FOOD – At the time of the war in Ukraine and the coming shortages of wheat and bread in certain regions of the world, the situation of bread in France is very strange. Bread consumption has never been so low (approximately 100 g per day) and at the same time, France wished to register the national baguette with UNESCO as an intangible heritage of humanity.
What a funny idea, if this type of bread was so interesting, we would have to eat a lot more of it, like in Germany, for example, who eat almost twice as much. To tell the truth, the baguette, like other types of white bread, is quite poor nutritionally for many reasons: by its poverty in dietary fiber, minerals and micronutrients, by its high salt content, by its glycemic index too high, due to the low biological value of its proteins.
Add to this that in the form of a baguette, bread that is often too kneaded does not keep very well. The French are not mistaken, they no longer rely on this type of bread to eat well, yet we still have a basic need for bread and marginalizing this food is not a good solution.
What happened and what solutions do we have to give bread the place it deserves?
Since the dawn of time, man has consumed fermented grain porridges or kinds of flatbread, but it is considered that bread appeared in Egypt, around 5000 years before Jesus Christ.
Then, for 70 centuries, bread remained a major food. The seeds crushed with a stone grinder gave brown flours rich in fiber and minerals, the sourdough fermentation ensured a pre-digestion of the flours thanks to a natural lactic flora.
Bread could satisfy most human needs, but unfortunately wheat was often lacking. Even when the wheat harvests became sufficient, it took very little time, thanks to the roller mills, to give in to the mirage of white bread, an artificial symbol of abundance and purity.
“Baguette, like other types of white bread, is quite poor nutritionally.”
And only 150 years of white flour and various derivatives in breadmaking were enough to turn bread into a secondary food. That we want to register a bread, emblematic of such a decline, in a timeless heritage, saddens me, so the idea is absurd.
Why is bread essential?
Sociologist Bruno Latour explains to us that we have to land. Let’s go back to solid basics, why should we continue to eat bread and what type of bread should we consume? I have an original answer to give to these questions.
Man needs to function with a stable food base, which in turn allows him to satisfy his need for food biodiversity. Bread, provided it is of good nutritional quality, permanently provides some of the glucose and dietary fiber that we need and the sustainability of these contributions stabilizes our metabolism and especially our intestinal microbiota. The stability of this microbiota is essential and requires a regular supply of the same sources of dietary fibre.
However, bread in our culture is the only food that can be eaten at all meals over a lifetime. In addition, when it is sourdough, the bread-making ensures a pre-digestion of dietary fibers and there is therefore a remarkable complementarity between the microbiota of the sourdough and the intestine.
This is why bread cannot be an anecdotal food and therefore has a good or bad influence on our health depending on its nutritional quality. We therefore need a bread of high nutritional value to serve as a food base for our body.
In fact, even if we switched from white flours to brown flours, the nutritional quality of pure wheat bread would not be optimal anyway. Clearly, whatever the type of flour, a T65 or a T80, to produce breads of high nutritional value, it is necessary to add to these flours cereal ingredients rich in fiber and a wide variety of seeds. The aim is to enrich the bread with fiber and micronutrients, but also to balance the biological value of proteins. It is remarkable that wheat flours that are so imperfect from a nutritional point of view become extremely interesting thanks to the binding power of their gluten to include in bread a great biodiversity of seeds and make it an almost complete food.
A great return of seeds in bread and their predigestion by a long sourdough fermentation would be a major progress for human food, for agrobiodiversity, to resolve the dependence of populations vis-à-vis wheat. Whatever the difficulties of this turning point, sticking to pure wheat and its white flour would lead to an extreme reduction in the nutritional value of bread and its consumption.
Securing the Future of Baking
To improve the quality of the bread, it is particularly advisable to improve the biological value of wheat proteins, which are too low in lysine, by adding leguminous seeds which are rich in it. These complementarities of the two types of vegetable proteins are implemented in all human food cultures and they are the basis of all animal nutrition, that is to say their immense potential.
Alongside many other seeds, a set of legumes obviously has its place in bread, giving this food a perfect nourishing virtue and offering farmers very ecological crop rotations.
Developing breads that meet most of our protein needs is obviously an interesting prospect, and the good news is that it can be done by taking advantage of sourdough breadmaking techniques that bakers will learn quickly to master. This is a real nutritional revolution in bread.
By reaching a very high nutritional value, the consumption of bread could more than double, with remarkable benefits for human health, and considerable repercussions in terms of food safety and for the future of baking.
See also on The HuffPost: This Baker Makes Art With Sourdough Bread