Whether it’s a slice of toast in the morning, some garlic bread with spaghetti, or dinner rolls served as a finishing touch — bread is a commonly consumed item in many people’s diet.
But did you know that bread is found in nearly every culture, region and religion?
Historically, grains have been the most widely cultivated food crops, they have been harvested and processed for food since the beginning of civilization and remain a staple food across the world to this day.
Bread takes on many forms — from pita to challah to baguette.
There also are myths, legends and superstitions associated with bread, according to published reports.
For instance, have you ever heard that whoever takes the last piece of bread has to kiss the cook? Or, that if bread is part of your dream something happy is about to happen?
Did you know that when two people reach for a piece of bread simultaneously, visitors will be arriving?
Or, that you can reverse the bad luck of dropping a piece of bread butter-side-down by making a wish when you pick it up?
The origin of these ideas isn’t known, but the phrase “baker’s dozen” does have its place in history.
It came about because bakers in 13th century England were charging full price, but shorting customers on the size of their baked items.
King Henry III made that practice unlawful.
Any baker caught selling bread — at full price — that was below the standard weight — could end up in jail, or have a hand cut off.
Not wanting to take any chances, bakers began adding a 13th item, just to be safe.
Ah, if only shrinkflation could be punishable today.
Besides having a colorful history, many people also have a love-hate relationship with bread.
They love its taste; they hate the weight gain it can cause.
But at the end of the day, it depends on the quality of the bread product.
So, like many other nutritional options, bread can play a role in healthy eating — but there are ways to maximize the nutrients you consume in your breads.
Here are some tips:
- Make sure half of all your grains are whole grains.
- Check the ingredients on store-bought bread: Look for whole wheat, whole-wheat flour, or another whole grain as the first ingredient.
- Remember: Whole grains are essential to the diet; they are a good source of complex carbohydrates and can provide protein and fiber, which helps lower cholesterol and glucose levels and promote a healthy digestive system.
- Bulk up your baked goods: When baking breads, substitute half or all your white flour for whole wheat flour. Try adding nuts and seeds to your fresh-baked breads.
- Remember, uncooked oats make a great addition to breads and muffins.
- When consuming bread, combine it with other foods. It is a good idea to pair your bread with other foods like plant proteins, lean meats, and/or healthy fats to reduce blood sugar spikes.
For instance, you can enjoy a slice of toasted bread with olive oil with your breakfast eggs, or with a salad for lunch.
Remember you also can make your own bread, which, of course, allows you to control the ingredients that it includes.
Shari Bresin is the Family & Consumer Science Agent for the University of Florida/Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Cooperative Extension Pasco County.
Pasco County Extension Intern, Syreeta McDonald, contributed to this column.
Recipe: Mixed Grain Bread
1/4 cup cornmeal (yellow)
1/4 cup brown sugar (packed)
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/4 cup water (boiling)
1 packet dry yeast (active)
1/4 cup water (warm 105 degrees to 115 degrees)
1/3 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup rye flour
2 1/4 cups flour (all purpose)
- Mix cornmeal, brown sugar, salt and oil with boiling water, cool to lukewarm (105 degrees to 115 degrees).
- Dissolve yeast in 1/4 cup warm water; stir into cornmeal mixture. Add whole wheat and rye flours and mix well. Stir in enough all-purpose flour to make dough stiff enough to knead.
- Turn dough onto lightly floured surface. Knead until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes to 10 minutes.
- Place dough in lightly oiled bowl, turning oil top. Cover with clean towel; let rise in warm place until double, about 1 hour.
- Punch dough down; turn onto clean surface. Cover with clean towel; let rest 10 minutes. Shape dough and place in greased 9-inch by 5-inch pan. Cover with clean towel; let rise until almost double, about 1 hour.
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Bake 35 minutes to 45 minutes or until bread sounds hollow when tapped. Cover with aluminum foil during baking, if bread is browning too quickly. Remove bread from pan and cool on wire rack.
Source: Cornell University Cooperative Extension
Published November 30, 2022