What’s That Food? Defining Bread

I have taken a break from my WTF blog to do some research on companies that produce quality, safer foods; those minus toxins, preservatives, and some of the other iffy substances. While that research is still in progress, I have listed one of the sources at the end of the article.

My love of bread inspired the information below. I hope that you find this information helpful in making plans for healthy eating.

Thinking About Bread

Lately, bread has been on my mind. After all, most households have a loaf or even loaves of white bread, wheat bread, whole grain bread or some other type of bread for sandwiches or sides. My family keeps a stock of bread most of the time. The government agency that oversees children’s dietary health in schools requires my daughter’s school to put “wheat bread” on the list of required lunch items for the children. So, our dedication to bread expands further than the home front.

As with most of the foods I find myself writing about, I begin with a rather optimistic view in hopes that I will be able to make a positive report. Despite that optimism and my love of bread, I remain a steadfast critical examiner of what’s in the bread we eat. While the news about bread is not all bad, choices matter.

So, What’s That Food?

Let’s start with the introduction of three types of common bread: wheat, whole wheat, white, multi-grain, gluten-free as well as others. These different types of bread may fall into several categories:

  • Organic Bread (Not just in name, but is certified organic) – This bread is made within the strict guidelines of certified organic; typically 95% of the ingredients must be organic. Out of the other types of bread discussed in this article, this one has the least additives/preservatives of them all. Since organically certified bread tends to be processed differently, it maintains higher nutritional values than other types of bread on the market.
  • Natural Bread – nutritionally, this bread usually falls somewhere between organic and the normal bread/conventional bread. The “usually” means that there are times where “natural” is on a bread product, but the nutritional value is quite low. It might help to understand that “natural” can be put on products for a variety of reasons. It may have fewer preservatives, no artificial colors/sweeteners, no hydrogenated oils, and so on.
  • Normal/Conventional Bread- This bread is the least of all breads. Generally speaking, it has the lowest nutritional value of all breads with the highest level of additives and preservatives.

The Conventional Non-Organic Bread

Since my family eats (or did eat) conventional wheat a.k.a. everyday wheat, let’s have a look.  Many conventional types of bread look like this:

Ingredient 1: Enriched wheat flour – This includes a host of additives meant to replace nutrients lost in processing. Additives may include but are not limited to iron, niacin, thiamine, folic acid, riboflavin, and others.
Ingredient 2: High fructose corn syrup (not a good thing!) or just plain processed sugar (not too good either.)
Ingredient 3: Soybean oil -This baby has a host of issues-I’ll be writing extensively on this subject in subsequent articles.

Ingredient 4: Dough conditioner – This could include any or all of the following: lactylate, monoglycerides, diglycerides, calcium dioxide, datem, and others. According to several sources, it is used to create a pleasing texture and helps create uniform loaves. Some of the dough conditioner items are preservatives.

Ingredient 5: Water – While the label doesn’t tell where the water comes from, if you’re into the filtered water, you probably won’t find it here.
Ingredient 6: Yeast – helps the dough rise
Ingredient 7: Wheat gluten-You may have heard this in reference to allergies. Research has indicated that this substance may contribute to inflammation especially in the intestines. Some of my other articles address this as well.
Ingredient 8: Butter including the enzymes, cream, and salt
Ingredient 9: calcium propionate-This helps extend shelf life; It’s not only a source of heavy metals, but may cause several problems including digestive issues, allergies, skin problems, and headaches.
Ingredient 10: Soy lecithin – I wrote about this in the article on oatmeal. This is commonly used and exposes us to chemicals that are not regulated.
Ingredient 11: Milk – This ingredient is unlikely organic and may have issues of its own.
Other: Ammonium chloride, ammonium sulfate, or ammonium phosphate – I predict a separate article on ammonium chloride. It is listed as a yeast component to help bread rise, but research does not make a good case for the substance. Ammonium chloride (and others listed) has been linked to metabolic issues, renal (kidney) problems, lung and other health problems in higher doses. While I have yet to find conclusive evidence that it causes health issues in lower doses, the information that I did manage to find made me think twice about having this substance in my food.

The “Natural” (Non-Organic) Bread

Rather than provide an exhaustive list of ingredients, I’ll share the differences. Many of the ingredients are the same as conventional bread. One main difference is that the wheat is multigrain (several types of grain) and maintains slightly more nutrients after processing. Wheat flour is used and sweeteners do not include the high fructose corn syrup (as a general rule). Other possibly potentially harmful items that you might not see in “natural” bread includes ammonium chloride and dough conditioner. It is, in my opinion, a healthier choice but not the best as it still contains other unsafe substances.

Certified Organic Bread

Unfortunately, the food industry has gotten crafty. If the food meets certain criteria, it can list “organic” on the label. Unless it says USDA certified (for the U.S.A. – other agencies regulate organic foods in other countries). So, to ensure that you have made the best possible choice for your family, look for certified organic bread. Certified organic bread is the best choice in my opinion. Here’s what you might see on the label: organic whole wheat flour, yeast, organic molasses (for sweetness), water, organic cracked wheat, and some have organic brown sugar. Everything is organic. If milk is used, it is also organic (cows graze on land that meets the organic certification standards). Some ingredients may vary. For example, there may not be a sweetener at all or it may not have milk in it. One thing to note is that not only does this product have 95% or more organic components, but there is also no soy which has some problems associated with it.

The Final Word

As I work toward transitioning toward healthier eating for my entire family, there are many considerations. For example, while pricing organic bread, I found it $1-$2 higher in cost. Limited budgets sometimes dictate our purchasing practices. My final word? If we all begin purchasing organic bread, they will become less expensive. Put your money where your mouth is. I plan to.

Newly Found Organic & Non-GMO (genetically modified) Food Source

Research has led me to one possible source for healthier foods. Thrive market delivers to the door and is membership-based. I will keep you posted on how I feel they do on delivery, price, and quality products.

Other Articles You Might Find Interesting:

What’s that food? Nuts!

What’s that food? My weight control oatmeal

What’s that food? My diet soda

What’s that food? My convenient weight loss shake

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