Through the ever-developing industry of food processing, the consumption of processed foods has become increasingly common. Often, individuals are consuming processed foods unknowingly. Although there are some advantages that have come from food processing, it is important to acknowledge the deprivation of essential nutrients that comes along with this.
Let’s use bread as an example. In the past, bread was made with whole-wheat flour, it was minimally processed, and made in smaller quantities. It had a much higher content of valuable nutrients compared to what is found in refined grains.
Wholemeal contains the “complete package” of health benefits. It contains bran, germ, and the endosperm. Bran is filled with B vitamins, magnesium, iron, copper, phytochemicals, and antioxidants. The germ contains B vitamins, vitamin E, healthy fats, phytochemicals, and antioxidants. The endosperm contains carbohydrates, protein, and minimal B vitamins & minerals. Refined bread only contains the endosperm, therefore is lacking the abundance of nutrients found in the bran and germ.
Before the industrial revolution and mass production boomed, sourdough breads were the only type available. Sourdough bread undergoes a long process of natural fermentation which means it contains more beneficial bacteria and it is easier to digest as it helps to break down gluten.
Industrial fermentation uses instant yeast, which forces the bread to rise and bake faster. This is what you'll find in highly processed, store-bought breads. This causes indigestion for many people who suffer from gluten intolerance due to the complex gluten structure not having enough time to break down. Moreover, this quickened industrial bread fermentation lacks lactic acid. Lactic acid acts as a probiotic to help digest and absorb essential nutrients that enter our digestive tract. Breads that are made of refined grain are also low in fibre, which is one of the main causes of constipation.
We seem to have forgotten about freshly baked, wholemeal, sourdough bread from our local bakeries and instead, accepted the modern culture of refined foods. Eating healthy doesn’t have to be complicated or overwhelming. When we become more educated on nutrition, we can make conscious decisions around the everyday essentials we buy and can effortlessly upgrade our diet.