The first thing that comes to mind as I sit to write this article is how many puns and plays on words I can throw in. Something along the lines of what you “knead to know”, “let’s toast to toast!” and “the best thing since sliced bread”. But long, long before sliced bread, going all the way back about 12,000 years to the beginning of civilization, there were grains. Farming began in the “fertile crescent” of Mesopotamia (modern day Middle East) where the first crops are believed to be the ancestors of wheat and barley.
Since before recorded history, grains and bread have played a vital role in the diets and health of man as well as in the development of civilizations and wealth of nations. (Bread is a term we still use to mean “money”). History aside, honestly, who doesn’t like a warm, crusty loaf of fresh-baked bread? For the carbohydrate naysayers out there, I say that good carbs are not a thing of the past.
Let’s first look at the current state of health in America. Specifically, we are living in a nation where two-thirds of all adults are overweight and nearly 70 percent have high blood pressure, or are at increased risk of developing high blood pressure.
As a result, the food industry is under even greater pressure to formulate healthier foods that adhere to the updated guidelines. As consumers become increasingly concerned about health and wellness for themselves and their families, there are a myriad of opportunities for businesses that manage to meet the challenge of creating healthier products without sacrificing taste.
On a more personal level, whole grains in the diet not only can help you lose weight and keep it off, but they also can help reduce belly fat, lower blood pressure and keep you regular. Yes, you can break bread together again, but do it in the right way. I’m not telling you to run out and eat an entire loaf of bread at one sitting. Nor am I claiming that refined white flour is good for you. Quite the opposite — eat real, whole grain breads daily, but do so in moderation.
When it comes to bread, we don’t need any “reformulations” or claims of more fiber yet fewer whole grains and fewer calories per slice. (Check out the sodium content on your low-calorie packaged whole wheat bread for an eye-opener.) Instead, forget the calories per slice and simply focus on getting real whole grains in the form of fresh breads — ones that don’t come with labels and don’t contain the preservatives that make it last forever in your bread drawer.
A multitude of fresh bread varieties are now available in response to consumers’ desire to get “back to the basics.” Food artisans are both back and here to stay. Bread bakers have never disappeared, but they have not been given the recognition they deserve. This is perhaps the fault of whoever created and propagated the misguided message of “Thou shall never eat bread again if you ever want to lose weight.”
Which breads then are the best? Hence began my quest for the best and “healthiest” (in my opinion) multigrain loaf and best multigrain sandwich bread in the area. Bread is a hearty, nutritious, filling and satisfying part of a meal — think soup or stew with a big chunk of warm bread fresh out of the stone oven. I’m thankful for the trend in bread baking and other artisanal foods. It reminds me of the time of my life when I lived abroad and only bought bread from my local bakeries. Even if you can find “real breads” in large supermarkets, it’s
often more fun and pleasing to walk into a place that smells simply of warm, crusty, mood-enhancing, freshly baked loaves of grainy goodness! Your kids will love to see the big ovens and taste it while it’s warm.
So here are my favorite picks in the area:
Breadsmith in Cranford boasts a wonderful selection of breads period, but my personal winner is absolutely the “Marathon Multigrain”. (You don’t have to be a marathon runner to eat it, I promise.) For something lighter, you can choose from the multigrain sandwich, 100% whole wheat, rustic Italian, French peasant, Swedish Limpa Rye and Deli rye, as well as a variety of rolls too. Baker’s Bounty in Linden, whose breads can be found at Alan’s Orchard in Westfield, wins for their “multigrain sandwich” bread, and the rolls are wonderful too. I like to make my kids’ sandwiches on rolls as a switch from sliced breads.
Natale’s in Summit. They have a nice selection of whole-wheat loaves and rolls and an 8-grain with sesame loaf as well. I love their traditional rustic Italian, and the rye and pumpernickel are delicious too. Disclaimer — don’t blame me if you buy and sample some of the other fabulous bakery treats that you see and smell at all of these places!
Remember, treats are treats and should be eaten in moderation. Great grains found in the form of nutritious, delicious fresh loaves of bread can and should be eaten daily. As I read recently on www.breadinfo.com, “Bread has a long history for a reason. It is a healthy and nutritious food that fills the stomach as well as the soul.” I’ll toast to that!