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Let's talk about bread...Wellbeing and Real Sourdough

Updated: Dec 28, 2023

Introduction

We’ve been a little slow at developing the health and well-being side of fika+ (that’s what the + stands for) but this post is the first of many to come.


We hope to share information – it’s not advice – that’s not what we’re about. We’ll never tell anyone how to live their life. We can’t possibly know the daily challenges and stresses you go through. We must walk our own path – and remember if you can only be one thing, Be Kind.


There’s so much nonsense ‘out there’ around all things health and well-being related, particularly around weight loss. We need to start a different conversation. There is no secret to health and well-being. No superfood. Supplements are mostly a waste of money and joining a gym won’t help you lose weight*. Use a gym/structured exercise to build additional physical activity into your weekly schedule to develop a strong, resilient and health body and mind. But to lose weight – no. Someone saying to lose weight you need to move more (use more energy) and eat less (consume less energy) is about as useful as someone saying to win a football match you need to score more goals than the other team. It's just incredibly unhelpful and ignores the complexities and uniqueness of each of us.


*I appreciate this is hard concept to accept – and it is a controversial one. After all, if you exercise then you burn Calories. But this is far too simplistic. I suggest you read a book call Burn by Herman Pontzer, Associate Professor of Evolutionary Anthropology and Global Health. If you don’t fancy splashing out on the book – pop into fika+, we’ve got copy of that (and the other one below). You are welcome to flick through whilst enjoying a cuppa and bake. Alternatively see the link to a related article here.


There’s a great book written by Dr Chris van Tulleken (see image link below). The evidence contained within the book is extremely convincing. The big food corporations are already getting very nervous – it about to get very interesting. This is a good talk about his work and the book.




We are all unique. You are not a population average. There are some habits that are really important to long-term health and well-being. They haven’t changed for thousands of years – problem is – it’s really hard to make money from them:


  • Get enough sleep - for YOU

  • Eat a varied diet - mostly plants

  • Move - every day (you don't need to join a gym)

  • Slow down and connect with people - in person

  • Be kind - to yourself, and others


Whilst this post is about Real Sourdough Bread, we wanted to highlight two books that are incredibly interesting, readable and controversial. Controversial because they will challenge pre-conceived ideas around physical activity and weight loss (Burn) and how weight-gain is not your fault (Ultra Processed People). Click on the images to find out more.





So passionate are we at fika+ about real bread, particularly sourdough, that we want to make it as accessible and affordable as possible. Therefore, as a thank you for reading this post just mention this post and we'll give you a fika+ real sourdough organic loaf for 50% off. **You shouldn't need to show this post - but do feel free to do so if one of the lovely team isn't fully aware! (date updated 07/12/2023)


fika+ Real Bread: Organic Sourdough


Bread Facts


  • Real bread is nutritious and health giving

  • Bread is probably the most widely consumed food in the UK [1]

  • 11 million loaves are sold each day, of which 60-70% is white bread [1]

  • Most of the loaves sold are made using fast and industrial processes and lots of additives

  • Some additives, called processing aids, aren’t required by law to be included on the ingredient list

  • fika+ bread is organic and only ever uses three or four ingredients (flour, water, salt – and for non-sourdough loaves, yeast too)


What is Real Bread?


Flour, water, salt and wild yeast (which is naturally produced in the sourdough starter – so technically it’s not actually an ingredient). That is all that should be in the Real Bread. Although if not making sourdough – and making a traditional ‘yeasty’ loaf then it’s acceptable to use dried/fresh yeast.

At fika+ all our flour is organic, from Shipton Mill. Please do visit their website to find out more about them – they really are a lovely company that really cares about what they do.


Modern bread isn’t food


In a world of complexity and choice you’d be forgiven for thinking that bread is reassuringly simple. After all, it’s just flour, water, salt, and yeast. Right? Wrong.

“New research suggests that eating sliced white bread might be as dangerous for your health as smoking?”


Modern mass-produced bread is ultra processed (and NOT food)


When was the last time you looked at the label on a loaf of supermarket bread? If you don’t look at food labels – you’re in for a shock. Instead of just the above three or four ingredients you’ll find any number of additives: emulsifiers, stabilisers, preservatives, thickeners, and colourings.


Why are there so many chemicals in most bread?


The below ingredients were taken from a well-known commercial producer of bread (wholemeal loaf):


Wholemeal Flour (Wheat), Water, Wheat Protein, Yeast, Granulated Sugar, Salt, Soya Flour, Wheat Flour (with added Calcium, Iron, Niacin, Thiamin), Preservative: E282, Emulsifiers: E471, E472e, Caramelised Sugar, Vegetable Oil (Palm, Rapeseed), Flour Treatment Agent: Ascorbic Acid


Why is Wheat Protein an added ingredient? What about the one preservative and two emulsifiers? Caramelised sugar?


Simple answer: money and profit. The ultra processing of food (bread in this instance) strips nutrients away. And then it allows the food to be manipulated to create a product that’s incredibly uniform in every aspect (flavour, taste, texture, look and feel).


