Image Source: philcalvert via Creative Commons
“Avoid gluten!” “Carbs from bread are bad!” “Go paleo!”
There’s no shortage of media attention around the “evils” of gluten and it’s primary source - bread. But is there really that much to be concerned about? After viewing a new documentary series last night on Netflix, I’m now convinced that bread is actually good for you.
Here’s the story...
I sat down last night to watch a documentary with my good friend here in Canada, and I came across what I can only describe, as a TV series that was meant to be. Cooked, the 4-part documentary series by Michael Pollan, became available on Netflix in the U.S. and Canada on February 19, 2016.
Pollan has written a half dozen best-selling books about food, but most people will probably recognize him as the guy who has spent years warning against the dangers of factory farming on the influential 2008 documentary, Food Inc.
Side note: Food Inc. will change the way you look at supermarket food. I recommend you view the full version of Food Inc., the movie, on YouTube here.
For his latest endeavour, Pollan decided to translate his book, Cooked, into a stunningly presented documentary series for Netflix. You can view the full trailer of Cooked here. The series is split into four sections - “Fire,” “Water,” “Air” and “Earth” - with each theme used to tell the history of human cooking. What’s unveiled is the shocking global trend towards fast-food, and our disconnection with both the nutritional value and social importance of meal preparation.
Probably the most shocking and controversial section of the documentary, is the section regarding gluten in the episode on “Air”.
It’s discussed that there is a growing number of people who claim to be gluten intolerant - a rate of growth which is faster than the market segment of gluten-free foods is growing. While it’s true that some people genuinely have celiac disease, those numbers are far smaller than those who simply believe they can’t digest gluten. So, what’s all the fuss?
Here’s a great snippet by Nathan Myhrvold from the episode that sums it up nicely:
Myhrvold, the founder of Modernist Cuisine - an independent food research organisation - continues to highlight the movement away from the “slow fermentation” process used in bread making for centuries as the core problem with modern day bread. The fermentation process is crucial to break down the peptides of gluten found within wheat, which is the portion that can be problematic for people to digest.
This news will no doubt be controversial for those followers of the Paleo diet movement (one which I have experimented with in the past), who maintain that any processed grain is not healthy for human consumption. But the surprising fact that has been understood by generations of artisan bread makers and bakers, is that the natural fermentation used in traditional bread making unlocks normally inaccessible nutrients and minerals that the body can use.
So where to from here?
Well, it looks like bread is actually good for you - only if it has undergone a slow fermentation process as part of its making. The mass-produced varieties you purchase from the grocery store probably aren’t made with the TLC required for slow fermentation, and may cause health problems as a result. Not to mention the untold number of artificial ingredients they contain, which you’re ingesting!
Your best bet is to, as always, eat bread in moderation, and only choose sourdough breads that have been properly fermented before baking. Avoid the fortified, white, generic varieties you see in store, and instead opt to make your own fresh sourdough bread, or buy from a local artisan baker who knows how to do the job right.
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About the Author
Hi, I'm Jason, founder of Kickstart a Cause, teaching you to unlock your true potential and create a life you were born to live. When I'm not inspiring greatness in others, I can be found travelling the world exploring the beauty of nature.
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