items like dish towels, mops, etc. (another quick plug...check out Norwex products, they are amazing!). These villi create more surface area inside the small intestine which allows for more nutrients to be absorbed and utilized by the body. The immune system of a celiac person essentially destroys the villi and flattens them out, or reduces their surface area so nutrient uptake is greatly reduced.
I need to go on a quick tangent...STRAWBERRIES DO NOT CONTAIN GLUTEN! It blows my mind at the number of produce labels that I am now seeing "Gluten Free" on, that have higher prices associated with them. I was picking out strawberries at the grocery store once, and lady next to me picked up a conventionally grown package of strawberries and placed them in her cart. Then the "Gluten Free" label on the $2 more strawberries caught her eye so she took the SAME strawberries out of her cart and grabbed the more expensive ones instead because they said "Gluten Free" on them.
Now, some strawberry plants are mulched with grain straw that contains gluten, so sometimes there could be a chance of cross-contamination of the strawberries with the grain straw, but please don't think that strawberries actually contain gluten. The only food products that contain gluten are wheat, rye, and barley. Your grocery store produce does NOT contain gluten, unless it was contaminated by gluten-containing wheat, rye, or barley products. And if that's the case, then maybe you should find out a little bit more about how and where that product is grown and why the gluten contamination is happening? Maybe they can use alternative mulching methods, or maybe their management practices are not very good, in which case their product is probably not very good either.
Okay..end rant. Moving on!
Cellulose fiber and cellulose gum are the next two ingredients that are misleading. Humans do not contain cellulase, which is the enzyme that breaks down cellulose, therefore, we cannot digest cellulose. While it is not typically a harmful product in the body, it serves zero nutritional value because we cannot digest it and use its monomers in our body processes. Cellulose is typically used as a food additive because it's great at adhering foods together. Cellulose can be a good form of fiber, as it helps adhere waste in your digestive tract and ultimately helps with regular bowel movements, but you should be getting fiber from eating vegetables, and not from a petri dish that was later added to bread.
Probably the most cringe-worthy ingredient in this list is preservatives. I encourage you to eat as many fresh foods as you can. Pick your groceries up from the local farmers market each week, or do my version of grocery shopping...walk through the garden and chicken coop each night and fresh pick good produce and eggs, then take a stroll over to your freezer and grab out some meat that you have harvested. You'll have yourself a healthy, fresh dinner with zero preservatives.
You should not eat processed foods, or foods that you buy in a box, bag, or can that have been sitting on the grocery store shelf. ALL of these food items contain some level of preservatives. These preservatives are all synthetic (lab-grown) chemicals that are added to food to make their shelf-life longer. I'm not saying if you eat this loaf of store-bought bread you're going to get sick, but why put those preservatives inside of you when your body does not naturally need them? In small doses, they will not do your body any harm (unless you have sulfite allergies), but they are certainly not doing anything good for your body either.
And lastly...although potassium and iodine are both elements we need in our bodies in appropriate quantities, sometimes elements combine to form not so great compounds. Just Google potassium iodate (it's the last ingredient listed).
Always read the fine print, between the lines, and LOOK STUFF UP if you are unsure. If you can't pronounce the majority of the ingredients on your food label...chances are you shouldn't be eating it.
To learn more about tasty meals and links to great recipes I am making, either call my Mother :) or follow us on Instagram @weberhollowhomestead.