For a deep understanding of some of the additives used in our mass produced bread follow this link Additives | Real Bread Campaign (sustainweb.org)


We know currently there’s a massive squeeze on people’s finances. But one thing it’s really highlighted is that our food (you could argue most of it isn’t actually food**) has become far too cheap. Strong evidence is developing that demonstrates this ultra processing of foods is damaging our health and can also help to explain the rapid increase of people living with obesity over the last four decades. Not to mention the exploitation of those producing it, and negative impact on the planet.


**Don’t you think it’s odd that so much of our food is so uniform in look, feel and taste? Real food should vary. Nature is not a precise machine – weather changes, nutrients in the soil vary from year to year. Whole foods (fruit, vegetables, grains etc) change each day. Therefore, why are we so obsessed by how our food visibly looks?


At fika+ we make no apology for our breads and bakes (but particularly breads) being different from day-to-day and week. Wilma, our rye sourdough starter is an organic living and breathing organism. We use organic flour and don’t use any additives or processing aids (nothing, zero, zip) and we hand-make everything. Therefore, there will always be variety in look, volume, colour, texture and even taste (not hugely – but Wilma doesn’t like extreme temperatures and becomes quite temperamental!). And that’s how real food should be. After all, variety is the spice of life.


What about the chemicals in the bread not listed on the label?


If it’s not organic – then the wheat will likely have been sprayed with one or more of a number of pesticides, which aren’t just potentially harmful to those consuming them but also for our planet. Glyphosate (known commercially as Roundup) is really bad. If you’re interest in understanding more then I suggest reading this article by Venessa Kimbell. All fully referenced (and a great site in general for all things related to health and wellbeing around sourdough and bread).


Sourdough Superfood?


Superfood is really a nonsense term, made up by marketing departments to promote their companies’ products and make more money. You can charge a lot more if it’s a ‘superfood’ – health sells don’t you know.

However, sourdough is right up there as an incredibly health supporting and nourishing food. Why?

Since the 1970’s there’s been proliferation (particularly from the 1990’s onwards) in processed and ultra processed food (UPF). There are certain characteristics that all UPF share (leaving aside the chemicals added) – they’re full of fat and/or sugar and (crucially) they will be soft. And this softness^ has actually been changing the structure of people’s jaws – particularly our children. Did you know, around one-third of 12 years olds have an overbite, which has resulted from a jaw that’s too small for their face. This causes much pain and orthodontic treatment (and pain – e.g. teeth crammed together causing pain…wisdom teeth being extracted). See the image below of two young boys from the same original community – one that is brought up on traditional whole-foods, the other brought up on a westernised UPF diet [2]. Guess which one ate which diet?

^This softness encourages quicker eating – and thus over-consumption. But then if you are a company in the business of wanting to make lots of money (and don’t care about the negative health impacts), this is exactly what you want….


Potential Health Benefits of Real Organic “Superfood” Sourdough


  1. It has ‘body’ and texture, meaning you need to chew it. If you are used to eating soft ultra processed bread – the first time you eat real sourdough you might get jaw fatigue! However, this additional chewing aides proper jawbone development – resulting in longer jaws and cheekbones [2]. See image above

  2. It is a natural pre-biotic food, which means it feeds your friendly gut bacteria and is important for supporting you gut microbiome. If you’ve not heard of the gut microbiome you might want to head to this site [3]

  3. The slow fermentation (at fika+ our sourdough ferments between 18-24 hours) results in more digestible bread. And a bread that is more nutritious (great bioavailability of important minerals) – all down to the beneficial effects of the naturally produced lactic acid bacteria produced during the long-fermentation.

  4. This longer fermentation also results in better regulating of blood sugar levels

  5. Points 1-4 will also help satiate you (keep you fuller) and help with weight control

  6. And finally, eating organic sourdough will mean you’re consuming far less pesticides – which are widely used in most non-organic grains


In Summary


Real bread, particularly if it’s organic and sourdough, is better for the planet and your gut health, waistline and your children’s jawline and dental pain/suffering.

Remember, if you can only be one thing, Be Kind.

If you got this far – well done. Here’s all the links in the above article, plus some additional videos.


Further Information, Links and Further Reading



Additional References


1. Millers, U.F. Flour and Bread Consumption. 2023 [19/02/2023]; Flour and Bread Statistics]. Available from: https://www.ukflourmillers.org/flourbreadconsumption.

2. Ingervall, B. and E. Bitsanis, A pilot study of the effect of masticatory muscle training on facial growth in long-face children. Eur J Orthod, 1987. 9(1): p. 15-23.

3. Berry S, S.T., Wolf J. Whitepaper: The gut microbiome. 2023 [cited 2023 11/06/2023]; Available from: https://joinzoe.com/whitepapers/gut-microbiome.


Videos






This last video might seem a little random. However, there is method in the apparent madness. How often to you read something that someone states is evidenced by a study or research? Rarely in science can any single study prove anything. And I'd treat any article or narrative (mostly written by 'lifestyle' and/or populist magazines and media) that simply states a study in x/y/x Journal or University of Thingy shows that eating more fluggle berries (I have made them up) reduces your risk of cardiovascular disease (substitute with anything you like). As many things in life, the quality of studies and published research varies greatly - and it's very hard to tell the great from the down-right nonsense (even fraudulent). That's where systematic reviews become so important - it's a very short video. Have a watch if you don't know what they are.




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