The simple answer is yes. Most breads are vegan friendly. Always check those labels though.
Well-made bread (not the processed kinds found in supermarkets), is traditionally made with a few simple ingredients. Yeast, water, a very small amount of sugar, a healthy fat and flour.
Vegan Yes – But Healthy?
Is bread vegan? Mainly, yes. Is it healthy? Not so much.
It has been known for a long time that refined grains (particularly in the form of white bread) aren’t particularly healthy, beneficial or nutritious for humans.
For the last 20 years doctors, dieticians and nutritionists have advised us to consume whole grains instead.
But are whole grains really any better for us and should bread ever be categorised as healthy?
The Gluten Controversy
Bread is largely made of wheat, and wheat is predominantly made of gluten, which is a type of protein that gives bread it’s stretchy/springy quality.
Over the last 15 years there has been mounting evidence that a growing proportion of the population is particularly sensitive to gluten.
It was generally thought that it was only those with Celiac Disease that experience an immune response to gluten (wheat, barley, rye, spelt). But there is now growing speculation that even those with gluten sensitivity experience a certain amount of immunological damage after consuming wheat products.
There have been a number of controlled trials (study, study) in the last decade that have demonstrated that gluten has the propensity to damage the digestive tract, even in those without Celiac disease. The immunological response can cause symptoms such as tiredness, pain, bloating and irregular bowel movements.
There have also been strong links between gluten sensitivity and certain disorders of the brain. Schizophrenia (study,study) and cerebellar ataxia (study, study), for example.
I always believe there is no smoke without fire. Most bread contains gluten and we know gluten has the propensity to trigger an immune response in certain individuals who have a susceptibility. So if you have unexplained symptoms of tiredness, digestive pains, bloating or even anxiety or depression, then seek medical advice. The only real way to establish whether you have a gluten sensitivity is to remove gluten from your diet for a period of 30 days and then reintroduce foods containing gluten to see if your body reacts (but this should be under the supervision of an experienced professional).
The Toxic Ingredients of Bread
The reality may be that Gluten is actually the lessor of two evils. The real dangers of bread may actually come from some of its unsavoury ingredients:
Artificial Flavours & Colours: Obviously these vary in usage from country to country. Artificial flavours and colours are also normally derived from petroleum. And many of these additives have been linked to health issues in children such as allergies, asthma and hyperactivity.
Preservatives: All foods are supposed to be eaten fresh, and bread is no exception. Steer clear of any breads that contain preservatives. A common one in a lot of countries is calcium propionate. Again, this has been linked to child health problems such as ADHD.
Refined Sugars:This can be an ingredient that is incredibly difficult to spot, even in breads that are marketed as “low sugar” and “healthy”. Some common household breads contain as much as 2-3 grams of sugar per slice. The World Health Organisation advises that we should consume no more than 6 grams a day. There is also the contentious issue in some countries that the sugar used is derived from GMO sugar beets.
Dough Conditioners: In traditional bread making techniques these would never have been used. They have literally been introduced so that manufacturers can speed up the manufacturing process and maximise profit. Many dough conditioners are derived from extracting fat from corn or soybean oil and then manipulating it with other ingredients. Some common examples (and also ones that have been banned) include: sodium stearoyl lactylate, monoglycerides, azodicarbonamide and DATEM.
GMOs: Thankfully these haven’t made their way into the UK yet (but I am sure it’s only a matter of time). A lot of countries (especially the U.S.) use multiple GMO ingredients in the production of household breads. GMO soy flour, corn oil and soybean oil are all common. GMO use is clearly a contentious issue. The issue for me is that there have never been any long term tests on humans that assess the health impacts. And the argument that GMO’s are safer because no pesticides are used is incorrect. Some GMO’s are actually engineered by inserting toxic pesticides into the seed. This then causes the insects stomach to explode when trying to eat the crop.
Nutritional Profile of Bread
Bread is really just empty calories. It contains only low levels of vitamins and minerals. High levels of sugar. Low levels of protein. Often high amounts of unhealthy fats. High amounts of salt. And not much else.
But what about whole grain bread, I hear you cry? Well, it’s not much better I’m afraid.
While whole grains offer slightly more vitamins and minerals than processed grains, whole grain bread will contain higher levels of phytic acid, so it will potentially block any increased nutritional profile.
Is bread vegan? Is bread healthy? It can be. Why not try one of these healthy recipes?
Deliciously Ella: Date & Pecan Loaf
Plant Based Judy: Date & Pecan Loaf
Vegan Corner: Gluten Free Buns
SIGN-UP FOR MY WEEKLY NEWSLETTER FOR ARTICLES, RECIPES, MEAL PLANS AND MUCH, MUCH MORE!
When looking at blood sugar issues, sugar is actually only one piece of a three piece puzzle. The other pieces are stress and stimulants.
When you are sitting in the office and those blood sugar levels are starting to dip there are a number of different ways you can increase them. You can eat sugary foods to increase your glucose levels or your body can produce stress hormones (cortisol and adrenalin) in response to stimulants (coffee etc). These stress hormones cause the release of sugars from stores in the body.
Its therefore pretty obvious why many people get caught up in a vicious cycle of sugar, crash, stimulant, crash. And this perpetual cycle is why many people are fatigued, constantly stressed and depressed. And let me take you through a normal day to see if it sounds like you.
As you are caught up in this vicious perpetual cycle your body struggles to maintain an equilibrium over its blood sugar levels. You will wake up in the morning with low sugar levels which will be dramatically lower than the levels needed to get the adrenalin drum banging. Without a shot of adrenalin in the morning you are going to struggle and I would guarantee your morning will follow one of two paths:
You Scramble For Those Stimulants – You barely manage to drag yourself out of bed. You feel you haven’t slept for a week. The only thing on your mind is scrambling for the kettle and making a super strength tea or coffee. You may or may not add in a cigarette, and if you have time then you may head for that quick sugar fix. Toast or a cereal bar and you may now just start feeling semi human-like.
