One of the rotating diet trends in American culture is the attack on carbohydrates and the resulting ‘carbofobia’ that ensues.
Yet, not all carbohydrate foods are equal.
Simple carbs from refined white flour (muffins, white fluffy bread, danish) are very different than whole grains or complex carbs (brown rice, whole wheat flour, quinoa) that integrate into the blood stream more slowly and don’t create havoc in our blood sugar.
In this line of thinking, whole grain bread is not as big of a culprit as white bread.
However, one little known fact is that not all whole grain breads are created equal, either; it's all in how they rise -- sourdough culture or yeast.
Bread has a rich and wonderful history from many centuries past. It's journey began when cereal grains were crushed and mixed with water to create a paste. The paste was then cooked over a fire to create a 'flat bread' and consumed.
In Egypt around 2600 BCE, the discovery of fermentation took place. First through the brewing of beverages, like beer and later to leavening bread.
The bakers of the time also discovered that if they kept a portion of the fermented grains, they could use it as a 'starter' for their next batch of bread. What these ancient people did not know, is that their discovery of 'sourdough' had many nutritional benefits including increased nutrient assimilation and ease of grain digestion.
As we fast forward in history to modern times, traditional bread goes through a makeover.
"The history of bread making is a good example of the industrialization and standardization of a technique that was formerly empiric ... it was simpler to replace natural leaven with brewer's yeast. There are numerous practical advantages: The fermentation is more regular, more rapid, and the bread rises better. But the fermentation becomes mainly a alcoholic fermentation and the acidification is greatly lessened. The bread is less digestible, less tasty, and spoils more easily." -- Claude Aubert Les Aliments
The majority of breads we get in stores and sandwich shops are of this kind.
As usual, speed is valued more than quality, which carries a host of problems. Most grains have in them a substance called phytic acid which is not digestible to humans or non-ruminant animals. Moreover, by consuming phytic acid, it is harder for the body to absorb zinc, iron, calcium, and magnesium.
Grains are also considered to be an acid food, which makes the body work harder to achieve a state of homeostasis or balance. This is why soaking grains before you cook them or consuming sourdough-leavened bread is ideal. Sourdough culture is super acidic to begin with, but when combined with grains it actually neutralizes their enzyme inhibiting and phyitic acid qualities. This results in more alkalinity, easier digestion, more nutrients and a real hearty bread that promotes warmth and joy, without the guilt.
Sourdough leavened bread is slowly making a comeback, but it is vital to ask questions and be a conscious consumer.
Most 'sourdough' breads are made with white flours and conventional yeast, even though they are called sourdough. It is vital to understand that any grain turned into bread -- be it whole wheat, spelt, or millet bread -- can be made using sourdough culture; it is not limited to the white bread most are familiar with.
Find sourdough cultured breads at:
- Whole Foods Market (read the labels not all are sourdough cultured, make sure there is not yeast listed on the ingredients).
- Charlie’s Best Bread (they have two sourdough cultured breads). See their website for more information.
- Boudin Sourdough Bakery & Cafe with three locations in San Diego: La Jolla Village, Fashion Valley, and Horton Plaza. See their website for more information.
More about Danny Arguetty, M.A.
Danny Arguetty, M.A., a Nutrition, Health and LIFE (Living in Free Expression) Counselor, has been involved in the health field for the last decade. He guides and works privately with clients utilizing customized programs based on bio-individual needs and diverse life situations.
He specializes in yoga privates, weight loss, digestive disorders, healthy aging, sugar/caffeine dependencies, persistent fatigue, chronic stress, relationship support, life coaching and practical healthy living strategies.
Arguetty is also a faculty member at Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health, Adjunct Faculty at Williams College, and author of Nourishing the Teacher: inquiries, contemplations & insights on the path of yoga. He leads 200hr Yoga Teacher Trainings in Southern California and Advanced 500hr Trainings in Kerala, India.