Bread, oh bread. For some, an art form. For others, a guilty pleasure. For shoppers in a supermarket, a torturous decision process exacerbated by hundreds of brands, products, labels, health claims, and confusingly long ingredient lists.
Here is Fooducate’s attempt to simplify the process.
What you need to know:
You can make bread at home with just four ingredients: flour, water, yeast, and salt. If you do it right, the result is exquisite. Bakers who have mastered the proper technique produce batches of bread that are so delectable you want to eat them without any additions. The problem with these breads is that they have the shelf-life of an over ripe banana. They go hard in one day, and within 3 start to grow mold.
In Paris, there is an elegant solution – boulangeries (bakeries) are situated in almost every block, and denizen can walk down in their PJs early in the morning to pick up a fresh baguette or two for the day. The next morning, another fresh baguette.
But in the US, where many families shop just once or twice a week and bread is made in far away factories, it requires a long shelf life. The longer the better, as in weeks. In addition, the techniques used in small bakery batches don’t work well for large scale bread manufacturing facilities. For the reasons mentioned above, many additives are thrown into the dough mix. They help raise the dough faster, improve the crumb (texture), and keep the bread nice and soft for a very long time. Perfect for the supermarket.
Now let’s turn our attention to nutrition. A deliciously fresh loaf of bread is not necessarily a good nutrition choice. In many cases, it is made with refined flour, lacking in all the nutrients of whole grain. So let’s not confuse tasty fresh bread with healthier bread options.
So you’re in the supermarket and you want to buy a decent loaf – both tasty and healthy. Where to begin?
What to do at the supermarket:
These are the ground rules for choosing healthy bread, according to Professor Marion Nestle, a nutrition expert from NYU:
- The first ingredient should be whole grain.
- The bread should be 100% whole wheat.
- The fiber count should be 2 or more grams per ounce. sometimes that’s one slice, but not always.
- It should have a short ingredient list.
In upcoming posts we will drill down on each of these recommendations.