It is rare to find an article critical of wheat that also mentions how sprouting and sourdough is worth considering (and why), and also mentions ancient grains. She doesn’t include rye, spelt and Red Fife as recommended grains – because they were hybridized in pre-industrial times, but she does point out that modern ‘dwarf variety’ wheat is to be avoided like the plague, and since Red Fife is not a dwarf variety and comes from Ukraine and Mennonite Russian farmers, I feel it’s good.
Obviously, it’s all a matter of opinion – not to mention controversy.
One point she makes which I have only vaguely heard about before is how different metabolic constitutions handle grains differently. I am certain this is true. For example the Swiss – who after all gave us muesli – handle grains well whereas Eskimos do not.
My personal opinion about all this – not set in stone – is more or less as follows:
Modern methods (rapid mixing, single-strain commercial, sugar-fed yeast, preservatives and additives etc.) have turned what was a basically healthy food into a basically unhealthy food. This is true of dairy, meat, eggs, even some vegetables I suspect, but bad white bread, being highly processed and ‘denatured’/dead, is especially bad when consumed regularly over time.
Whole grains – or at least breads with at least 50% – are better, provided this is fresh-ground or recently stone ground. And of course organic. Fresh-ground is best because you still have vitamins (which decrease rapidly within 4 days of grinding). Here you have good nutritional value and synergy, not to mention natural fibre which eases digestion.
Sourdough is the way to go: the sprouting process begins with natural fermentation in a moist, warm environment and this natural fermentation is identical in essence to natural leavening (‘sourdough’), the main (and no doubt important) difference being that the grain has first been crushed vs. remaining whole and still able to sprout. No doubt one could argue about whether or not crushing the grain is a mistake, but my suspicion is that when such grains are fresh-ground and immediately soaked, all the living enzymes and microbial cultures make for a very lively soup which is nutritious and vital. I also believe that the slower the process you can use, the better so that enzymatic processes have plenty of time along with the fermentation – and rising – functions of the sourdough process.
Moderation: good bread (like mine) is fine if not used as the basis of a diet. Most bread-eating cultures always have a meal with bread on the side, as it were, not bread as the main filler with something on top. I think this is important. Generally, it is important to have a diet which features as much living enzymes as possible (fresh produce in summer, fermented/pickled stuff in winter). Cooking kills enzymes. It’s as simple as that. And that includes bread, albeit the way flavor changes over time with my 100% rye loaves sometimes makes me wonder what’s going on. In any case, in theory the enzymes are all killed off in the cooking process and I am fairly sure that’s the case.
That being the case, we have to provide enzymes for digestion – mainly from the pancreas I believe. Over time, if there is insufficient live enzymes coming into the system from living foods, this creates real problem down below, and perhaps (this is my theory) fosters imbalanced gut flora who get too much of a role to play down there not sufficiently contained/balanced by living enzymes in the mix.
Anyway, I have not kept up with the blog much but am planning to write a series of pieces about bread – and French Road Bakery bread in particular – principally as leaflets to go on my Farmers’ Market stall, but hopefully they will be of interest here as well. Summer is well over, the sailboat is ‘on the hard’, winter preparations well underway, the fire has been lit and stayed on overnight a couple of times and soon will be on all the time meaning the timing and preparation of the dough becomes simpler, so I will focus more on the bakery and writing those pieces.