Sunday, December 9, 2018

Bread: The Stuff of Life (Stuff, Staff, Potato, Potato)

I thought a kind of catch up post might be in order. There are some thoughts that I want to share, in no special order, so let's proceed!

Recently, I started making my own bread again. Why did I start making my own bread? Back in October, I took a serious look at the amount of sugar that I was consuming on a daily basis. For my investigation, I initially took a look at both added sugars, (those that I added myself to what I ate and cooked and those that were in prepackaged foods), as well as naturally occurring sugars such as those found in fruits and vegetables. I excluded fresh fruits and vegetables since they are a mainstay of a healthy diet. I looked only at added sugars. I was fairly astonished! Did you know that there are 4 grams of sugar in a teaspoon? Did you further know that the American Heart Association recommends no more than 25 grams of added sugar (6 tsps) for a woman, per day. Let me just say that I was exceeding this amount nearly every day, both with what I added to my coffee and breakfast grains and also with eating many  prepackaged products, such as my beloved Dave's Killer Bread. Now, before you label me an alarmist, please consider that there is no literature which supports a diet that is high in sugar. Period. There may be some arguing to do about how much is too much, what the research says about sugar and its role in various diseases, or what sugar can do to your health in the long run, but the bottom line is still the bottom line. It's not a great product for anyone to eat too much of. And there is no nutritional benefit of which I am aware.

Alright, back to the bread. Poor Dave and his bread! It's such a lovely product but it does have added sugar in it. I decided to go a little hard line on things. The bread had to go. I also dropped some other prepackaged things that I was eating such as granola bars. When you look at the sugar content they are really more like dessert. I cut out the sugar in my coffee and replaced it with Stevia extract, the kind that contains no added sugar as an enhancement. (There is some discussion about how your body processes Stevia-I believe that it goes right through your system so there could be a knock against the product for that reason.) I reduced the amount of sugar that I use in my favorite muffin mix and in general, became watchful of what I was consuming in the way of added sugars. It took some doing but I think I have been conscientious in my efforts, for the most part. (I am not perfect, OK?)

The three pics above show the ingredients for the bread I make, the subsequent ball of dough ready for its two rises and the finished product. This bread is in no way similar to Dave's bread but I am just as happy. The bread is dense of course but I like that. I just think of it as being European! In comparison to my favorite bread, I got pretty close with the fiber content as well as the carbohydrate count. There is only 1 TBSP of added sugar per loaf. (An improvement over Dave's bread.) As long as I have the time, I will likely continue to make this bread. It suits me just fine.

On the topic of bread, I am trying out a new recipe that I found on the blog, My New Roots. The picture shows what the author calls The Life Changing Loaf of Bread. It is entirely gluten free, made of nuts, seeds, water and psyllium powder. What??? Psyllium powder is ground psyllium seed made into a powder. People take it for constipation (or diarrhea I guess) and it contains both soluble and insoluble fiber. Your body needs both types to moves things along in your system efficiently. Apart from that perk, (and there are other benefits to fiber relating to cholesterol, etc.), the powder acts as an excellent binder in a flour less bread. It's a win-win as the author suggests: good bread and good poops! I like the bread toasted, myself. It keeps well in the fridge and freezer. Do yourself a favor though and drink plenty of water:)

TVP? What the heck is that? It stands for textured vegetable protein and it's a widely available product for vegans and non vegans alike. (I bought the Bob's Red Mill brand-see above.) It's essentially a soy protein flour extruded into little flakes or shapes that can stand in for meat in a vegan diet. It acts a lot like tofu in that it has a very neutral taste and takes on the flavors of whatever it is cooked with. It's been around for quite awhile, is nothing new, and has gone in and out of favor over the years. It's quite versatile too. This article here explains its many uses. It's high in fiber and protein and pretty low in calories. For a vegan (or anyone really) this is a good way to get added protein and fiber into the diet. 

There are some caveats however. TVP is suspiciously absent from many of the vegan blogs that I visit. I am guessing here but since this is a highly processed product, many "purists" may object to using it. (I don't mean that in a pejorative way either. Many of us don't like highly processed foods.) There are drawbacks. The argument can successfully be made that a varied and thoughtful vegan diet can easily contain enough protein and fiber and that TVP isn't needed; it's a kind of "crutch" I guess. Some producers may use hexane in the processing of the product though the negative impact of this could be negligible and debatable. There is no way to make TVP at home and this is another objection (it being a sort of an "unnatural" food).

My take on things? Yes, a varied vegan diet, first and foremost, if done correctly, can contain all of the nutrition that a person needs to thrive. True, there are some supplements that need to be considered, such as B12, but by and large a vegan diet gives you what you need. With that said, my opinion is that not everyone is super scrupulous with how they follow prescribed eating plans. TVP is a good addition to soups, stews, possibly breads and who knows what else? For the person on a budget, looking to extend a meal, this could be an additional solution. And for a person who is having difficulty consuming enough calories, this could be a welcome addition to the diet by helping them to feel fuller longer. 

Jarden Mason Jars Half Pint 8 Oz Wide Mout Kerr, Mouth 12 / Box Pack of 2
Don't you just love jars? I do! Containers of any sort really. I have quite a collection of mason jars now- 16 ounces and 32 ounces. I just recently added these short half pint jars to my collection. I have found myself defrosting too much food at once. Really, for my needs, I just need about a cup at a time of any one prepared meal. (These are leftovers that I am freezing and reheating.) These little jars are perfect: they hold 1 cup, go right into the freezer, and can be defrosted directly in the jar in the microwave. How great is that?

Alright, that is a lot. I would like to add that I know not everyone has the time to bake bread. I am not knocking store bought bread. I have eaten it for many years and will eat it again. I would suggest though that it is a worthwhile effort to take a look at the amount of sugar in what you are eating. Where could you reasonably cut back? How does what you are eating (and love to eat) fit into a plan for reducing added sugar consumption? (I made room for my beloved chocolate chips!)  Consider looking at the labels of things that you eat every day, even those things such as spaghetti sauce that you would think didn't contain sugar. Remember that one tablespoon of sugar is 4 grams. So, when you look at a product, such as a granola bar and it has 24 grams of sugar, just know that 24 divided by 4= 6. That is 6 teaspoons of sugar that you just ate! Would you stand at the counter and really eat 6 teaspoons of sugar? I thought so!

Thanks for reading, 

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