As a vegan, one of our staple foods is bread. What would we do without it? Sure, there is also rice, pasta and potatoes, but really, how many of us would be truly sad if we had to give it up? I know I would. Nothing beats that comforting flavour, nothing fills us up more quickly, and no other food is as easy and convenient to use as a slice of bread. From peanut butter and jam sandwiches to heating up a bit of veggies with tofu and having a slice of toast to accompany it, bread makes our lives easier.
But no two loaves are the same, as we all know. Becoming vegan means that we are starting to become health gurus, and we look for the most tempting varieties that are also healthy. But, beware: not all breads are vegan. One must read the ingredients carefully and learn about the different ingredients that may not be vegan, but since their source isn’t indicated, it could become confusing.
The first step to ensure you get the most wholesome variety possible is to buy bread that is officially stamped as organic and vegan. But, because the certification is expensive, these breads don’t come cheap and often, most of us just cannot afford to buy them on a regular basis. Furthermore, there is still the issue of ensuring it is made entirely from whole foods, which is another element that is difficult to come by.
The second step, then, is to read the ingredients. Do not, by any means, rely on what the label says. As we all know, even if they state their bread has twice the fiber than the leading brand, they may actually be comparing their bread to the crapiest, bleached white bread on the market. It’s really not hard to make a loaf with double the fiber than that one! So, what do we do?
Buy breads that are 100 percent whole grain. If you have gluten allergies or prefer to eat gluten-free food, just buy spelt or kamut bread, or hunt down a company that makes them with corn or potato flour. They are often much healthier than mainstream brands, too. Other options are whole rye or whole oatmeal. However, what is best is ‘whole grains’, and not ‘whole grain flour’. Another play on words to avoid is ‘made with whole grains’. Even if the entire grain is there, it’s still crushed to dust, and what our system needs is to work hard at breaking down the entire grain.
Another way of knowing, especially if you are in a hurry, is the density of the bread. The fluffier and softer it is, the more refined the flour. Furthermore, at this point, the bread is probably packed with chemicals, so you’re not getting any health benefits from this loaf. Whole kamut and spelt bread are tough – you can actually knock them on your countertop (not slamming it, though – just knocking) without bending or breaking it. With this kind of bread, two slices for a sandwich make a very filling meal.
For those of you who need flavor, though – because we are conditioned to enjoy that chemically-laden cloud fluff – start off by buying breads with a twist, such as nuts, cinnamon and raisons, or sun-dried tomatoes. These are a bit harder to find in your mainstream grocery store, but organic and natural food stores often carry them, or visit a trusted local bakery or a local farmer’s market. You have more chances of finding great bread at good cost, and you would be encouraging the local economy as well. Or, alternatively, learn to eat your bread like Italians: by dipping them in olive oil, or make your favorite hummus to accompany it.
As for the ingredients in the bread, you can know if it is wholesome mostly by recognizing the ingredients. The list should read flour, salt, yeast, water, and whatever healthy component they add as well – some types of oil are fine, but not too much (this ingredient should be the last one on the list), or flax seeds, nuts, and other flavoring.
And, of course, there is the alternative of making it yourself. To help you along, I found this recipe, which is very easy to follow, to start learning. Although the ingredients list unbleached flour, you can definitely use your own kind to make it at home.
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