Well bread

Dr Barbara Wilson
Nutritionist

There are some foods that most of us just couldn’t live without. Some foods so widely available and versatile that we’d be hard pressed to make it through a day without using them in some shape or form. Think of the foods that you always have in your cupboard – staples such as potatoes, rice or pasta, onions and garlic, milk and cheese in the fridge and, of course, a loaf of bread.

There is a huge variety of bread on the supermarket shelves these days. Everything from the humble sliced pan to nutty, seeded loaves and rolls of every shape and size. Breads from around the world are now commonplace – pitta breads, naans, baguettes and croissants, focaccia and ciabatta, as well as our own traditional breads such as soda or potato farls, wheaten bread, crusty loaves and cobs.

Bread is being flavoured with tomatoes, onions, herbs and olives, nuts and seeds, and picking up a bagel for lunch is now as popular as plumping for a pre-packed sandwich. We really are spoilt for choice!

You may have heard the rumour that bread is fattening. This is absolutely not true! Bread is not fattening but remember that the butter you spread over it is. Bread is a rich source of complex carbohydrates which release their energy slowly and steadily and help keep us going for longer. It is a valuable source of dietary fibre, making us feel fuller for longer and helping our digestive systems work efficiently.

Not all breads are equal when it comes to fibre however, as the amount available depends on the type of flour used in making the bread. Wholegrain flour (also known as wholewheat or wholemeal flour) contains the whole of the grain: the outside covering or husk, the starch-rich endosperm and the bran.

The husk and bran are very rich sources of dietary fibre and a number of vitamins and minerals, including the B group vitamins and vitamin E. White or refined flour is made from only the endosperm and lacks the nutrients provided by the bran and husk. Although refined flour is fortified with vitamins to replace those lost through processing, nothing can replace the dietary fibre.

White bread is high Gi and not as naturally nourishing and nutritious as wholegrain bread (low Gi). And beware of ‘brown bread’. This type of bread is made using refined flour with an added agent such as caramel to give it its brown colour – it’s nothing to do with fibre. It doesn’t have any of the goodness of the grain. If you are going to pick up a loaf of bread, go for one with wholegrain, wholemeal or wholewheat on the label as these are, by law, made using the whole grain.

Bread is definitely a good food to keep in your cupboard or freezer. With only 77 calories and 0.9g fat in a generous slice of wholegrain bread, it makes a sensible snack and can be made into a meal in minutes. Go on, use your loaf!

Basic bread recipe

Bread has received more bad press and has a reputation for being difficult to make. Ok, so maybe with some of the delicious varieties available, it isn’t always worth the hassle. But try making your own loaf of bread. It’s in a different league to the doughy, tasteless white bread so commonly eaten. You might just be converted! I’ve tried this basic recipe many times, sometimes adding seeds, nuts or herbs and honestly, if I can do it, anybody can!

1½ lbs flour (a mixture of strong white and wholegrain flours works well)
¾ pint water
1 sachet of dried yeast
1 pinch each of salt and sugar

Sieve the flour into a large bowl. Make a well in the centre and add in the yeast, salt and sugar. Stirring with a knife, gradually add the water until it forms a dough. Flour your hands and a work surface well and turn the dough onto the worktop. Knead the dough lightly for around 10 minutes, or until all the cracks have been smoothed out, and pop into a clean bowl.

Cover with a tea towel and keep in a warm place, such as the hot press or airing cupboard, for 1- 1½ hours or until doubled in size. Turn onto the floured worktop and knead lightly for another few minutes until smooth on the surface. Place into a loaf tin or on a baking tray, brush the top with milk, and bake in a preheated oven at 180 degrees for 45 minutes to 1 hour or until the loaf is golden and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.

Makes 10 servings. Nutritional information: 220 calories and 1.2g fat per serving.

You can vary this recipe by adding a whole host of other ingredients – seeds, nuts, herbs, spices, olives, sundried tomatoes, onions, garlic or whatever happens to be in your cupboard. Top with extra light soft cheese for a delicious snack or eat with grilled low fat sausages and chutney for a tasty meal.

Coeliac disease

Unfortunately, bread isn’t suitable for everyone. Around 1 in 1000 people are affected by a condition called Coeliac Disease. This is an intolerance to gluten, a protein found in wheat, and leads to irritation and wearing away of the lining of the digestive system.

In this case, all wheat products have to be avoided, including breads, cakes and biscuits made with flour and any other products which might contain wheat as an ingredient. If you have Coeliac disease, or are entertaining or cooking for someone with this condition, look for the special gluten-free products available in your supermarket or health food store. A gluten-free diet needn’t be restrictive but a bit of thought and planning is needed.

Serve soups thickened with potatoes instead of those made with flour, avoid croutons or stuffing and read the ingredients carefully on foods such as burgers, sausages, meatloaf or vegetarian options such as nut cutlets as these all might contain breadcrumbs. Sauces and gravies should also be made without flour and special thickening agents are available.

Start a diet plan at tescodiets.com

Thanks to tescodiets.com who have provided this article.