It’s the greatest thing since, well…sliced bread.
If you haven’t heard all the rage: Wheat is back in.
At least real wheat is back in.
Sourdough bread—one of the breads that is as “old as time”—is making a comeback.
And here’s why: Bread may not be as “bad” as everyone has been made to believe.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE GLUTEN-FREE HYPE
Over the past decade, “gluten free” has been all the rage.
Nearly every grocery store offers gluten-free versions in anything you can imagine—pasta, breads, cereals, crackers;
Restaurants accommodate us with gluten-free menus;
And even church communion now serves “gluten-free” crackers or bread for the vast majority of us who have determined we have a sensitivity to wheat and gluten.
But this was not always the case. As a kid, back in the 90’s, “gluten-free” and celiac disease (gluten intolerance) were practically foreign concepts.
I knew this all too well since my dad was one of the “first” diagnosed cases of celiac disease back in the 80’s (cool claim to fame right)?
Growing up, it was “normal” to observe dad ordering his burger at Wendy’s and asking for “no bun,” only to hear the other voice on the end of the drive-thru speaker pause, then exclaim, “No what?!”
It was normal to call in Chinese takeout and observe dad request “no MSG”—a cross-contaminating additive—in his meal.
And it was “normal” to receive packages, delivered straight to our front door, with surprises like a cardboard-tasting frozen gluten-free bread (“one of the only in the country”) or the “only” gluten-free frozen pizza crust—watching dad light up at the thought of eating an actual sandwich or home slice.
However, to the rest of the world, this wasn’t normal, until…
Today, gluten is to this decade, what carbs were to the early 2000’s and fat was to the ’80s and ’90s: the enemy that causes all that ails you
While the words, “gluten” and “gluten-free” certainly receives a lot of hype—but there is more to the story than just that word alone.
Don’t get me wrong, gluten-sensitivity DOES exist. However, get this:
- You weren’t necessarily born gluten-intolerant.
- Gluten may NOT be the real enemy at play.
- And…Bread is BACK!
YOU WEREN’T BORN GLUTEN-INTOLERANT
First things first, let’s be clear about gluten intolerance.
Gluten intolerance is NOT a food allergy.
It’s a physical condition in your gut.
Basically, it happens when your body can’t fully digest or break down gluten (found in wheat and other grains).
These undigested gluten proteins stick around out in your intestines, and your body starts to see them as “foreign invaders” and they irritate your gut lining. Over time, gluten causes a “wear and tear” on your intestinal wall, eventually flattening the microvilli—the structures that help you absorb food and control what comes in and out of your digestive tract (like sending nutrients to your brain and other organs).
Without these microvilli, your ability to absorb the nutrients from your food goes way down, and your risk for a “leaky”—or porous—gut also goes way up, often “leaking” food particles into your blood stream where antibodies ATTACK and cause inflammation (symptoms like malabsorption,, chronic fatigue, headaches, ADD/ADHD, nutrient deficiencies, anemia, nausea, skin rashes, depression, etc.).
In other words: You didn’t enter the world this way—with a leaky gut.*
**(Although there are exceptions that may have set you up from the start such as: C-section or pre-mature birth, a mother who also had poor gut health herself and was subject environmental toxins, and formula feeding)
Typically though, the wear and tear of the gut lining accumulates over time, and probably dates back to your childhood—from then on, the cards have been stacked against your gut health:
- Eating gut irritating refined and processed foods, like Fruit Loops and Oreos, pasta and pizza crust, processed diet bars and artificial sweeteners
- Using toxic household cleaners regularly—and cross contamination with foods
- Lack of water
- Low stomach acid
- Stress-physical and mental
- Eating on the go
- Sugar consumption
- Antibiotics or long-term prescription medication use
- GMO’s (genetically modified organisms(
- Not chewing your food fully
- Restrictive eating or binge eating
- Sedentary lifestyle
- High coffee consumption (did you know 10% of coffee is a protein that cross reacts with gluten antibodies?)
Even though a little dirt never hurt (80/20 balance people), over time, your gut can only take so much.
Hence, gluten-intolerance is just one (of many) symptoms and side-effects some folks may have contract.
