I’ll state up front that there is absolutely zero scientific rationale in what you’re about to read. Just my thoughts and a few anecdotes about people who have decided to end their relationship with bread.
Bread deserves a bit of a beatdown, and I think we can live with a heckuva lot less. I’m not saying the doughboy needs to die, but if you’re looking for a way to manage weight and potentially increase your consumption of vegetables, quit eating so much dang bread.
It’s hard though, because our culture has this strange, semi-romantic, capitalistic obsession with bread. Bread is money. So is dough. “It’s my bread and butter.” Bread is almost a part of our American identity, so I’m not surprised that it permeates all we eat and frames the way we think about meals.
It’s almost second nature to imagine bread as the backbone of a healthy diet, but in the last few years some have gone so far as to demonize bread as a poison. I personally have no big beef with bread, yet bread bashers seem to have met with significant dietary success (talking about you, gluten-free and paleo types).
What would happen if we politely escorted bread in all its permutation from its position of prominence in our western diet? We’ve been so busy thumping on fat and cholesterol that the doughboy has had a free pass, and I have a hunch we’d all be better off if we changed the role of bread in our daily diet.
For almost a year, I’ve had an innocent flirtation with the Paleo diet, which is essentially bread and grain free. You can eat meat, fruit, vegetables, nuts, nut butters, some fats and oils, and that’s about it. Everyone I know who eats Paleo swears by its fat burning powers (they also swear that grains are killing you). If you eat Paleo, the percentage of calories you get from fat will skyrocket, but the crazy thing is you generally don’t get fat. (I’ll admit this is a HUGE simplification, and for more information on increasing dietary fat, I guess I should get cracking on another post. For now, lets just say bread and other grains make you fat, and fat has just been a victim of bad press. For more scary info on bread, check out this claim that molecules in grain bind to opiate receptors in the brain. Maybe that explains our nasty little addiction).
At the beginning of the summer, I tracked my food for a few weeks, and about 50% of my calories were coming from fat. I was also close to the leanest I’ve ever been, without significantly changing my exercise routine. Here’s a cool story about a guy who transformed his body composition, partly by eating Paleo.
The gluten free folks pretty much have to get rid of bread, since anything with wheat has gluten, and most bread has wheat. And most breads made without wheat are terrible. I should let Allison speak for herself, but after her second pregnancy, she quit eating gluten and went through a semi-remarkable change in body composition.
Kicking bread is not a panacea: it depends on how you replace it. I’ve found I’m eating more vegetables, and perhaps that is the best side-effect of giving bread the boot. Instead of pasta and meat, I’ll have veggies and meat. Instead of toast and eggs, I’ll have eggs, avocado, and a tomato. I think it’s possible to get full AND eat delicious food AND break our bondage to bread.
That said, I think it’s important that we fill the void with vegetables and other nutrient dense foods. Gluten-free bread bricks made from rice flour and evaporated cane juice are probably not going to get it done. Plus they’re expensive and gross. Neither will veggie chips made out of spinach dust, salt, and rice flour. Just my opinion, but most gluten-free products are the food equivalent of those knockoff movies you can get at the Redbox.
I welcome any thoughts from Paleo and gluten-free friends or foes, and I’m already a semi-Paleo convert. Bread is out for most meals, but I still save it for dessert or a special occasion. I’m not ready to demonize all bread and grain-based foods, but I think we’d do well to question if it really deserves to be a cornerstone of the menu.