So you are one of those conscientious people who ensures that you have a really healthy breakfast of either, brown bread and vegetable sandwiches, or one of the more popular brands of breakfast cereal. You have denied yourself the pleasures of a plateful of, cholesterol laden, bacon and fried eggs for more years than you care to remember, and of course you are feeling extremely proud of your self- discipline.
I hate to rain on your parade, but I have to ask, “Is what you are eating, really as healthy as you believe it to be? Are you basing your choice of food on the label on the package or are you taking the trouble to read the fine print, the entire ingredient list?”
World over packaging and labelling laws are currently undergoing a great deal of change. They are fairly lax at the moment, especially in India, and as a result, what is called brown bread maybe regular white bread coloured with caramel. Typically, the ingredients on a food label are listed in descending order, and if the first ingredient is wheat flour, you can be sure that the product is not fulfilling your nutritional requirements. From a health stand point what you require is bread that is made up of 70-80% whole wheat flour. However, don’t let the food label be your only guide. In this case taste the bread as whole wheat bread is a lot chunkier and grainier to the palette than white bread. It will also not be as perfectly formed as whole wheat is more difficult to work with, which is why bakers take the easy route of using white flour instead.
So what is the big deal about whole wheat flour? A wheat kernel consists of three parts, the outermost layer of bran which is rich in Vitamin B and fiber; the middle layer, that is the living germ, full of Omega 3, protein and antioxidants; and the inner most layer that is comprised of gluten and starch and has little nutritive value. The processing of wheat from its whole to its refined form robs it of the outer two layers. This is why your mother was totally right when she told you that soft, white bakery bread is way down on the nutritional charts compared to homemade wheat chappatis.
These days, super market shelves are groaning under the weight of ragi, multi grain and other immensely healthy sounding breads, so how does one choose? And is the ragi bread you are buying really what it claims to be? A good thumb rule to judge how much of the “good stuff” is actually present in your bread, is to check the position of the ragi or flax in relation to salt. In a normal loaf of bread, it is unlikely that there is more than a teaspoonful of salt. Therefore if the ragi, in ragi bread, is positioned after salt, you can be sure that you are getting less than a teaspoonful of the good stuff.
Then there are the breakfast cereals and beverages that many a harassed mum feeds her young children, believing that they are packed with nutrients. In most cases, if you read the ingredient list, you will find that wheat flour and sugar are on the top. Certainly, not what constitutes a healthy breakfast right? Not a patch on homemade ragi, wheat or oats porridge.
Perhaps the position at the top of the charts in terms of truly unhealthy foods, are commercially produced cakes and biscuits. While being extremely high in white flour and sugar, most of them contain either hydrogenated vegetable oil or trans fats, both of which are extremely harmful. In fact, in the USA it is now mandatory that if a food contains trans fats, it must declare the fact prominently on the product label. What are trans fats and why they are so harmful, is important enough to be worthy of another article sp let’s back to the food label per se. There are currently several biscuits and cakes on the market made of seemingly healthy ingredients like ragi or oats. Before you make them a part of your diet, please read the ingredient list. It’s very likely that what is being sold to you as an oat biscuit is merely a very ordinary maida one, with a few grains of oats thrown in!
I’ve sown the seeds of doubt in your mind, haven’t I? I’m sure that at least for the next month, your shopping trips are going to be extremely lengthy ones. While you comb through shelves of products choosing the ones with the highest nutrient value, let me assure you that it is time well spent. After all who likes to buy a product that is not all that it seems to be?
About the Author:
Sunitha Srinivasan is a Lifestyle Consultant and Resistance Trainer. She has qualified with the National Association for Fitness Certification, Arizona, USA. She conducts workshops on wellness that she calls ‘A Celebration of Life’, counsels on the management of lifestyle diseases and writes for leading journals and magazines.
She can be contacted at email@example.com
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