Bread, love and attention. How to choose the product on the shelf


Hot summer, little inclination to cook, need to come home every now and then for nourishment and rest. We will have to take a trip to the supermarket and tackle the shelves. Some insights to follow.

1. Fruits and vegetables in first place. At least five servings a day, seven even better according to recent studies, for a healthy diet. Natural vitamins, antioxidants, fiber and whatnot. Organic is preferred, to avoid pesticide residues such as glyphosate and other chemicals. Extra-virgin olive oil, preferably Italian, and a handful of seeds (such as flax, sunflower, sesame, pumpkin, hemp) to dress the salad, some nuts with shells to accompany the fresh ones, and cheers be!

2. Protein, with variety and without overdoing it. Putting aside the false myths of high-protein diets, it is rather good to supplement amino acid intake by alternating protein sources. Green light, then, to ground-farmed eggs, perhaps hard-boiled, tuna and mackerel in oil, strictly from sustainable fisheries, mortadella from only Italian pork, and so on. Vegans are given mixes of grains and legumes, such as seitan (wheat) and tofu (soybean) rice and chickpea salad.

3. Cereals and therefore carbohydrates, the primary resource of energy in the Mediterranean diet. For the body, and good mood. But just the thought of boiling water drives away the idea of pasta or rice. Let us then look at bread and flour. There is a wide range on offer; let’s try to orient ourselves by looking at the label, the identity card of food products:

Whole wheat bread
Or ‘with whole wheat flour’? Whole grain is preferred, because of its natural richness in fiber-soluble and insoluble-and the germ, which is found at great expense in some supplements. But it must be verified that the bread is 100 percent whole wheat and is indeed such. This is not the case when refined flours (such as 0 and 00), and maybe even bran, appear on the ingredient list. In the latter case it is not a true ‘integral’ but rather a ‘dis-integrated’ and ‘reconstituted,’ which is quite a different thing.

‘Unrefined’ flours, multi-grains. Type 1 and type 2 flours are subject to coarser milling, a valuable compromise between ‘fine powders’ (such as fine 00) and whole wheat. Grains vary, from the superlative Apulian durum wheat to the more modest soft wheat to ancient spelt and the fashionable khorasan (Kamut TM). Sometimes buckwheat, oats, barley, and rye are added, which are useful in expanding the micro-nutrient pool but rarely able to justify stellar prices.

‘Gluten-free’. When we then see rice and corn flours, it is easy to come across wording such as ‘gluten-free,’ often with the crossed-out ear of corn symbol. Following a strict gluten-free diet is the only treatment available for patients with celiac disease, who must therefore be very careful when shopping for groceries, and especially when eating out. But for healthy individuals, ‘gluten-free’ is nonsense. Taking into account that gluten, the characteristic protein of wheat, is valuable for nutrition and sustainable for the environment. What’s more, the glycemic index of cereals that lack it is higher.

Palm oil, no thanks. Hadn’t the excess of completely avoidable saturated fats been enough, palm has been shown to be carcinogenic and genotoxic, word from Efsa (European Food Safety Authority. Then enough is enough, products containing it must be left on the shelf, waiting for even the laziest and most recalcitrant industries to replace the shoddy tropical oil with those that belong to our culture. Food security, sustainability and quality.

Sourdough, sourdough? A suggestive but basically meaningless wording. The ‘mother’ is nothing but the residue of the previous dough, left to ferment and reused in the next dough to activate rising. In place of traditional brewer’s yeast, to which some urban legends with no scientific support attribute undesirable effects.

No additives / preservatives / GMOs. Preservatives can be replaced by treating long-life bread with a small percentage (<2%) of ethyl alcohol, which tends to wear off completely a few minutes after the package is opened. Therefore, the use of food additives is not essential even on the softest breads, even if they are intended to last a few months. The absence of GMOs is a given everywhere, for if it were not, GMOs would have to be marked on the ingredient list.

Dario Dongo

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