And You Think Your Daily Bread Is Healthy

(The views expressed in this blog post are purely my own and are not copied from another source).

OK, I ate a sandwich the other day – don’t tell me off! I don’t tend to eat many sandwiches these days. However, it was a banana sandwich so that was healthy, right? Especially as it was wholemeal bread. Well, the banana maybe but what about the bread? I decided to take a look at the ingredients.

The list contained: Salt, Emulsifier E472e and Calcium Propionate – that is obviously additional to the main ingredients of flour, water and yeast.

That got me thinking – what on earth were these additional items? I needed to find out so I knew exactly what was going inside my stomach.

These were my findings:

Salt – used as a flavour enhancer. According to the FSA (Food Standards Agency), 0.5g sodium (or 1.25g salt) is a lot of salt; 0.1g sodium (or 0.25g salt) is a little. The 3 slices of bread I ate contained 0.36g sodium (or 0.9g salt). Hang on, 0.9g of salt? That’s not far off having a lot of salt according to the FSA. Too much salt in your diet has been linked to high blood pressure.

Emulsifier E472e – used to keep foods from going stale. It is also known as Mono- and diacetyl tartaric acid esters of mono- and diglycerides of fatty acids. Say what? Sorry, I don’t have a Chemistry Degree!

Calcium Propionate – used as a food additive. It inhibits the growth of bacteria and moulds. It is sometimes used as a pesticide. According to the Pesticide Action Network North America, it is slightly toxic (however, that is not uncommon for food products). Woh, slightly toxic?

This is the crucial point for me. I have been conditioned to believe (brought up from a young age, if you like) that wholemeal bread is good for you. It has a high fibre content so it must be doing something good for my digestive system. It is also a good source of carbohydrate and even protein. Little did I know that, due to the high demand and therefore pressure to mass produce as much bread as possible in a short space of time, that so many by-products were added.

What are the real effects of eating these on a regular basis? Do we really know? Maybe they make us gain weight – it may explain the rise in obesity (obviously alongside a high abundance of fast food and sugary products consumed). After all, food additives trick your body’s built-in taste control mechanisms regulating your sense of feeling full and so are likely to contribute to weight gain.

There is no warning label on the packaging but I think there should be. Similar to the tobacco industry, it’s time that the bread manufacturers put a health warning on the packaging of supermarket breads.

My advice is to either make your own bread or take a trip to your local bakery where the bread is made in-house.