It’s no surprise that more of us are choosing to bake our own bread, which isn’t just down to the lovely aroma that fills the house after bread making. Not only does it make financial sense, with the price of a bought loaf having rocketed in recent years, it has never been easier to bake bread.
With the help of a bread maker – or a little practice without – you can produce a loaf just as good as that from the bakery, but with a number of advantages for your health into the bargain. If you bake your own bread you know exactly what has gone into the mix – it can be quite a shock when you look at the back of the pack of a pre-packaged loaf to see all the preservatives – which for a basic loaf will typically be flour, water, margarine, sugar, yeast and salt, that’s all.
Besides choosing the size and shape of your loaf, you can select what other ingredients you add to your mix and it is these which can change a standard white loaf into one bursting with health benefits.
- Have you considered using granary flour? This flour is packed with intact grains and not only makes an interesting loaf, but one packed with goodness. Like whole meal it’s full of fiber and has a higher vitamin and mineral content than white bread, as the wholegrain is used. However, granary bread has the additional benefit that it has a lower glycaemic index – it doesn’t raise your blood sugars as quickly – so not only does it keep you feeling fuller for longer, but in someone with diabetes it helps to control blood sugars better. Rye flour is another that produces a loaf with a lower glycaemic index, but the denseness and strong flavour of this type of loaf isn’t to everyone’s taste.
- Nuts and seeds are becoming an increasingly common addition to bread, either as a topping or included in the dough itself. As well as adding extra flavour and texture, they pack a nutritional punch, as they are rich in heart healthy unsaturated fats and Vitamin E, essential for healthy skin. Of particular interest are walnuts and linseeds, as these are a plant source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are thought to promote a favourable balance of fats in the blood, reduce the risk of blood clotting and keep the heart beating regularly.
- Sundried tomatoes are full of flavour and add a touch of colour to any loaf. However, that’s not all, as like any tomatoes they are packed with lycopene, a plant vitamin connected with a reduced incidence of heart disease and certain cancers which typically affect the health of over 50’s the most.
- Add sliced olives to your bread mix to get the benefit of their monounsaturated fat content, the type of fat most beneficial for your cholesterol level. Olives are also a good source of Vitamin E and a range of other plant nutrients linked with good health.
Tips for getting the most out of your additions
- If you usually only make white bread and a granary loaf seems a step too far, it is possible to make a loaf using a proportion of white and granary flour, for example half and half.
- When making a seeded bread you often get best results if you use a range of different seeds in each loaf. Sunflower, pumpkin, poppy, mustard and linseeds are a winning combination for a flavorsome loaf.
- When using sundried tomatoes, remember that if they are dried rather than those packed in oil, you will have to pre-soak them in warm water for about half an hour, so factor this in to your preparation time to ensure you get the juiciest tomatoes in your bread. Pre-soaking also helps to remove some of their salt content. If the recipe for your bread uses oil, you can use the oil that your sundried tomatoes were stored in, as this will have been infused with their flavour.
- If you are going to make olive bread be sure to buy black olives with the pit still inside. Although this means extra work for you in taking the pit out, it’s well worth it, as olives with the pit included are of higher quality, so you will get the best bread possible. Olive bread with rosemary is a popular combination, but go easy if you decide to add cheese, as this pushes up the saturated fat in your loaf.
Ruth is a health writer for an online healthcare business and strongly believes that prevention is better than the cure when it comes to healthy eating and exercise as an alternative to drug therapy.