By Anaïs Bailly-Mompoint, LMSW
Ask someone to give up rice for a week and they may effortlessly do so with perhaps just an eye-roll and slight groan. Now ask someone to give up bread for 5 days and you’ve trespassed highly sensitive territory and may not even get to finish your sentence without an earful! Perhaps I’m speaking just for me (and everyone else I personally know). But what if I told you that you don’t necessarily have to give up bread entirely to stay relatively healthy?
While rice is a common staple in many cultures, bread transcends every ethnic and socioeconomic groups. Hey, it was even used as a form of currency during ancient Egypt! Whether it’s toast with your eggs in the morning, a classic sandwich for lunch or dinner rolls, bread is consumed often more than once a day. Again, many diet trends promote eating less or eliminate bread due to its high carbohydrate content. While I agree that part of maintaining a healthier lifestyle is moderating our carb-intake, I’ve found that the reason why we should avoid most store-bought bread is the countless chemicals on the ingredients list.
Not sure about you, but often times I can’t even pronounce half of the words on the label. I’m not here to point out any specific brands, but if you pick up the loaf in your house, chances are it will contain most (if not all) of the following: calcium proportionate (found to be linked to Attention Deficit Disorder, or ADD, in children since the 1900s), calcium sulfate (better known as a plaster in Paris), high fructose corn syrup (aka “cheap fake sugar”), azodicarbonamide (can lead to asthma or allergic reactions according to some studies). Add another dozen of other preservatives that aim to extend shelf life and make the bread whiter and bigger, and you have the 20-25 ingredients that make up the typical bread at the supermarket.
Truth is however, if you were to make bread at home, you’d only need about 4 ingredients—flour of your choice, water, yeast, salt. In case you didn’t realize, the store-bought bread has about 5 times more ingredients that simply put are just horrible for the consumption for any living organism. Nope, don’t even bother feeding it to the birds or ducks at the park!
So what is one to do? Well, according to Whyeatbread.com, breads made with “100 percent whole grain wheat are a good source of fiber,” and can also aid in reducing heart disease and even help lower weight gain. If you just can’t do it with the wheat taste (or are allergic) and prefer your baguettes or doughy, fluffy white bread, it’s best to get it straight from a local bakery. Now I am fortunate to live in the country right now and do have a bakery less than 1 mile away that bakes bread 6 days a week. But if you’re in the city (especially NYC), it’s best to support your local Haitian or Caribbean bakery by buying the bread from there. Yes, that’s right, it’s best to buy bread from places like La P’tite Baguette Shop on Linden Blvd, Queens or Jamaican Hard Dough bread. You’ll realize the list of ingredients is 99.99% of the times, under 6. Sure it has a little more flour which equates to more carbs, but if you have your carbs earlier in the day, you’ll have more time to burn off the extra calories. Side-note, this goes for all carbs/starch (rice, pasta, potatoes etc): if you are more into your fitness and are trying to cut the inches around the waist, do what I do and avoid carbs after 2pm. Yes you can cheat a bit on weekends when you’re having your du riz and sauce pois. So load up in the morning and lunch, and have lots of veggies and protein for dinner. For our fellow Caribbean natives, this means labouyi (porridge) in the morning and not at 8pm! All in the name of slimmer looking core!
Now I know what some of you may be thinking, I’ve attacked your rice, your fruits and veggies, even your way of thinking, and now your bread! But if you’ve been following the trend of Wellness Corner, you’ll realize it’s all about making one better decision at a time for a healthier and happier you. After all, isn’t what better living is all about anyway?