What is healthy bread? (and what isn’t)

Bread is a basic food in our diet and it has to be of the best quality.

What is healthy bread? (and what isn’t)

There are bakeries on every corner and you can buy bread anywhere, even at gas stations –if you can call that bread. Bread can be a wonderful food or a disaster and, given the amount we eat every day, it is very important to know how it’s done and where to buy it from.

The bakeries  found in Barcelona Healthy are not there just because; they are artisan bakeries, most come from a long tradition – but there are also some with young entrepreneurs up front who know what they are doing very well – who love the product and respect the consumer who buys it. They are bakeries which have retrieved the art of making bread like in the old days, with patience, love, leaving the dough to rise naturally, without speeding up the processes with additives and using only four basic ingredients: flour, water, sourdough and salt.

From the nutricional point of view, bread is important because it’s a source of carbohydrates which give us energy, as well as some vitamins and minerals.  Also, it seems that children that regularly consume it have less overweight issues and better cardiovascular risk indicators.

Here are some tips to know how to find healthy bread. All the bakeries in Healthy meet these requirements:

Look for artisan bakers. They let the bread rest for as long as it needs, and this is important: it is when the dough rests that the organic acids which give its flavour and strength are formed. If it’s not given the time to rest, it needs other things to give it flavour and that’s why additives like ascorbic acid are used.

Better organic than regular bread. Organic is made with wheat or other cereals grown without fertilisers, pesticides, etc. It also contains more minerals and vitamins than conventional bread.

Brown bread is better than white. First, because the brown one has more vitamins and minerals; and second, because of the glycemic index. This index shows how quickly a carbohydrate increases the level of glucose in the blood: the lower the glycemic index, the better. White bread has an index of 70 and brown of 35.  The origin of the flour is also important as it modifies the glycemic index and incorporates more vitamins, minerals and fatty acids. For example, if the flour has been stone ground, the grinding is not as fine and it still has part of the grain which contains minerals and vitamins and some fibre. It’s a white bread which isn’t really white and which is a lot healthier than regular white bread. “With the stone mill you save the germ, which is where all the wheat vitamins and proteins are”, explains baker Xavier Barriga, from Turris. “Also, the flour doesn’t oxidize and you don’t destroy the carotene, the flour’s natural pigment. That’s why there are white breads which are white as a sheet and others which have a tint of cream, due to the germ and the carotene”.

Sourdough is the healthiest option

And finally, the raising agent used is basic. Natural or industrial yeast render an incomplete fermentation, only alcoholic, which fills the dough with gas. It also reduces the vital qualities of flour and its contents of vitamins and minerals. What we want is a raising agent which isn’t really a raising agent – sourdough, which, among other things, produces a lactic-alcoholic and acetic fermentation, which predigests the dough, enabling the absorption of nutrients. It also makes bread taste better and last fresher for much longer, without having to use preservatives. Xavier Barriga makes bread using sourdough: “The main advantage is the aroma and the taste of the bread: sourdough is a flavour concentrate. We add some to the flour because bread cannot be made using only sourdough, it would be inedible, too sour. Also, this dough gives the bread more crust, so it takes longer to go soggy and it keeps better. This allows us to work without using any additives. It also has health advantages, and this is something which is never said. Sourdough is made through long fermentations: we let the block of dough rest for 24 hours and then give each piece of bread an 8-10 hour fermentation. This lowers the glycemic index and the hours of fermentation allow the enzymes to work decomposing the starch. To make it simple, it’s like pre-digested bread”.

In cities like Barcelona, where until a few years ago artisan bakeries making quality bread could be counted on the fingers of one hand, there has been a true revolution. Xavier Barriga from Turris is the visible face of this phenomenon, together with David Nelson’s Barcelona-Reykjavic, Anna Bellsolà’s Baluard, Josep Anton Ribas’ Cruixent,  Jaume Bertran’s Mistral – the first bakery to obtain the organic certificate in the city –  the bakeries from Veritas, the Fortino, the Crustó or the Triticum, among many others.