perfect loaf of bread consists of psyllium seed husks, almond flour and
linseed. Or so say online fitness food suppliers selling ready mixes
for ‘protein’ or ‘low-carb’ bread. It’s bread you can eat in good
conscience, touts a typical advert: diet-friendly and more nutritious
than wheat bread.
Wheat is a dirty word in many quarters these
days, one of them being the figure-conscious crowd. Proponents of a
low-carb diet have declared wheat, or predominantly wheat, bread to be
off-limits, since its carbohydrates are supposedly fattening.
And to some extent they’re right, says dietician Sven Bach.
slices of bread and jam for breakfast, later a sandwich snack, wheat
noodles at lunch, a sweet pastry made from wheat flour in the afternoon,
and bread again at supper – that’s too much,” he remarks.
So is wheat bread a demon we should steer clear of? Bach says no.
“Bread won’t make you fat or stupid. Don’t shun bread, wheat bread included!”
if your eating habits are like those he describes, Bach recommends that
you replace half of your bread intake with vegetables or salad and
simply eat the slice of cheese you would normally put in your sandwich.
Only 40 percent of your daily diet should consist of carbohydrates, he
says, along with 40 percent fat and 20 percent protein.
A diet too
high in sugar can lead to many maladies, such as diabetes and heart
attacks, notes Stefan Kabisch, a clinical research physician at the
German Institute of Human Nutrition.
When you explain to people that
all carbohydrates are made up of sugars, he says, they “completely
overreact” by deeming all sources of carbohydrates to be harmful,
including ordinary bread.
Although there’s been little scientific
research on the nutritive value of so-called protein bread, Kabisch
regards it as an alternative for people who want to cut down on
carbohydrates without breaking with their bread-eating habits.
him, the key question isn’t whether a loaf of bread is made of wheat,
but from wholemeal or white flour. While the former is high in fibre and
also filling, he points out, the latter causes a rapid spike in blood
sugar levels, followed by a crash shortly afterwards. Wheat-based baked
goods have fallen out of favour not only among waistline watchers thanks
to gluten, a mixture of proteins found in many cereal grains,
especially wheat, to which some people are intolerant.
Gluten has been widely stamped as a culinary villain in recent years.
fact is that most people feel better without gluten,” claims, for
example, a recipe for gluten-free, low-carb bread on the website of a
sports magazine. For Kabisch, that’s not a fact at all.
percent of the normal population can eat gluten with no problem,” he
says. “But a huge number of mostly young people believe it’s harmful for
The baking industry is feeling the pinch as a result.
report despairingly that people tell them they no longer tolerate wheat
bread, but can eat spelt,” says Friedrich Longin, an agricultural
biologist in charge of wheat research at the University of Hohenheim in
Migraines or gastrointestinal problems are often cited as symptoms.
There’s no scientific evidence, however, that wheat is less readily tolerable than other cereal grains, Longin says.
with baker Heiner Beck and miller Hermann Guetler, Longin wants to
separate out the chaff when it comes to claims about wheat.
end, the three recently gathered for a ‘bake-a-thon’ at Beck’s bakery
and confectionery shop in the German municipality of Roemerstein. They
baked 42 kinds of wheat bread over three days, using varieties of wheat
grown organically and conventionally, with less and more nitrogen
They also varied the manner of preparation. Half of the
dough balls were left to proof for slightly less than two hours before
baking, as is now customary for most bakers and industrial bread
The other half was allowed to rise for 24 hours, a
traditional approach that Longin says may improve the bread’s
digestibility, since the gluten proteins have more time to break down.
The bake-a-thon concluded with taste tests, and further tests are planned in the laboratory.
Bernd Kuetscher, General Manager of the German Bread Institute, doesn’t seem very worried about widespread anti-wheat sentiment.
says arguments against the grain are half-baked and sensationalised by
books and media reports that are less interested in presenting facts
than in boosting sales and circulation.
As Kuetscher sees it, bread’s
public image has indeed changed – for the better. He says people have
become more aware of the enjoyability of “the number one food.” In fact,
Germany’s bread culture is now even on Unesco’s Intangible Cultural
“The value of bread is rising enormously,” he says. – DPA