Bread is the Staff of Life
Many Christian holidays (Christmas, Maslenitsa, Easter, etc.) are associated with the tradition of baking. We like baked goods because they taste good, smell homey, and look enticing. The aroma of freshly baked breads fills the house with warmth and brightens up the atmosphere. No wonder people say: “It is not the outward appearance or splendor that makes a house nice, but the hospitable hosts.” It is difficult to imagine any tea party without a variety of stuffed buns, cakes, or cookies.
Yet doctors and nutritionists often advise to cut down on bread in your diet because of its high caloric value and impact on health. Today, people are not sure whether to adopt the age-old viewpoint or the experts’ suggestions.
First and foremost, people blame excessive weight on bread. But it is only true for those who overeat and lead a sedentary lifestyle. Our ancestors engaged in a physically hard work and thus could enjoy eating bread both on holidays and during weekdays without considering the consequences. The baked goods had to be tasty and to quickly and efficiently satisfy hunger.
For sure, those who suffer from certain health conditions (e.g. diabetes, disorders of the gastrointestinal tract, etc.) have to cut down on bread or eliminate it entirely from their diet. On the other hand, bread can be quite beneficial for a healthy person.
An irrefutable fact is that the vegetable fibers contained in bread are good for your health. Bread brings quick satiation and makes you forget about hunger for a long time. Foods made of flour stimulate digestion, normalize bile acid production, and are rich in valuable nutrients, such as vitamins B. For example, vitamin B1 (thiamine), which is also called “vitamin of optimism” and is found in grain, keeps people in a good mood and facilitates functions of the nervous system. Vitamin B2 (riboflavin) keeps your skin young. Vitamin PP (niacin) is essential for good brain and heart function. Owing to butter and eggs that we add to the dough, bread and buns are rich in vitamins A and E, which, in turn, are beneficial for the eyesight and skin.
Carbohydrates, which sometimes make up to 50% of baked goods, are the main source of energy needed to fuel us every day. Proteins and fats found in bread are also necessary for proper body functioning. Moreover, bread also contains magnesium, calcium, potassium, phosphorus, ferrum, and other micronutrients. This complex of substances boosts our immune system, produces energy, increases mental activity, and helps to prevent blood clotting.
There are numerous kinds of baked goods and recipes. The ingredients can vary significantly and so will the nutritional value and health benefits.
Unleavened dough is considered to be the most nutritious and healthy. Dough made of unbleached coarse-grained wheat flour and water contains the most vegetable fiber, protein, and vitamins. For those on a diet there is unleavened dough made of corn flour. It produces a positive effect on the intestinal microflora, blood vessels, and regulates the cholesterol level. Dough made of rye flour contains lysine, which is good for people suffering from anemia, gastrointestinal tract disorders, and even diabetes.
Some nutritionists suggest eating bread made of a hop leaven. It contains essential fatty acids, carbohydrates, vegetable fiber, and a large complex of minerals and vitamins. Experts also positively evaluate properties of pancake dough made of skim milk, coarse-grained flour, oat flakes that are valued for their high fiber content, and eggs that are rich in proteins and vitamins.
Yeast dough is the most controversial. Some experts believe that yeast suppresses good microflora in the body. Others suggest that yeast cannot get to the stomach alive, since it dies at a temperature just above 50 degrees Celsius (i.e., during the process of baking). Yeast can cause harm only due to problems with the gastrointestinal tract or due to individual intolerance. Furthermore, yeast is valuable not only for its ability to raise dough. It is also rich in protein, amino acids, essential fatty acids, the vitamin B complex, and a variety of macro and micronutrients.
Easter breads, which are called “paskha” or “paska” in the south of Russia and in Ukraine, of course, cannot be called dietary. Such breads are made of white wheat flour and a lot of other nutritious ingredients: milk, butter, eggs, sugar, raisins or other dried fruit. But even this delicious high-calorie bread can be healthy if made of fresh high-quality ingredients, without chemical supplements and preservatives. Moderation is the essential rule of thumb in bread consumption.
Eating nothing but buns will, of course, do no good. But eliminating baked goods from a diet of a healthy and active person is unlikely to be justified. A rich and balanced diet is the key to being healthy and having a good mood!