What is “REAL” whole wheat bread?
If you can find and take a few cups of whole wheat grain from a natural stalk of wheat plant that has not been cross pollinated to any extent, allowed to live on the plant until ripe, not sprayed with chemicals, not planted in soil artificially fertilized, has been planted in ground that has been rotated or rested, planted in ground that has been fed good natural organic material, etc. Then, you take that grain in its whole form (apart from the stalk, but still whole), grind it whole, mix it with a little natural sea salt, perhaps a little natural honey or natural sweet tree syrup (unprocessed syrup), and a little natural, freshly pressed olive oil, let it sit until natural yeast found in the air falls on it in a controlled environment protected from flies and excess dust, knead it, allow it to rise a little more over time in a cool dark place, knead it again, and then bake it, you may have a healthy piece of “REAL” whole wheat bread.
But of course, I have described a process that is going on almost nowhere on the planet today, or at least it is only going on in very limited, isolated places, and is not utilized by most consumers.
About 200 years ago, it was very common. Today, I’m not even sure if there are many people who even have seeds available from the natural, non-cross-pollinated wheat plant. Perhaps, but they would be hard to find I’m sure.
What We Do Today
Instead of the REAL whole wheat bread described above, how do we make whole wheat bread, generally speaking?
Starting with the seed
Wheat has been cross-pollinated many times over to make the plants used in commercial farming today, making the plants taller and stronger and … much higher in gluten content. Many argue over the way the seeds we use today have been altered and whether or not they should be called Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO). One side says they are GMO. The industry side says they are not because the process used to make the seeds in use was a more natural process.
It really doesn’t matter to me; the point is the seeds have been significantly altered from the kind that we used for the last several millennia, the seeds that people have been cultivating for wheat and growing on their farms. Arguing over the process and the terms does not change the fact that seeds are significantly different than once used.
Much Higher in Gluten
The gluten part of the wheat is what makes the grain sticky. Well… technically, it contains the part that makes the flour sticky.
There are two other parts of the gluten protein molecule. One of these parts is also the part that, generally speaking, makes you feel so good and euphoric after eating it. It is also addictive and makes you crave more and more. When the gluten molecule is more abundant the bread tends to have more of this molecule making a consumer want more and more to be satisfied.
Another, the third part of gluten, which is classified as a prolamine protein, is the part of gluten that makes the grain the most dangerous for inflammation and all the damages that can come from over-inflammation. In many cases, it can cause gut permeability, and yes, even damage from crossing the blood-brain barrier. The prolamine part of gluten can affect the brain directly causing many negative symptoms in some people. More gluten means more of this molecule as well.
Today’s cross-pollinated seeds produce grain proteins that contain 4 times higher concentrations of gluten than was found in the plant we farmed for millennia. Hmm. And some think this is an improvement!!!
The Growing Process
Besides the change in the seed and its higher gluten content we also have changed the process of growing the wheat plant in many significant ways.
The Land Is Tired
We farm the land without resting the soil or rotating the crop.
So what, you may ask. Resting soil one year in seven, the way the Bible describes in the Old Testament times, or using the rotating crop method employed by early American farmers, allows the soil to recover much needed nutrients that are depleted by the growing of plants. If you grow the same crop of wheat every year on the same soil without resting it or changing to some other crop periodically, the soil becomes “tired.” It loses certain nutrients that the plant sucks up for growing. Over time, the plant is then also missing these nutrients. And if we eat the wheat, we are also then missing these nutrients.
By the way, this says nothing of the phytonutrients in the soil as well. Phytonutrients and how they play a role in our health is an area where we need a lot more research. But, generally, it is what makes food in whole forms better than taking a supplement of a nutrient alone.
Chemicals to the Rescue?
As a result growing the crop on depleted soil and doing nothing to replenish the soil, you usually get a poor crop or sickly plant. Today, we no longer have this problem – or so it seems to the average consumer. We spray the soil with chemical fertilizers or in some way add chemical fertilizer to the soil to make the food appear healthy when it is not. Using modern industrial chemical fertilizers, instead of using natural organic material as fertilizer, will deprive the soil and thus the plant of many nutrients and phytonutrients, which are necessary for us when we eat the food.
Chemical fertilizers are usually made up of three things in varying amounts: nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. These are all that is necessary to make the plants look healthy, but they do not replace nutrients or phytonutrients.
Additionally, Chemical Fertilized Plants May Be Toxic
In many cases, in addition to the plants not having all the micro-nutrients and phytonutrients, the plants suck up natural soil toxins which act as replacements in the plants to the missing nutrients. When a plant is missing a needed element in the soil for the plant to grow and thrive, it may, at times, substitute one similar substance for another. This is common with soy crops in the U.S. Much of the time, the soil is missing the mineral zinc, an essential nutrient for both soy and human. To substitute, the soy plant often sucks up excess cadmium, a mineral substance that may help the soy product look healthy but is poisonous to humans. If consumed and accumulated in the body over time, it can wreak havoc on our health. There is a potential for similar substitution of toxin for nutrient in all plants to some extent, more or less.
