Five Bread Ingredients to Avoid [miniseries part 4]

In previous posts we provided general guidelines, discussed whole grains, and showed you a list of the top 20 ingredients used in bread.

Here is a list of the ingredients you want to avoid in bread:

Partially hydrogenated oils – yes, the evil trans-fat lurk in the bread aisle too. Make sure they don’t make the jump to your shopping cart.

Potassium bromate – used as a dough conditioner. It is harmful if consumed as is, but thankfully disappears during the baking process. Unless. Unless some of it doesn’t. Want to take the risk? Europe, Canada, and many other countries have banned the use of this additive.

Azodicarbonamide – a popular dough conditioner. It also bleaches the flour (makes it whiter). It’s considered safe in the US at up to 45 parts per million, but is banned from use in Europe because studies showed it could cause asthma or allergic reactions.

DATEM – an acronym for Diacetyl Tartaric Acid Esters of Monoglycerides. Another dough conditioner used to improve volume and uniformity. It is considered safe by the FDA, but a study in 2002, on rats, showed “heart muscle fibrosis and adrenal overgrowth”.

Artificial colors – you’d be surprised but some breads include artificial colors.

Here are additional indicators of a less nutritious bread:

enriched flours instead of whole grain flours

ingredient list with more than 10-15 ingredients (the average is over 20)

bleached flour vs. unbleached flour.

low fiber count (less than 2 grams per slice)

excessive amounts of fats and sugars (more on this in the next post)

  • The 100 Best Health Sites

    I really enjoy eating sandwiches, but I typically feel very sick about an hour later, with left chest and left arm pains mimicking heart problems

    Gluten intolerance? High-glycemic carbohydrates? Hiatal hernia?

    I don’t know what the problem is, but I just have to avoid bread, or I suffer terribly. This is a relatively recent problem for me, developing in the past year.

  • Bettina

    So funny. We just had a big reader discussion all about bread on The Lunch Tray: I’ll post your series today to follow up. Thanks as always for being such an informative site. – Bettina

  • roger
  • Jason

    Go with sprouted-grain bread and you can’t go wrong. Normally found in frozen food aisle. Worth the extra cost.

  • WilliamB

    “Potassium bromate – used as a dough conditioner. It is harmful if consumed as is, but thankfully disappears during the baking process. Unless. Unless some of it doesn’t. Want to take the risk?”

    Do you have any evidence to offer that there is a risk? Seriously, you don’t need to resort to baseless fear-mongering. There are plenty of documented dangers about which to justifiably fear-monger.

  • Marilynn Stark

    Another method of avoiding undesirable ingredients typically added to industrialized breads is to privatize your ingredients unto the simplest, most fundamental ones that you can verify by choosing them carefully and mixing them with your own hands. That is my practice, and the healthful effects on the mind of taking the time and devotion to make one’s own bread — fresh daily — are way beyond a measurable curve. Take 2 cups of whole wheat flour chosen either from an Indian grocery store and called atta or use Graham flour.  Salt can be added at 1/4 to 1/2 tsp depending on your taste, and it should be mixed in evenly. Add 4 tsp of coconut oil or canola oil and mix it in next, using your hand and fingers to distribute it throughout. This is your nascent dough. Now add in 2/3 cups of warm water by increments, preferably purified water you can be sure of for its purity. Each time you add some water, handle the dough and work the water into it with a kneading. You will see that the water will ultimately mix completely into the flour, giving a ball of dough that you should knead for a few minutes. Now let the dough rest, covered, for 15 to 30 minutes, depending on your time allowance. Then take the dough and knead it more for a few minutes. Once the dough has thus gained its full elasticity, it is ready to be cooked into Indian flatbreads called chapattis. Separate out a piece of dough the size of a golf ball, form a ball by rolling it between the palms of your hands. Place it on a floured bread board and flatten it into a disk with your hand. Make certain both sides are covered with flour so that the dough does not stick to the rolling pin. Now roll the dough out into a circular formation until it is thin and even. Place it on a heated skillet or tava (the Indian cooking pan for chapattis and parathas); this pan should be on medium heat, lightly oiled, and allowed to reach the smoking point as assurance that it is hot enough. Once the chapatti starts to puff up in places, flip it. Now the idea is to maximize the puffing of the bread as it cooks — puffing indicates that the dough is indeed being cooked internally; to do this, place a spatula on a puff and press gently down upon it, causing the puffy portion to spread out. You will see brown spots — these are normal and desirable. You can flip the chapattis and apply the spatula some more to spread the puffing effect. Once cooked accordingly, simply put the chapatti on a plate and lightly spread butter or ghee (clarified butter) over it to keep it soft. It can be kept in a covered pan or wrapped in foil to keep it fresh. Please visit for a video presentation of how to make chapattis. A whole new world of assured excellence in healthful eating is at your fingertips most literally. Once practiced at this method of making a sensible, delicious bread — the chapatti — it is within a 12-minute span to cook two chapattis on your stove top from a batch of dough already made and stored in the refrigerator. Just lightly oil the dough batch and wrap it in plastic wrap, place it in the refrigerator and use as needed on a daily basis.

    • Marilynn Stark

      Actually the use of Graham flour should be modified to 1 part Graham flour to 2 parts atta or Indian whole wheat flour.  Even this dough will not rise (puff) completely as will a chapatti made of atta only.  This proportion of flours is especially good for making stuffed parathas.