Written by: Lisa Leslie
Have you ever stopped to consider exactly what is in your daily bread? If you go into any South African supermarket, you are presented with shelves upon shelves of commercial bread options, each one touting some or other health benefit, such as high fibre, low fat or low G.I. (Glycemic Index). Whatever the claims of commercial bread manufacturers, the reality is that the majority of these loaves are anything but healthy and are in fact laden with a gamut of insidious additives.
Real bread is beautiful in its simplicity. When just four ingredients are combined - stoneground flour, water, salt and yeast - and left to undergo a process of natural fermentation, a remarkable chemical process occurs, rendering a versatile and nutritious food source. But this food staple has been tainted by large scale commercial bread manufacturers to such an extent that we can certainly no longer dub that bread the 'staff of life'.
The ingredients listed on the packets of commercial bread available in South Africa are barely legible to the naked eye. This in itself should be cause for concern. One of the first and foremost problems with commercial breads is that the flour used has been refined, stripped of all the inherent goodness of the wheat grain. By stripping the grain of the germ entirely, you significantly increase shelf life. But when flour is refined in this way, most of the beneficial unsaturated fatty acids are removed, and along with it, a wonderful source of vitamins and minerals. It may sound absolutely absurd, but once all these naturally nutritious elements of the flour are removed, synthetic vitamins are then added (which are not easily assimilated by the human body) in an attempt to increase the nutrition that was lost in the refining process.
Refining of the flour is just the beginning of the adulteration of this ancient food staple. Tests show at least 20 ingredients are usually added to commercial breads, many of which should not ever be included in a human diet. Certain chemicals and enzymes are added to the dough in order to not only mimic the flavour of real bread, but to shorten the process of making bread to two hours instead of the usual 12 to 24 hours.
Commercial breads are laced with enzymes, preservatives, emulsifiers and flour improvers. These additives include: palm and soy bean oil, wheat gluten, Calcium sulfate, Ethoxylated mono and di-glycerides, Calcium propionate, High-fructose corn syrup, Sodium stearoyl lactylate, Monocalcium phosphate, Amylase and Protease, Azodicarbonamide, Diacetyl Tartaric Acid Esters of Monoglycerides. The list goes on and on.
Bread has been getting a bad rap across mainstream media for several years, but it is almost certainly the additives found in commercial bread which lies at the heart of many people's intolerance. Real bread has been eaten for many thousands of years by people across the globe, but intolerance towards bread products only presented itself once commercial bread became widely used. (Many argue that pesticides used when growing the wheat also play a role in the rising intolerance.)
Fortunately there has been a revolution when it comes to real bread and the artisan bread culture is increasing in popularity as there are artisan bakeries popping up throughout South Africa, and people are therefore getting a taste of real good bread once again. Eureka Mills has been at the forefront of the stone-ground flour revolution, and are passionate about educating people about the advantages of using unadulterated stoneground flour, including home bakers. More and more people are beginning to understand that commercial breads are not good for one's health and are moving back to breads made using only stoneground flour, water, salt and yeast. Bread made the way it ought to be. And let's be honest, you just can't beat the taste of an artisan loaf!!