Wednesday, February 1, 2012
A loaf of white bread is primarily bread flour. Flour doesn’t come white - it is processed to make it that lovely white color. The end result of the processing is that white bread flour is very easy to metabolize. The ease with which carbs can be metabolized (turned into glucose in the blood) is referred to as the "glycemic index". The benchmark is glucose - with an index of 100. White bread has a glycemic index of around 70.
The higher the glycemic index, the higher the insulin spike needed to help metabolize the glucose, and the greater the impact on our metabolism. Unfortunately, eating high glycemic index foods is one of the primary reasons that people become diabetic.
And being diabetic is really a bad thing.
But, and face it, there is always a but, carbohydrates (carbs - things like sugar, bread, noodles, rice, well, you get the point) provide energy for our bodies. Which is a really good thing. I can remember when I spent a week in Europe with my nephew, who, up to that point, ate mainly protein - which resulted in a pretty darned ripped physique. But, he had to eat protein continuously. During the trip I introduced him to European breads, which tend to have a lot of whole grains in them, as in whole wheat grains, and whole oats. They are chewy - and they take time to digest. But, they are carbs, and they don’t have high glycemic indices. And, my nephew was amazed at how much more energy he had (a good thing since we were climbing mountains and the like - and because I was tired of buying him cold cuts all the time).
So, let’s get this straight - we need carbs for energy. I recently took a class to become a certified personal trainer (by the way, I passed!!!!!). The teacher stated that an athlete needs to consume 45% of their diet as carbs. Interestingly the trainer was 40 pounds overweight. OK, there is a problem there. He used to work out hard - but, well, his business is doing well, and he hasn’t changed his eating habits. Hence the 40 pounds. So, we can overdo the carb thing. And, if you are trying to lose weight, carbs might be a problem for you.
Even if you aren’t trying to lose weight, highly refined carbs (white sugar, white flour, white rice) are likely to be a problem. As we go through the following, keep in mind that anything that speeds up the digestion of carbs will boost the carbs glycemic index. So, finely ground flour with things like the fiber, bran and germ removed, are a lot easier to digest than a whole wheat flour. And, logically, a grain of wheat that has not been ground up, stripped of its non-white components, well, it will be a lot harder to digest. And provide energy for a lot longer time. And have a very low glycemic index.
Which brings us to how I make my bread healthy.
Firstly I use only whole wheat flour. Then I add things. Or even replace the whole wheat flour with other kinds of flour.
First one to consider - soy flour is 40 to 50% protein. Which is a great boost when compared with whole wheat flour, which is down around 10 to 12% protein. Replacing 1/3 of the whole wheat flour with soy flour increases the overall protein content of the bread from around 14% to around 24%. This is fantastic if you are working out and need the protein.
Also, soy flour is around 35% carbs. Whole wheat is around 70% carbs. Big change. And, amazingly, while the dough smells like green soy beans, after baking you really can’t tell the soy flour is there! But you do need to add a heaping tablespoon of gluten (protein) to make up for the lack of gluten in soy flour. But, again, the gluten adds to the overall protein content.
The next thing I add is wheat berries. I take a third of a cup of wheat - the whole grains - add a third of a cup of water and boil to soften the wheat. This goes into my bread.
Fortunately, living in Portland the grocery stores carry such things - in Oklahoma I went to a feed store and bought a 10 pound bag - worked great!
Next. Around here the stores carry steel-cut oats - not crushed oats (which would also work but would have a bit higher glycemic index). I add 1/3 cup to each batch of bread - I don’t pre-soften these - they do fine when baked.
Likewise, I add steel-cut wheat. Usually I end up making my own steel cut wheat - since I haven’t seen it in stores. When we bought our mixer we also got an attachment that would allow us to make our own flour. Or, if you adjust the setting, it will just cut grains - not grind them. Perfect. In goes a third of a cup of cut wheat.
Buckwheat - not wheat at all - actually related to sorrels, knotweeds and rhubarb. Buckwheat provides essential amino-acids to support muscle recovery and rebuilding. And, even better, the grains are small enough that I just add in a third of a cup without grinding. I was curious, so just grabbed a palm full and ate them. Crunchy, nutty flavor.
Next - flax seeds are a great source of omega-3 fatty acids. But, until they are cut up, the fatty acids are not readily available. Once again, I use the grain mill attachment, and set it so the flax seeds come out cut into 3 or 4 smaller pieces. In goes a third of a cup of cut flax seeds.
I have recently discovered chia seeds - an even better source of omega-3 acids than flax seeds. These very small seeds (think celery seeds - really small) are also much easier to digest - so they don’t need to be cut up. In fact I now add these to my protein drinks. In my latest batch of bread I replaced the third cup of cut flax seeds with a third cup of chia seeds.
Honestly, experimenting with the things you can put in bread is a lot of fun. There are a variety of flours and, lots of other grains: Each bring their own benefits.
But, let’s get back to the bread we are making.
Originally there were 3 cups of whole wheat flour.
I took one cup out and replaced it with soy flour.
Then I added 1/3 cup (uncooked, 2/3 cup cooked) wheat berries.
And 1/3 cup each of steel-cut oats, wheat and chia seeds.
And another 1/3 cup of buckwheat. Final mix: 2 cups whole wheat flour, and 2 2/3 cups other stuff - all of which will have a very low glycemic index.
One other point to keep in mind. Adding protein and fiber slows down absorption of metabolism of carbs - even more glycemic index reduction from all of these whole - as in "not ground into flour" - grains.
The bread came out great - surprisingly light - as in it rose well, but stuffed full of nutrition. And, since I am really into flavor, I added my Scarborough Faire spice mix - yup, you guessed it, parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme. With some dried onion thrown in.
The first slice, with some yogurt-based butter substitute - oh my god - it was soooo good! Truly a meal with fantastic flavor, low glycemic index, and lots of protein.