GLUTEN IS NOT THE (ONLY) ENEMY
Gluten—in and of itself—is not the ONLY enemy
In fact, there’s the case that humans ate “bread” for thousands of years prior to even hearing the word “gluten intolerance” or sensitivity.
So where did “gluten intolerances” really come from?
Enter: Food processing.
As you may have guessed, the wheat or “gluten” we eat today is 100-percent different than the wheat and gluten of the days of old—a time when our ancestors soaked, sprouted and soured grains for preparation (all of which aided in our body’s natural ability to digest them without any “anti-nutrients” involved).
Prior to 1910, 70 percent of all bread eaten in the U.S. was baked at home, stone ground and fermented—a process of letting bread sit over time to create yeast cultures.
By 1924, the percentage changed to only 30-percent, and in 1927, the first “commercial bread” hit grocery store shelves (Wonder Bread, closely followed by Twinkies in 1930).
This “new type” of bread was no longer the homemade, slow-baked kind, but instead, (as an early TV commercial for WonderBread highlighted): it was bread made from a batter, not from dough, “so there are no holes in the bread!”
Processed, commercial breads began popping up on shelves everywhere, mimicking cake in texture, with a soft chewy texture and no fermentation flavor from the former versions of real bread. And slowly, over time, our idea of “bread” started to become: Wonder Bread, Iron Kids, Nature’s Own, Sara Lee, Sandwich Thins, Orowheat and most recently Udi’s and Canyon Bakery breads.
Come 1961, and the biggest change in the quality of bread-making techniques occurred when the Flour Milling and Baking Research Association created a new (faster) processing method for bread industry—the Chorleywood Bread Process (CBP).
The method depends on high-speed mixers, cheap wheat, chemicals, solid vegetable fat, lots of commercial yeast and water, in order to produce a loaf of bread from flour to sliced-and-packaged form in as little as three hours.
Today, although we may blame gluten on the reason why breads and other grains are not good for us, there is more to it than meets the eye.
BREAD IS BACK
Yup, you heard me right.
Real bread is back.
Sourdough is a tradition that is age as old as time.
Made with only three ingredients (real wheat, a yeast ‘starter’ and water), the traditional sourdough-making process works to neutralize the anti-nutrients commonly found in cereal grains, since the flour is kept moist and acidic for many hours (or days) during the “fermentation” process while making it.
(Fermentation simply means the wheat + yeast culture starter + water sit together to create healthy bacteria and ‘live’ flavor prior to baking).
When you eat real bread—with real unprocessed ingredients—your body actually sees it as “real” food—not necessarily the outside foreign invaders, complete with vegetable oils, additives, sugars, and other chemicals often found in our modern day grain supply.
Get this: In a recent study of celiac patients (those with the highest level of gluten-intolerance), EVEN they were able to consume sourdough (with no reported symptoms). (Cagno et al, 2010).
WHERE TO FIND IT?
Try it for yourself!
If you have a local farmer’s market, I encourage you to first check it out there to see if there is any legit bread there.
The next bet would be finding a local bakery/baker who is aware of what real bread really is—(not just a hyped “sourdough is the cool thing now” type of baker) and keeping your sourdough goods not cross-contaminated with other gluttonous, additve/sugar filled breads in house.
Or if you are up for making your own, here’s how it goes down:
- 2 1/3 cups fresh sourdough starter
- 3 1/3 cup organic flour
- 1 to 1 1/2 cups water
- Tablespoon fine sea salt
- Mix sourdough starter, flour, and salt together. Add 1 cup water, then more as needed to make the dough.
- Knead dough until it passes the “window pane test.” That is, a small piece of dough will stretch between four fingers thin enough to allow light to pass through without breaking.
- Split the dough in half. Shape each half into a loaf.
- Place in a loaf pan.
- Cover lightly with a towel and proof 4-24 hours. While a second proofing period is not required, if desired, punch dough down after 4-12 hours, reshape, and proof again.
- Slice an X shape in the top of the loaf with a very sharp knife or razor blade to allow the loaf to expand during baking without splitting in unexpected places.
- Bake at 400°F for 30-60 minutes, depending on loaf size.