9th April 2020

Food / Karen O'Donoghue

Fight for Fibre: Part Two by Karen O’Donoghue

36 6 mins 0

Karen, founder of Happy Tummy Co. lists the requirements for the only kind of bread she will eat, and the only sort of bread we should eat too. Take it from an expert.

You there, do you like to eat bread? We’re all a statistic. You either fall into the 85% of the population who buys their bread sliced and packaged from your local supermarket or the 12% who buy from in-store bakeries or the 3% who buy from high street bakeries where one would assume the bread is sourdough and made slowly.

We only need to look at the bread industry to see what is wrong with our approach to health. 50% of the bread in the UK today is eaten in the form of white sandwiches. For years farmers have been trying to breed wheat varieties with very little bran, such is our love of white bread. I can’t think of anything worse. Gobbling down a product with no fibre to speak of never mind the lack of phenolic compounds found in the bran and aleurone layer of a wheat kernel providing antioxidant food for our guts.

Maybe it’s down to my love affair with the soil that I expect my bread to be brown but my goodness I’d take the flavour and feeling I get from eating a fermented whole grain piece of bread over its white counterpart any day of the week. If I was allowed to make one rule for this country it would be to abolish all 100% white bread. I guarantee that doctors and the NHS system as a whole would see fewer patients and less money would be spent on constipation drugs for the 1 in 3 children suffering from IBS in this country today.

Here’s a look at the only sort of bread that I will eat…

1 – It’s made with ancient or heritage cereal varieties.

2 – It’s stoneground, not roller milled.

3 – It’s organic.

4 – It’s been through a process like fermentation, soaking or sprouting to help reduce the phytic acid response.

5 – It’s wholegrain and there is more than one cereal variety present.

Unlike modern cultivars of wheat, ancient and heritage grains have a root system that helps support the plant organically. Therefore, eliminating the need for herbicides and pesticides. These organic grains are densely nutritious as a result of more complex protein structures that are much more tolerable for someone with a sensitivity to gluten. As with all grains, nuts and seeds, the phosphorus is stored in the aleurone layer as negatively charged phytate. If the kernel or stone-milled flour is then mixed with water at the wrong ph, this negatively charged ion will bind with the positively charged iron, zinc, magnesium etc found in the aleurone layer of the seed now no longer available to you when you eat said seed. That is why we make bread cultures – the lactobacillus in our starter reduces the ph of the water the grain is mixed with, thereby inhibiting the grains ability to bind the phytate to these essential minerals and vitamins we all so desperately need.

Throughout the world, the WHO (World Health Organisation) has declared a deficiency in iron and zinc even though we are eating more cereal product than ever before.

It is because we are not making our bread slowly with the use of bread starters anymore and bakers are not using enough bran. We are obsessed with holes in our dough and taste at all cost.

Thankfully, in 2008 farmers were allowed to start growing ancient and heritage wheat varieties again in an attempt to conserve our microclimates’ past, our biodiversity. During the 19th Century, grains were grown in landraces. You might have wheat, barley, oats, peas and beans all growing in one field together, all being milled down into a flour together for the baker to make a loaf full of variety. And with our microbiomes thriving on a diet where variety is key, getting as many grains, nuts and seeds into the bread we eat is essential for diversity in our gut proven to be the best indicator of overall good health.

Wheat is one of the most important global crops and is grown on more land than any other commercial crop. It currently provides 20% of the total calories consumed by humans daily worldwide. On average we consume one loaf of bread each per week. I’ve got to admit it’s definitely more my end!

For the state of our health, for the state of our soil’s health, we need to adapt crops to the land and seasons. It can no longer be about adapting the land to the crop through intensive modern farming. We will not survive this way.



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Karen O'Donoghue

Karen O’Donoghue, “an activist for fibre” and founder of Happy Tummy Co.

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