Bake your own bread to stop feeling bloated
Every Tuesday, Britain’s leading nutritionist explains how to eat your way to health. This week, Jane explains the multiple benefits of baking your own bread…
Bread has been a staple of our diet for so long that it’s easy to forget what a delicious food it can be. But there’s nothing better than a crusty loaf – especially one fresh from the oven (which is why the aroma of freshly baked bread is sometimes used to seduce people into buying a house).
The advent of bread-making machines has made home baking a popular option, although personally I prefer to knead the dough myself; pummelling the dough is a good stress-reliever, and making bread by hand means you can put in a layer of all sorts of things, from fruit purees to savoury tapenades, and mould it into whatever shape you fancy.
Bake your own! The real value of making bread yourself is that you can decide exactly what goes into it
The other thing about making your own bread is that you know exactly what’s going into it. For baker Andrew Whitley, author of Bread Matters, this is a real issue. Like many other bakers, he’s concerned about the nutritional value of some bread made for supermarkets.
He says that some of it is made with flour so processed that virtually all the fibre has been removed; furthermore, the bread is low in nutrients such as vitamin E (vital for heart health), calcium (for bones) and B vitamins (energy and immune system).
The irony is that bread must contain calcium and B vitamins by law, so the manufacturers then have to add the nutrients back to the flour before it’s made into loaves. But why add something back in that should have been kept there in the first place?
Processed white bread is a particular problem as it often contains all sorts of enzymes
(proteins that speed up the breadmaking process), additives and preservatives that make the bread last several days before it starts going stale. Why do we need to clutter a perfectly good foodstuff with all this rubbish?
Also, the baking methods many of these large bakeries use means the bread is cooked so quickly the resulting loaf is more doughy and dense – it’s hardly surprising, then, that some people find some brand-name breads make them feel bloated and sleepy after eating. This can be avoided by buying bread made by a local baker, as smaller bakeries use slower methods that aggravate the stomach less.
But, of course, there is a problem with making such sweeping generalisations. For the wholemeal sandwich you wolf down at your desk during the week could also leave you feeling bloated, while the crusty white you have at the weekend doesn’t. This is because your stress levels, rather than the bread, are causing the problem – when you’re relaxed, your gut digests food better, regardless of the type of bread you eat.
Nonetheless, Whitley is right to call for better bread-making methods and stricter legislation that dictates what can and can’t be added to our bread. Only then will larger manufacturers have the incentive to investigate better, more healthy production methods.
In the meantime, it’s worth making your own bread, especially nowadays when we’re all watching our purses.
There are many different types of flour available in the shops, and even better is to buy from mills where flour contains all sorts of grains and seeds. Try ordering online from mills such as www. shiptonmill.co.uk or www.organicmill.co.uk.
You can add almost anything to the mixture – olives, herbs, dried fruits or nuts – or make a brioche-style loaf using milk as a base in which to warm the yeast.
When it comes to yeast, the secret is to watch the temperature of the liquid you add to it. A common mistake is to have the liquid either too hot (this will ‘kill’ the yeast and leave your bread hard and as flat as a pancake) or too cold (so preventing the chemical process needed to produce bread that’s fluffy in the middle and crusty on the outside).
Adding something sweet such as malt or honey to the liquid will also act as a food for the yeast and encourage it to grow.
And it really is worth the effort – while it might not sell your house, it will certainly cheer your spirits.
- Bread Matters, by Andrew Whitley, is published by Fourth Estate (£16.99)
Can peaches and pears make me fat?
Which foods should I eat to support the adrenal glands? I have an underactive thyroid and was told by a nutritionist to avoid peaches and pears. Janett Robinson, Romford, Essex
Jane says… An underactive Thyroid ( hypothyroidism) is very common, especially in women, with symptoms from hair loss to low mood and weight gain. There’s a lot of rubbish spouted by some nutritionists and websites who blame the problem on iodine deficiency. This might be the case in the Third World, but in the UK you seldom, if ever, find anyone deficient in iodine. And there is no evidence that peaches, pears or any specific foods (‘goitrogens’) inhibit the thyroid gland. You also ask about your adrenal glands (which sit next to the kidneys). Some people say a stressful lifestyle puts a strain on these glands, but again there is just no evidence for this. Unless you have been diagnosed with an adrenal gland problem by an endocrinologist, I’d concentrate on what is known to make a difference to how you feel. With an underactive thyroid this means thyroxine, a well-researched and recognised treatment which should take all the symptoms away. However, Thyroxine sometimes leaves patients still struggling with weight, feeling cold and a little low, so you need regular blood tests to check your dosage.
It’s also important to stick to a wellbalanced diet, rich in fruits, vegetables and wholegrains, to ensure energy levels and moods are as consistent as possible.
BROWN RICE AND BROAD BEAN ‘RISOTTO’
50g Parmigiano Reggiano; 500ml chicken stock; 3 sprigs fresh rosemary; 1 chopped onion; 200g brown basmati rice; 350g frozen broad beans or peas; 25g butter
Melt butter in a pan and fry onion over a low heat for about 10 minutes or until soft but not coloured. Add rice and rosemary and mix well to coat in the butter. Pour in chicken stock and bring to the boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes or until rice is tender and the liquid has been absorbed.
Five minutes before the end of cooking add the broad beans or peas. Cook for a further 5 minutes, then remove and discard rosemary stalks. Season and serve scattered with shavings of Parmigiano Reggiano.
PEAR AND BLACKBERRY ALMOND STRUDEL
750g ripe pears, peeled, cored and sliced; 200g blackberries, fresh or frozen; 50g ground almonds; 50g golden caster sugar; 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon;12 sheets filo pastry; 2tbsp sunflower oil; 1tsp finely grated orange zest; 1tbsp sesame seeds; 2tbsp honey
Preheat oven to 190c, gas mark 5. Mix pears, blackberries, ground almonds, sugar and cinnamon in a large bowl. Unroll the pastry, but keep covered with a clean damp cloth. Mix oil and orange zest in a small bowl. Place 3 sheets of pastry-slightly overlapping, on the work surface, brushing lightly with the zesty oil. Cover with another 3 overlapping sheets, brush again, then repeat with 2 more layers of 3 sheets each.
Spread fruit down the length of the pastry to within 3cm of the edges. Fold the 2 shorter sides over the filling, then roll up from a long edge. Transfer to a large oiled baking sheet. Using a sharp knife, mark the top in a diamond pattern, taking care not to cut all the way through. Brush with a little oil and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake for 35-40 minutes, until golden and crisp. Transfer to a serving plate. Warm the honey and drizzle over the strudel. Serve warm or cold.