More Chemicals to the Rescue?
While the plant is growing, we spray the “necessary” pesticides to keep the plant from being eaten by bugs. Of course, when consumed, portions of the pesticides are eaten by us.
Additionally, 90% of the wheat grown in the U.S. is sprayed with herbicide before harvest.
Without going into the all the details why, the end result for the farmer is a 20% greater yield in grain. What is the result for us? The wheat is stripped of an enzyme when the plant is sprayed with herbicide. This enzyme is not available for us as it normally would be. It normally would be used by our digestive system as part of the digestive process when we eat wheat. In other words, without this enzyme is very hard to digest for almost anyone, food sensitivity or not.
We Process the Wheat
Next, we process the grains. We mill the grains stripping them of portions that may be helpful for us in many cases. Then we make flour with the left-over portion. In the case of white flour, the milled grain is also “bleached.” This was a process created to make white flour so the rats and mice wouldn’t eat it as it was stored. Whole wheat flour skips this step to some extent. In any event, we next enrich the flour with a few key vitamins. Why? The processing removed these nutrients!!!
Then We Make the Bread (sic)
Then we ship the flour and make it into bread.
When we make the bread, we use baker’s yeast to make the dough rise. The process of making bread with single strand, quick rising, baker’s yeast was started in the U.S. during World War II to produce bread in mass for the war effort. The process continued after the war and is the most common process in use today.
Forget the fact that the old way of making bread allowed the bread to gain yeast from the air around us or from a starter, e.g. from other dough. It was a slow process, but it made for hundreds or thousands of strains of yeast, now we have, predominantly, just one strain of yeast and only one strain in our bread. This yeast, when eaten, is now the dominate yeast in our guts.
By the way, sourdough bread today still uses the old process of bread making with regard to the adding of yeast, and therefore, can be better for our health.
Ever think, with so many people suffering from mild to severe candida problems, perhaps our system of making bread may be contributing to this???
Wait, there is more! In addition to depriving the body of a whole slew of many strains of natural yeast, we do something else to the bread. We process it and cook it in a food-grade sterile environment. Hmm. What is the result? The bread no longer has much needed beneficial bacteria. That’s right, I said, “beneficial bacteria.” Not all bacteria are the bad guys.
It is beyond the scope of this post to delve into all the science behind the entire science of the microbiota at this moment. But you have more microscopic microorganisms in your body than you have human cells in terms of sheer numbers. If this population of bacteria is of a certain demographic, generally you are able to thrive, and in certain other bacterial demographics, generally you develop disease.
This lack of good bacteria also tends to promote candida and many other disease states in the body. The lack of beneficial bacteria tends to promote the growth of yeast cells in the gut that fill the void as the number of good bacteria recedes. Yeast tends to go up as good bacteria goes down. There are many reasons for this, but this too is beyond the scope of this post.
Understanding this idea is why so many people try to influence their gut bacteria by taking good pro-biotics.
Bread that is made the old-fashioned, slow rise over time method, in a clean and controlled, but not sterile environment, tends to also produce bread that contains beneficial, pro-biotic bacteria in bacteria demographic populations that tend to promote health. The body likes it, for the most part anyway.
Wait There Is More
In addition to the problems already mentioned, we no longer use honey, maple syrup, or even old-fashioned sugar (not a good food, but better than what we use today); we add, in most cases high-fructose corn syrup to the bread. This is disastrous for many reasons I won’t get into now.
Then, we use chemical salt instead of mineral salt or sea salt. Chemical salt is not is not as good for us for many reasons to be discussed in a later post.
Additionally, we used to use oils and fats to make bread that were beneficial to our health. Now, we use seed-based oils (inappropriately named vegetable oil, or corn oil, or canola oil, cottonseed oil, etc.) that were never available in human history until the 20th century introduced manufacturing facilities that made it possible to produce these substances. These oils are generally not good for our health. I know you may be wondering about why I say this, but the explanation can be long. Stay tuned to this blog for more to come.
And… we add additional chemicals as preservatives in many cases - another thing that can be bad for our health.
So, modern commercial bread, made the way we currently make it may look a bit like its older very, very distant cousin, REAL whole wheat bread, but the two breads are very different. Real whole wheat bread was, for many, very nutritious. Modern commercial bread, well it is, well… kinda-sorta, food (sic).
Important Note: Even the old, real whole wheat bread was not necessarily the best for many consumers. Many people, even when eating good bread, cannot digest the food properly in some way. Celiac Disease struck some even with good bread. And even more can be affected by good, real bread in other ways. Food sensitivities can affect many even when wheat is grown, processed, and cooked in the best way. The inherent problems with digesting wheat bread for many are just made a lot worse when the bread is grown and made the modern way.