The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

bread as a staple - your views

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doughboy82's picture

bread as a staple - your views

well im from new zealand, yes that little island way down there...

sadly im a plant apprentice baker not quite a real baker, however i bake alot at home and have a copy of the BBA as a starter (love the book too!)


but anyhow im looking for some international opinion for a presentation i have to give for a competetion my work kindly entered me in. my presentation topic is:


'bread has always been regarded as one of the staple foods in the past',

is this still true in today's world or has the role of bread changed?


now ive got ideas on

  • low carb diets have forced change

  • the perception that white bread is bad for you

  • Nutrition value - in regards to which other food product as versatile as bread compares

  • Breakfast cereal market - v - toast

  • popular western food (compared to countries that consume alot of rice as there main cereal grain)

do you have any other ideas or opinions about bread as a staple.





paddyboomsticks's picture

Bread has, and will, remain a staple where it is one of the cheapest and most readily available forms of protein. Obviously in places like china/vietnam etc. bread has never really been a staple.

Extrapolating on this, I would suggest that beyond the idea of bread as a physical staple, lies the notion of bread as a cultural staple. Bread as an incredibly long cultural history in many western and middle eastern sociieties.

So perhaps we should ask - in addition to how does bread sustain us physically - how does bread sustain or enrich us culturally? What does bread make us think about? What do we associate with bakers, or baking, with mills and flour, or the rippling prospect of a field of wheat in the afternoon?

Baking, bread and flour features prominently in a dazzling variety of myths and legends, from Hansel and Gretel to russian or slavic stories featuring domovoi. Curses mean bread won't rise, blessings give us bountiful fields, or stalks like steel, or ploughs or scythes that cut through soil or wheat like butter.

Many events are marked by the baking or consuming of bread. Real estate agents encourage the smell of baking in a house they're trying to sell. We eat of bread in lieu of christ's flesh, or to ward off spirits, etc. We call bread the staff of life - an important, perhaps vital association.

Whilst we may trade in our heavy german rye for a gluten free wrap, can we banish bread so easily from our cultural, sociological, our mythical mid-riffs? I think not.

rainwater's picture

Most cultures have a starch that is staple food. Some examples are: In India, it seems to be rice. In Asian countries, China, and Japan also. Mexico seems to rely on tortillas, but most people from Mexico I know prefer a corn tortilla, made with Masa. Bread (sometimes pasta) seems to be more of an European staple, with great emphasis on the artisanal qualities of the subject. My opinion is that bread is probably the most diverse and artistic expression of any staple that is common. The staple in the U.S., sad to say, is probably fast food......oh my goodness....I almost get naseous just smelling my co-workers eating the stuff.
I'm a bit of a health person. Bread, with some whole grain, for one part of the day, and brown rice for the other part of the day. This brings me very good health. I consider bread without whole grains ( like brioche, cinnamon rolls, pizza ) a weekend treat. I plan to have pizza (homemade) tomorrow evening, so I will take brown rice and vegetables for breakfast/lunch.
My opinion:
1) The author (Japanese-forget his name) who wrote "The Enzyme Factor", practically invented the camera scope for investigating colons, and pioneered non-invasive surgery to remove cancerous tumors in the colon/intestines. He became very famous for this, and travelled the world to train other surgeons with his techniques. This doctor has a 100% non-occurance rate for cancer with his patients after he operates and puts them on what he considers a proper diet for health. Low carb diets, in his opionion, are terrible diets, and the most consistent for stimulating cancer. i.e. diets high in meat, and low in fiber. He recommends about 75% whole grains, 15/20% vegetable, and 5/10% protein.....and suggests that eating seafood protein rather than meat items for intestinal health. So much for low carb diets.
2) Hello, if all you eat is white isn't so good for you.....The doctor is adamant about this.....whole grains.....fresh vegetables.....lots of fruit.
Please don't tell me about the people you know who live on white breads and starches and who are healthy (there are always exceptions), and these people would probably enjoy better health if they did eat whole grains and brown rice instead. ......generally speaking, people who live on such denatured foods suffer ill the long term it catches up to people....especially if they mix in heavy meat diet with denatured carbs. The doctor/surgeon I just mentioned makes his living on people who live on caffeine, meat, and denatured grains.
3) Whole grain breads are very healthy, but brown rice is the winner for creating a healthy balanced internal environment for health. Nutritional value is not the only factor in food. "Balanced" nutritional values of foods, and how they are received by the digestive process are issues.
4) I vote for toast over breakfast cereal....hmmm depends. Toast made from home baked bread (especially with whole grains) wins every time over commercial breakfast cereals...even the commercial "health" and "organic" cereals. ...on the other hand....a hot bowl of buckwheat gruel (which my wife makes-she is Ukrainian) is probably healthier than toast.
5) Popular western food compared to rice staple. Hmmmm.....there are a lot of stomach problems in India.....I saw the lines to the doctors office there.....but they eat mostly denatured white rice. My experience, is the more economically destitute suffer more ill health because their diet is mostly denatured exposure to middle class was more healthy because they have great selection of fruit and vegetables. They still eat white rice, but in smaller ratios to the other food groups....most people in India are vegetarian....most people, from my experience, in Asian (chinese, japanese) eat more rice and less meat than westerners.
The typical Western diet, i.e. United States, is the worst! ! ! We are the fattest nation in the world....period. Fast food is a disease in this country....seriously. I feel (a little jokingly) that the fast food industry is conspiracy to keep the medical profession in Mercedes. Of course, this is changing slowly...people are becoming conscious of health and diet. Vegetarianism is growing in U.S., and I've even heard of a few doctors suggest vegetarian diets to their patients to help with their health issues. ...but.....there are millions of fast food franchises in the U.S., and barely a couple of hundred Whole Food type grocery stores in U.S. The Europeon diet includes meat (smaller portions, and less percentage to other food groups), but generally, they have access to better grains in their breads....more balanced meals.....more salad vegetables....more home-cooked foods. My wife (Ukrainian) wasn't raised as a "health nut", but she enjoyed home grown vegetables, and her mother used to make fresh juices and carrot juice for her....just normal diet for her. She eats a lot of salads, vegetable, fresh farm cheese, fish, and the Ukraine has 1/3 of the world's topsoil....the Ukraine is the bread basket of wife eats mostly dark breads.....hardly ever eats meat......She never read a book about health...this was just how she was raised.
This should give one some "food for thought"......nice subject.

