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In Defense of Bread

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Food critic Jeffrey Steingarten proposed that the world could be divided into two types of people: those who can enjoyably live on bread alone, and those who need all the other food groups for gastronomic pleasure. I am of the former group, but with one condition: The bread must have butter.

As a health and nutrition enthusiast, I know this is a particularly dangerous love affair. Isn't bread the enemy? If so, it is a delicious enemy. I can't live in a world where it isn't allowed.

In the diet section of Barnes and Noble, next to ridiculous titles like Eat More, Weigh Less, I came across The Complete Idiots Guide to Total Nutrition by Joy Bauer. Bauer explains that despite what critics say, carbs are still our prime source of energy and, if you eat the right ones, a great source of vitamins, minerals and fiber.

What are the right carbs? Basically, as long as it's whole grain, you're in the clear. According to mypyramid.gov, whole grains can help reduce the risk of coronary heart disease and constipation, and also help with weight management. On your bread's ingredient list, "whole wheat" or "whole grain" should be first. Central Market and Stone Mill Bakers both have great selections of whole grain options.

White bread, made from wheat without its germ and bran component, may be delicious, but it just can't bring it when it comes to nutrition. Basically, some jerk took all the healthy stuff out of your wheat. Why? Because it gives the flour a longer shelf life, and most bugs won't eat the leftover starch. The fancy-sounding "enriched" label just means that they injected a small fraction of the original nutrients back into bread as a consolation prize.

So should you say goodbye to white bread forever? Of course not. Just make sure that the majority of your daily carbs are made with true whole grains and save your white bread intake for when you've got a truly delicious, freshly baked loaf.

In French Women Don't Get Fat (stop rolling your eyes), Mireille Guiliano explains, "in American sandwiches, the bread seems incidental; in French sandwiches, it's the filling that offers the occasion to eat bread." It's high time we cast away the prepackaged, processed garbage that fills our bread aisles these days and get back to enjoying quality bread. Perhaps with just a bit of creamy, salty butter.

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