Bread gets a really bad rap now, and I can see why. It's so different than what our grandparents ate, or what you get from a Parisian boulangerie. Why is it that people who visit Paris eat a sh*t ton of bread and feel fine? For sure there are a lot of variables: the walking, the slow mindful meals (you will NEVER find a Parisian walking and eating or eating and driving!), the freshness.....but it's the short natural ingredients list as well.
Here's how to buy and eat bread:
1. Read the label.
The bread that sits on a store shelf for months at a time contains low quality oils and other confusing ingredients to stabilize the product. There are sometimes LOADS of ingredients in that bread (check out the flour tortillas below). If it can sit on the shelf that long, what kind of impact is it having in our body? If the microbes on the shelf aren't into it, neither are your gut microbes!
In Ayurveda, processed food creates ama, or toxic accumulation and inflammation that can lead to disease. An ideal bread has 4-6 ingredients: flour, water, salt, sourdough, and sometimes seeds or dried fruit. That's it! Sourdough, according to Kripalu faculty Dr. John Douillard, "gobbles up the gluten" making it easier to digest. Be a conscious consumer and don't fall into this trap:
Get down with real:
2. Shop local.
Every little town, like my hometown of Mattapoisett, MA, has a bakery (Shipyard Galley) that makes their own bread. Support small business and your belly at the same time!
3. Choose sourdough or sprouted bread.
All grains and beans have anti-nutrients called phytates that allow the seeds to lie dormant, so traditional slow processes like soaking, sprouting and fermenting grains break down the phytic acids, lowers gluten, lowers glycemic index, and makes them easier to digest (Douillard). Because sprouted grains break down phytic acids, they are able to retain more nutrients including include folate, iron, vitamin C, zinc, magnesium, and protein (Godman). Ezekiel sesame bread is my favorite sprouted bread.
Tip: Sprouted bread is often kept in the frozen food section because it's fresh AF, does not contain preservatives and will go bad on the shelf (so put it in your freezer as well).
4. Eat bread during bread season.
Yes even bread has a season, it's not something to consume all day everyday all year long. Many people with food sensitivities are told to eliminate gluten from their diet, but that might not be necessary, and completely eliminating a food group can have side effects as well. Wheat enhances the microbiome. Eliminating wheat entirely if you don't have celiac eliminates the good bugs for your body.
In Ayurveda, fall and winter are the appropriate times to eat wheat. Wheat has nourishing, grounding, sticky, sweet and cooling properties. It helps build our tissues and ground our mind. Our agni (digestive fire) is strongest in the winter and can break it down much better than spring or summer.
Dr. Douillard's research in his book, Eat Wheat, points out that we produce more amylase, the digestive enzyme that helps break down gluten, in the fall and winter. This matches history, when bread was harvested in fall to get people through the winter. Spring is the worst season for eating gluten and can exacerbate cold and allergy season and the heaviness that comes with seasonal depression. This spring try a kitchari cleanse and see if that helps your symptoms of a low immune system, congestion and lethargy.
5. Make it a rotation.
There are so many healthy grains out there to mix in the rotation. One thing I loved about living at Kripalu for 10 days at a time was the morning breakfast grain. Every morning there was something new to try: amaranth, millet, buckwheat, oats, quinoa, and barley. Try a breakfast bowl with quinoa or barley in the heat of summer, or oats as it gets chilly.
Other grains include basmati, short grain, brown, wild, black and purple rice. Buckwheat and millet are heating and drying and best for the cool dampness of spring. White rice is always the easiest to digest, especially when sick. If you notice you habitually eat sandwiches for lunch, try a grain bowl with a funky grain.
5. Taco night tips:
Instead of the flour or corn tortillas in the bread aisle, look in the refrigerated section. In my Whole Foods, this is by the fresh salsa and hummus.
Here is where you find the handmade, real deal corn tortillas with 3 ingredients: corn, water, and salt. I love this brand, Mi Tierra Tortillas, shown in the pic with the huge red arrow (I hope you find my tech skills comical).
Sometimes you gotta go on a scavenger hunt at the grocery. I like to shop with my man when we divide and conquer!
And now for the food!!!
Ripe Tomato Toast:
- Real sourdough bread (like Iggy's of Cambridge, MA)
- Vegan mayo (like Sir Kesington's fabinaise), or homemade mayo
- Organic heirloom tomatoes, 1/4 inch slices, save any juice
- Pink salt
- Organic olive oil
- Fresh basil, chopped thin
1. Chop basil by rolling leaves up like a cigarette and slicing into thin strips.
2. Toast bread and spread with vegan mayo.
3. Top with tomato slices, pink salt, basil, drizzle of olive oil, and any last drips of tomato water.
Note: if tomatoes are too acidic for you, try these options:
- option 1: cut tomato in half, grate the pulp using a box grater, holding the skin. Once you grate the whole inside of the tomato, discard the skin. Mix in salt, olive oil and chopped basil. This is how to make Spanish "Pan Con Tomate".
- option 2: ditch the tomato and use a ripe avocado instead.
A word on Tomatoes
Both Ayurveda and Tom Brady advise against eating tomatoes in excess because they are a "nightshade" which can cause inflammation, acidity, and excess heat. I have personally cut down eating nightshades (like peppers, potatoes, eggplant) in excess, especially out of season. You will not find me swindled by pale "fresh" tomatoes in winter.
But these vegetables also have amazing health benefits including potassium, calcium, vitamins K, C, E, Bs, iron, antioxidants. Plus I have Italian roots, and in late New England summer, there is nothing, NOTHING like a fresh vine ripe tomato. So as with all things, listen to your body, eat a variety of foods, eat without multitasking, and enjoy life. Namaste!