doughboy82's picture

thank you very much,


there are some very interesting points raised here. And it is good to get an insight into other cultures, i love the comment about the american staple as fast food

arzajac's picture

One idea:

As humans transfomed their habits from nomadic to sedentary, they adopted transformed foods.  They more or less had to.  For example, it makes more sense to store milk as cheese, since cheese keeps longer.  Likewise, you need to cultivate and harvest your grain and store it for later use, but you need to tansform it into something that you can eat.

The nomadic lifestyle would have them move around to find new sources of food.  The sendetary lifestyle had them doing less work (farming instread of moving around) for a more bountiful food.

The relationship between yeast and grains is hard to prevent in the sedentary lifestyle; if you keep flour around, you will eventually end up with some dough than can rise.  It hapens to be much more palatable than eating a mush made of grains and water.  This rising dough wouldn't happen if you didn't harvest and use milled grain.  So in a sense, bread is the by-product of making a sedentary home/village.

Another idea:

White bread *is* unhealthy in that it has a very high glycemic index.  That means that it is absorbed by your body pretty much the same as if you were eating sugar - you get a very sharp rise in your blood sugar followed by an increase in insulin which then, in turn, drops your blood sugar down low.  High levels of blood sugar are unhealthy and should be avoided.

I was told that sourdough bread can provide a much better glycemic index than even whole grain breads, since the sugars are consumed by the lactobacilli.  I tried looking for clinical studies on the subject, but have not found any.  If you could find some evidence, that would make an intersting chapter to your presentation.


flourgirl51's picture

I think that there will always be bread incorporated into our daily lives.

There seems to be a definite benefit to eating whole grain breads. For example, one of my customers buys my whole grain wheat bread on a regular basis. Yesterday she told me that she used the last of the bread that she bought from me last time four days ago and that her blood sugar had gone up again. She says that when she eats my bread it lowers her blood sugar. She told me this once before but now it seems that there is a pattern as when she goes a few days without the whole grain bread her blood sugar increases and then decreases when she eats the bread again. I grow and stone grind our wheat so she is getting the entire unprocessed whole grain.

At our local farmers market bread is the number one seller.

Wisecarver's picture
Wisecarver (not verified)

...The deciding factor today is Time.
We allow it to stress us out and determine what we eat and how it is preparred.
Even White bread can be healthy if you re-introduce Time back into the mixture.
Pre-ferment White bread for 20 hours.

doughboy82's picture

that ive found has highlighed one thing, and most sites have been american but what the commercial bakers putting into your white loaves? in general most commmercial bread seems to have alot of added 'minerals'


Yes im a commercial baker, but say the following:
Four slices of white bread (120 g) are a rich source of copper and selenium; a good source of protein, vitamin B1, and folate; a source of calcium and iron; contain 2.6 g of fat, of which 23% is saturated; provide 4.5 g of dietary fibre; supply 370 kcal (1550 kJ).

now im looking at the nutrition of white toast here which weighs 128g ( 4 slices as above to the

energy 1516kj, protein 12.2g, fat 2.8g (not to sure about saturated %, but we use canola oil in our doughs), carbs 72.4g, dietary fibre 4.8g and 670mg of sodium.

so my question is where are the commercial bakers putting into their bread, where does copper come into bread and its purpose and selenium, our breads are not enriched with vitamin b1, folate, calcium or folate.


another ponit is the new zealand government in september is making it compulsory for iodised salt to be used