The term “you are what you eat” has been used time and time again in discussions of healthy living and in a study published in 2014 this term has been established in the health conversation once again.
The study considers the growing concern that lifestyle innovations or, rather, a “high-fat/high sugar ‘Western’ diet”, has altered genetic composition and metabolic activity which may be leading to chronic illnesses such as obesity and inflammatory bowel disease . This study discusses the influence short and long term diet choices have on the structure and activity of the trillions of microorganisms in the human gut . The study provides further evidence that diets inevitably alter composition and metabolic activity even in the short term. Overall, the study explains that what we eat ultimately affects and alters our bodies.
Our team at Nuritas™ decided to investigate bread, the staple for many western diets, to see how this most consumed food may affect not only our flora but the rest of our bodies as well.
According to a 2010 European Commission study on the European bread market, the consumption of bread averages around 32 million tonnes across the 27 EU countries, with an average yearly consumption of bread around 50 kg per person . Europeans are ultimately consuming 3-4 slices of bread per day .
There are only 4 ingredients usually required to make bread: flour, water, yeast and salt. However, there are many additions to the ingredients list in mass produced breads such as sugar, E472e and Calcium Propionate (E280) to name but a few. Many of theseingredients sound anything but natural and bring up immediate concerns regarding their nutritional value, origin and any effects they may have on the body.
The famous E280-E283 also known as Calcium Propionate
We believe that this ingredient might be the most controversial ingredient as its primary role is to kill bacteria and thus enhance the shelf life of bread . It is still poorly understood if this ingredient reaches our intestinal flora intact or if it is broken down by our body before reaching the intestines. If this ingredient were to reach the gut flora intact, it would have important effects on the balance of our intestinal flora as it may kill our flora. If we were to seldomly eat products containing this ingredient, there may not be much of an effect on our flora. However, because of the huge quantity of bread that we consume daily, this ingredient may have very important effects on our intestinal microbiota.
It is thus crucial to find preserving ingredients that, while maintaining the shelf life of bread or other products, are also fully destroyed by our body early on in digestion so as to have very little impact on our microbiota. At Nuritas™ we are developing such ingredients, with the aim of making them in the most sustainable and cost-effective way so that even low-cost breads will contain these ingredients without increasing the cost of the overall bread.
Sodium or salt
The addition of salt, a derivative of sodium, in bread is used to improve flavour and texture . Although salt is a main staple of bread recipes, too much salt in a daily diet has been linked to serious health issues such as cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure and stroke .
Indeed, because of such issues the World Health Organization recommends limiting the daily intake of sodium to 2 g per day .
Most mass produced bread brands contain sodium content ranging from 0 to 0.23 g per slice . It is very important then to understand what type of bread you are consuming for if one slice of bread contains 0.2 g of sodium and the daily average intake of bread is 3-4 slices, you are then eating nearly half of the daily recommended allowance of sodium just in bread. Indeed, the CDC has indicated that the #1 source of sodium in the American diet is bread . Thus, we recommend that if you are buying mass produced bread, compare brands and purchase unsalted or brands that indicate the least amount of salt.
Importantly, there are many universities and companies around the world researching and aiming to develop healthy alternatives to salt and we at Nuritas™ look forward to seeing these ingredients reach the market.
Sugar or sugar derivatives
Sugar is added to provide taste as well as increase loaf volume. The ingredient also helps produce a finer texture and helps retain water which delays staling, thus prolonging shelf life . Many breads contain sugar or sugar derivatives such as glucose or fructose syrup.
What is concerning about many bread brands is that the average slice of bread can contain up to 3 g of sugar . If one consumes 3-4 slices per day, the consumption of sugar then works out to 12 grams per day which is nearly half of the daily target sugar allowance recommended for adults.
As with sodium, when choosing which bread to eat it is best then to buy bread with no added sugar and to avoid sugar derivatives such as caramelised sugar or dextrose as these ingredients are simply unnecessary.
E472e also known as Mono- and Di- Glycerides of Fatty Acids
This ingredient is found in nearly every bread brand and is known as an “emulsifier”. An emulsifier is an agent that binds together and disperses water and oil evenly throughout a product . The emulsifying agent provides stability, texture and adds to the overall taste of the product . This ingredient is derived from glycerol and natural fatty acids which are usually from plant or animal sources . Importantly, emulsifiers are strictly legislated within the EU. However, egg yolks and milk can be used as emulsifiers and are usually found in the higher quality breads. The E472e ingredient is usually added to many low-cost bread brands.
The European Commission’s Scientific Committee on Food Opinion expressed in June 1997 concludes that E472e has no acute toxicity orally and in short term and long term studies identified an absence of serious adverse effects .
Although this ingredient is considered safe in terms of toxicity, it may still play an unknown role on the balance of our gut flora, especially if consumed in excess. We thus recommend choosing breads with more natural emulsifiers, such as egg yolk or milk.
Ascorbic Acid, or vitamin C, is added to products to protect colour and nutrient content. The addition of this ingredient in baking provides dough-strengthening, preventing the collapse of dough during fermentation and other baking steps . It also provides antioxidative functions .
Overall, vitamin C is considered safe with any extra vitamin C simply being flushed out of your body in urine if consumed . We believe that although the name may sound a bit scary, of all the popular ingredients found in bread, this ingredient is the least concerning regarding its effects on your body.
Understanding what ingredients are in the products we consume very often, such as bread, is incredibly important to our health for, as the study discussed at the beginning of this article confirmed, diet has immediate as well as lasting effects on our bodies. Ultimately, “we are what we eat” and we must consider this very carefully in our daily lives.
Nuritas™ understands the important effects diet has on our bodies and aims to provide natural, healthy ingredients that are cost-effective and recognized as safe by our bodies. Nuritas believes that providing a healthy, affordable alternative for manufactures and consumers alike will be essential in assisting in the healthy living for all which is the main vision of the company.