You Fuel Yourself By Stress – Like those who scramble for sugar and stimulants, you wake up feeling like you haven’t slept and it seems like climbing Mount Everest pulling yourself out of bed. You therefore remain in bed and start to think about the day ahead. You start the anxiety and stress cycle going. Are you going to meet that tight deadline? Will you hit that sales target? Before you know it your brain is whirling and taking you to the worst case scenario of not hitting that deadline or failing to meet your sales target. 15 minutes of this anxiety train and the adrenaline is racing through your bloodstream. You now have the energy to pull yourself out of bed, but the adrenaline has affected your appetite and you cant now stomach the thought of breakfast, so you skip it.
Do these scenarios sound like your morning routines? If so, you are caught up in a nasty perpetual cycle that can have serious implications for your health, mood and mental clarity.
You Will Only Ever Feel Tired On The Caffeine Train
You have a chemical in the brain called adenosine. Adenosine stops the release of adrenalin and dopamine. When you drink tea or coffee the caffeine impairs the receptors for adenosine. About 20-30 mins after drinking tea or coffee with much lower adenosine levels your adrenalin and dopamine levels sky-rocket.
The more tea and coffee you drink, the less effective the body becomes at regulating adrenalin and dopamine levels. The brain and body becomes desensitized to its own natural stimulants. Therefore to feel even remotely human throughout the day you become your own jockey, whipping the body with caffeine to release ever greater amounts of adrenalin and dopamine. You are now caught up in a cycle of adrenal fatigue. Mental and physical fatigue are the norm with depression thrown in for good measure in many cases. So the irony is that while you are constantly scrambling for caffeine to help pick you up, the actual long term effect is the complete opposite. This caffeine addiction will no doubt stray into fizzy and energy drinks.
Kicking The Habit
Coffee – contains three fairly powerful stimulants. Everyone knows that it contains caffeine, but few have heard of the other two: theophylline, and theobromine. Both of these have will impact your overall sleep length and quality. The best way to see how strong your addiction is to coffee and these three ingredients is to go cold turkey for two weeks. You will absolutely get headaches, cravings and withdrawal symptoms and the intensity of these symptoms is a good barometer for how much of an addiction you have created for yourself. Use these two weeks as a trial period, but I will guarantee you will feel that good away from coffee that you will not want to go back.
Tea – You don’t get any more British than tea. Tea is often seen as having less of a caffeine hit than coffee, but a strong cup of tea is certainly comparable to a regular coffee. You have also got the unwanted side effect of impaired absorption because of a chemical contained in tea called tannin. Tannin interferes with the absorption of a number of minerals such as zinc and iron. If you can’t get up in the morning without a “cuppa” then try going cold turkey for 2 weeks. Like going cold turkey from coffee, two weeks away from tea will will produce a number of withdrawal symptoms from headaches to nausea. Again, the severity of these symptoms will determine your addiction. Once you have overcome the addiction you may want to replace tea with healthier alternatives such a herbal or fruit teas.
Chocolate – We all know that processed chocolate is packed with sugars. But it also contains another problematic ingredient: theobromine (a stimulant). Theobromine impacts the body in the same physiological way that caffeine does. This stimulant/sugar combination makes chocolate a perfect storm. Not overly surprising that many become chocoholics very quickly. You can replace processed refined chocolates with healthy dark chocolate alternatives. Just make sure you aim for at least 85% Cacao and above.
Energy And Fizzy Drinks – These are some of the worst culprits for creating stimulant addictions. And its quite obvious to see why. These drinks often contain anywhere from 40-85mg of caffeine per drink. On top of this these drinks are often loaded with other flavourings, sugars and colourings. Stay away from these drinks at all costs. It will be a difficult detox period with increased anxiety and headaches but you should see a marked improvement within 5 days.
If you drink and eat a combination of these sugary treats and stimulants I wouldn’t advise going cold turkey on all these at once. Remove one at a time with monthly intervals. One of the best techniques for kicking your habit(s) is to have a very clean and healthy diet. You can help keep your blood sugar levels in check by eating a mixture of complex carbohydrates such as oats for breakfast and brown rice/quinoa for lunch and evening meals. You can also get your sugar fixes throughout the day with fresh fruit.
How Strong Is Your Addiction?
To find out of strongly you are addicted to sugar and stimulants keep a log for 1 week based on the below units:
Green Tea – 1 cup= 1 unit
Tea – 1 cup= 1 unit
Coffee – 1 cup= 1 unit
Energy or fizzy drinks – 1 can= 1 unit
Chocolate – 50 gram = 1 unit
Alcohol – 1 glass, pint or shot = 1 unit
Added sugar – 1 tspn = 1 unit
Hidden sugar – divide the mg on the packaging by 4. This will give you the number of tspn’s contained. 1 tspn = 1 unit
Cigarettes – 1 = 1 unit
Adding up: You really want to be below 5 units a week. If you find that you are totalling upwards of 10 units per week then this will be having a substantial impact on your overall health.
Avoid refined and processed foods containing sugars.
Break your tea, coffee, and fizzy drinks habits by going cold turkey for 2 weeks. This will give you enough time to show you how much better your will feel without them.
Break your unhealthy chocolate habit by replacing with healthy dark chocolates.
Balance your blood sugars by eating complex carbohydrates and snacking on fruits throughout the day.
SIGN-UP FOR MY WEEKLY NEWSLETTER FOR ARTICLES, RECIPES, MEAL PLANS AND MUCH, MUCH MORE!