To carb or not to carb, that is the question. I mean, who doesn’t love a low-carb diet? Feed me a steak wrapped in bacon with a side of broccoli and a potent drink, and I’m a happy girl. Help me lose twenty pounds in two months, and call me a believer. It’s been over 10 years since I first used the Atkins program to drop a quick twenty pounds. I’m talking quick, as in “no stop at size 9, just go straight to 5″ kind of weight loss. I know I may sound vain, but it’s the world we live in.
Fresh meat and vegetables have been the backbone of my diet for close to a decade. My love for sushi satisfied my rice craving, and eating a basket of bread when I went out to eat was good enough for me. Meat, cheese, and vegetables became a habit. In my opinion, this was, for a while a healthier one. Healthier than eating processed packaged foods with ingredients I can’t pronounce, healthier than drinking calorie-laden fruit juices or eating sweet desserts. But as my sister likes to say, “the only constant is change.” I’ve come to distrust most packaged food. In my opinion, claims to safety lay unregulated and in the hands of lobbyists working towards a profit margin, without regard to the costs it takes from society.
My view on the food industry has changed substantially over the past few years and I find myself, once again, not wanting to eat meat. My views on tofu are similarly dismaying. When I see bread, I think of a crusty baguette or a soft ciabatta. I also see ten pounds hiding in between those delicious air pockets of happiness. Oh bread, how I have missed you. Now, to take away the guilt.
This journey began nearly two months ago, and I can proudly say that I have not only improved the nutritional value of my bread, but I have also lost five pounds without even trying. My first attempt at “low carb” bread was the lowest low that my kitchen has yet to see. I thank my wonderful boyfriend for choking it down with a smile, while I couldn’t even bear the smell. My search for the perfect bread recipe continues. Yet, through these trials, I have learned several things, and these are what I pass along to you today.
#1. Not all flour is created equal.
By now, we should all know the differences between white and wheat flour. White bread is high on the glycemic index (some say higher than table sugar), causing your blood sugar to spike and your pancreas to secrete insulin in an attempt to regain balance. This constant fluctuation contributes to fat storage, weight gain and is especially harmful for diabetes. On the other hand, Whole-wheat flour includes all three parts of the grain: the bran, germ and endosperm. The bran and germ are full of fiber and nutrients, leading you to feel fuller, longer. While whole-wheat flour is a step in the right direction; in my opinion it is still relatively lacking in terms of nutrient density versus calories. If you can, play around with less common flours such as buckwheat, spelt, oat and sprouted grains. They have higher protein and fiber counts. When shopping Whole Wheat flours, check your packaging to ensure that you are purchasing 100% Whole Wheat Flour. I have found that just because it is brown, it does not make it 100% Whole Wheat.
#2. Use seeds, grains and meals.
The first time I picked up a bag of Ground Flax Meal at the local grocer, I thought to myself “self, why am I spending $3.89 on a bag of seeds? This isn’t sustenance. I could be buying meat or vegetables.” Kicking a habit is never an easy thing to do. In retrospect, I realize that buying a bag of flax seed was one of the best $4.00 purchases I have ever made in my life. Close in the running is a delicious Pint of micro-brew that I enjoyed on a sunlit patio in Boulder, Colorado. However, the flax seed lasts longer and has even more nutrients than beer. (Yes, beer is nutritious).
Studies show that flax seed has many health benefits; it is full of anti-oxidants, omega-3′s and fiber. It’s been called the “wonder food” and has been linked to fighting cancer and diabetes. Wheat bran and wheat germ are also great nutrient dense fillers, and both are available nationally through Bob’s Red Mill for less than $4.00 a package. Keep in mind that everyone has a different tolerance to high fiber foods. Do your research and play around with the measurements until you find one that suits you.
#3. If I can do it, you can do it.
Bread is forgiving and nearly impossible to make taste bad. Baking a handmade whole wheat pizza, baguette or focaccia bread is a gratifying experience. A simple flat bread is virtually effortless. It is inexpensive and easy to make. Experiment with seeds and nuts for greater nutrient content. And, while my journey continues into sprouted grains, spelt and buckwheat flours. I know I will eventually stumble upon a perfect low carb, high fiber, guilt free recipe that tastes delicious. Until then, try these incredibly economical, easy, fun, recipes for all your baked goods. These are my go-to bread recipes. Just remember, to swap out the white flour completely, every time. Add a few servings of flax meal, wheat germ, wheat bran or hemp seeds to increase the nutrient density. And, as always, feel free to comment with any suggestions on how I can bring this exploration for the perfect guilt-free bread to a fruitful end.