Let’s talk about bread. I love bread. You love bread. If you say that you don’t, then you are either a skinny liar, or if that is your truth…decidedly, we can’t be friends. Glad we got that out of the way.
I was fairly strict Paleo for the past six years. Paleo is NOT low-carb, but it does stipulate the avoidance of grains, among some other food limitations like dairy, legumes, and sugar. What I really liked about this way of eating is that it is very vegetable-centric. Lean protein and veggies are its staples. That makes sense no matter what your eating philosophy. I still abide by the Paleo way of eating the majority of the time, but I recently started incorporating some grains back into my diet. I enjoy oats, quinoa, and the occasional slice of sprouted Eziekel bread around my workout time. It gives me the extra kick I need for a better workout and speedier recovery.
Sure, you can get some of these same benefits from fruits or sweet potatoes (they both pack a carb punch for sustained fuel), but oats and whole grains are a nice change of pace and offer sustained energy when I have an intense workout ahead of me. They don’t upset my system. (I know, Paleo Police…it may cause systemic inflammation and that is why the diet restricts them regardless of gluten sensitivity.) And yes, some people are legitimately sensitive to grains, so test it out. If you’ve tried eliminating them for three or more weeks then reincorporated them and feel fine, you likely can tolerate them. Regardless, I recommend moderation. The problem with the Standard American Diet (SAD) is that we eat grains all damn day…a bagel for breakfast, a cereal bar for snack, a sandwich for lunch and pasta for dinner. When you fill up on starch, you aren’t filling up on vegetables and lean protein, are you? Remember, that’s what we want to be eating the majority of the day!
Here’s the thing. NOT ALL GRAINS ARE CREATED EQUAL! Know your stuff. As I see it, there are four categories of grain used to make bread. Let’s think of each of these grains as a family of sisters.
- Refined Grain Bread (She is a real bitch. She wreaks havoc on the family, shows up drunk to your grandpa’s funeral, slept with your boyfriend in high school, and takes years off your mom’s life. She’s bad news).
This bread is made by removing the wheat kernel’s germ and bran (where any nutrients may be hiding). Only the endosperm is left and this is pulverized. You don’t want pulverized endosperm for breakfast, do you? That’s just gross! But seriously, the problem with your standard grocery store refined grain bread is that in addition to all the crap and preservatives they put in it, the pulverization process makes it so your body quickly converts the starch to sugar. There is no fiber left to slow the body’s absorption. Why do manufacturers strip the grains? Well, it makes your bread fluffier and its shelf life longer. It also makes your ass fluffier and your shelf life shorter. One more thing, don’t let the “whole wheat” label fool you. Just because it is whole wheat, does not mean it is whole grain. It’s the same shitty sister only with too much make up on.
2. Whole Grain bread (Whole Grain has the best intentions. She is reliable and there in a pinch. She’s your middle child cliche. You don’t hate her, but she isn’t your first choice).
This bread is made by grinding the entire wheat kernel into flour. Even though this process reserves the nutrients and keeps fiber available to slow down digestion, it still doesn’t have the amino acid profile of a sprouted bread, which is often made from a variety of grains. Whole grains also contain phytic acid, so even though the nutrients are in tact, phytic acid can inhibit the absorption of these nutrients in the body.
3. Gluten-Free Varieties (Gluten-free Grain is the sister who so wants to be cool and ironic. She is the annoying hipster sister who feels like she is better than you because she likes that indie band, and yet, she is just one bad boyfriend away from the life of her sister, Refined Grain.)
Okay, so gluten-free is all the craze. People feel as though they are eating healthy if they are gluten-free. To quote Mr. Trump, I’ve got to say, “WRONG!” Gluten-free does not mean healthy, and in fact, many gluten-free processed foods contain sugar, and an obnoxiously high glycemic index. I could do an entire tirade on this subject (and I will), but today we are talking bread. Gluten-free bread is most often created with refined gluten-free grains. Remember, refined food is stripped of its nutrients. So just because your bread is gluten-free, doesn’t mean it is good for you. It will still cause a spike in blood sugar. You will most likely not lose weight. And, you are still missing essential nutrients.
4. Sprouted Grains Bread (Your parents put all their hopes and effort into Sprouted Grain after messing up the first three. She blossomed into the smart, kind, and successful sister).
Sprouted bread is made from wheat kernels that have first been sprouted. The seed is given the opportunity to sprout, but is harvested before it becomes a plant. In order for the shoot to sprout, it digests some of the starch for energy, rendering the remains more nutrient-dense. The flour made from sprouted grains provides more protein, vitamins and minerals than refined flours. Sprouted bread has fewer carbohydrates, slightly more protein, and about 40 percent of the fat than its less cool sister, the whole grain bread. Also, sprouted bread is easier to digest because the sprouting process pre-digests the starches for you (yeah…who has time for that anyway). It also contains less gluten. It still has gluten though, so if you have Celiac or known gluten-sensitivity, stay clear. And lastly, sprouting also neutralizes phytic acid, a substance present in grains, which inhibits absorption of nutrients. Ezekiel Bread is the most common sprouted bread you’ll find at the grocery store.
Sure, sometimes it is fun to hang out with Refined Grain. She flashes her boobs to get you into the bar, but mostly, she will leave you feeling sick and hungover. Go with Sprouted Grain. She is smart and reliable. She lifts you up.
The bottom line: the occasional sprouted bread or sourdough can be a nice treat and a good source of sustainable energy for those getting ready to hit the gym. That said, it doesn’t offer an exceptional nutrient profile and may be problematic to those with gluten sensitivity.
Read your labels. The first ingredient should be “Sprouted.” Many companies will market bread as whole grain or sprouted, when in fact, the first ingredient is enriched flour. Check out these Trader Joe’s bagels. The first ingredient is enriched flour, and there are all sorts of words hard to pronounce.
Now check out Ezekiel Bread. The first ingredient is “Organic Sprouted Wheat.”
Shop smart, friends.