As the "have" nations grow richer, their national state of health grows poorer. Persons in less developed areas with a simpler life often experience comparatively better health — even with inferior medical facilities. The difference is often diet. Read in this article the disastrous result of one of modern man's attempts to "upgrade" his food supply — his tampering with bread, the traditional staff of life.
"EVER feel just plain lousy?" inquires the television commercial, sympathetically offering its product for temporary pain relief. That question strikes a familiar chord in most people. Feeling "just plain lousy" seems to be a way of life. For many people, "good health" includes no more than a touch of sinus, bursitis, neuritis, indigestion, heartburn, gas, constipation, poor eyesight, dandruff, brittle fingernails, fatigue, frequent colds, corns, assorted allergies, decayed teeth, blotchy skin, obesity and I or occasional insomnia. In America, the incidence of diabetes is increasing. More than seven million Americans have arthritis. One of ten supposedly "healthy" American males has a stomach ulcer. One of six is sterile. And just about every American knows of someone who has recently died prematurely of cancer or heart failure. In Britain, one in four suffers from chronic bronchitis. One in five develops cancer. Britons suffer in general from obesity and wretched dental conditions. Shockingly early tooth decay is even forcing some British children under six years of age to be fitted with dentures! Medical scientists have begun to piece together a new pattern of disease in Western Europe and America - in fact, in all the "have" nations from Canada to South Africa to Australia. Infectious diseases such as tuberculosis, plague, etc., used to be the main cause of lowered average life expectancies. Today's life-expectancy statistics are barely improved. Modern man is now being tortured by the degenerative diseases, which strike mainly in the second half of life. Doctors refer now to the "twenty years abuse," meaning man can abuse his natural good health for that period of time before the effects begin to catch up with him. Paradoxically, the Western nations have the most advanced medical science in the world — and the most disease. Yet in Africa — even with lower medical standards — persons who continue to eat their traditional foods do not develop the "new" diseases. If they switch over to refined modern foods, they become ill from Western diseases. They begin to experience tooth decay, stomach ulcers, high blood pressure and all the other civilized diseases. One primary culprit is diet.
Ten years ago anyone who questioned the nutritional worth of our "civilized" diet was flatly labelled a food fanatic. Yet even then, travellers and traders in remote areas reported that certain peoples with simple diets were comparatively free of "civilized" diseases until they started eating "white man's food," at which time they started getting "white man's diseases." The situation has changed drastically of late. It has become painfully obvious that our declining state of nutrition is directly linked to our declining state of health. So-called foodless foods have borne the brunt of the strong attack on the failing state of nutrition during the past year. Foodless foods of the obvious types — like candy bars and the much maligned diet soft drink — are, however, not wholly to be blamed. The prime offender is the basic food we eat EACH and EVERY DAY - the food we consider to be healthy and nutritious! The food we consider staple. Today, in the "overkill" discussion on pollution, everyone seems concerned with the foreign material we are putting into the air we breathe, the water we drink. Even when food is considered, the emphasis seems to be on the chemicals inserted into food. But what about the "unfoods" — the natural foods which have had precious vitamins, minerals, and other essential nutrients taken OUT of them?
The Wobbly Staff of Life
Take bread, for instance. Bread, we have been led to believe, is capable of fantastic feats, from building strong bodies umpteen ways to effecting miraculous special-diet weight losses. Bread is good for making sandwiches and for spreading butter on. But is it good to eat? Bread used to be called the staff of life. Historically, bread was highly esteemed in Egypt, classical Greece and Rome, and in ancient Israel. The wheat was ground between millstones which crushed the grain, but did not remove any part of it. This rather "primitive" milling process produced flour of a very high extraction rate. (The extraction rate is the percentage of the whole grain actually used for flour after milling. For example, 85% extraction rate flour contains 85% of the whole grain — 15% having been discarded.) Most people at that time ate wholemeal bread. A relatively low extraction rate white flour was available - but only for the wealthy. It was produced by sieving the coarse flours through papyrus, rushes, horsehair, or flax. Wholemeal bread was symbolic of the "simple life and the good countryside." Tragically, it was also equated with downright poverty. Through the Middle Ages brown flour was relegated to the lower class. It was the only kind they could afford. Things changed with the coming of the Industrial Revolution. White flour became much more common, produced easily by machines which could mechanically separate the different components of the grain. The cost of white flour was drastically reduced. By the beginning of the 19th century, relatively high-extraction WHITE flour products were the acceptable food of the poor, although some "old-fashioned" families continued to produce their own wholegrain flour for another century.
Is Refined Flour Improved?
As the Western standard of living rose, so did a demand for more of what people considered to be "purity" in their food products. The idea of "purity" was being foisted off on a gullible public by mass advertising. This "purity" invariably consisted of separating, or isolating, one part of a natural product from the rest of it. One part was called "fit for human consumption," the other discarded. As the standards of "purity" went up, the separation process became more involved, and the proportion of discarded parts became greater. The first portion of the wheat grain to go was the bran. Some white bread proponents insist that bran is an irritant to the digestive system. (A few self-styled authorities have even proclaimed ALL wheat products to be irritants to the digestive system, and therefore, unfit for human consumption!) Ironically, bran is often ADDED to breakfast cereals to enhance what is delicately referred to as "regularity." In other words, it will prevent constipation — an affliction caused, to a surprising degree, by eating white flour products. Hippocrates knew that white flour passed through the digestive system more slowly than whole. He even recommended it in cases of diarrhea. Bran contains the first three layers of the grain. Directly beneath the bran is the testa. Then there is the aleurone, rich with protein matter, minerals and certain useful fatty substances. Another component of the grain is the germ, containing a high percentage of protein, natural sugars, a considerable quantity of wheat oil, and a large amount of vitamins and minerals. These components of the wheat grain constitute only about 12% of its weight. But remove them and you also remove nearly ALL the valuable nutrients of the grain. We feed them to the animals and reserve the germ for health food stores. No wonder Dr. Emanuel Cheraskin of Birmingham, Alabama, remarked that the American horse and other farm animals have a better general diet than the American people! The people are stuck with the remaining endosperm — mostly plain starch and poor quality protein.
The Chemical Bath
Because of its depleted food value, white flour has a tremendous resistance to spoilage. Insects will not touch it — nor will microbes. They know better. Too bad people don't. Modern production methods demand that flour be kept on shelves over very long periods of time, so someone had to figure out a way to keep those tons and tons of flour from ruining between the mill and the consumer. Modern chemical technology has provided the answer. The unmilled grains are generously dusted with methyl bromide to keep the wheat from spoiling in the bins. It is apparently retained within the grain to some degree. This chemical is in addition to any residue left from applications of insecticides. Hopefully they do not contaminate the flour after it has been milled. But is that hope just a blind assumption? Then, once the flour has been ground, it is aged. Several chemicals will induce artificial aging. Nitrogen trichloride, commonly called agene, was used widely until 1956, when its use was discontinued because it seemed to cause fits in dogs and had been traced to certain eye problems. Chlorine dioxide is used most commonly today. Chlorine dioxide bleaches, ages and preserves the flour in one operation. It also destroys the oils — such as linoleic acid, or vitamin F — and destroys methionine, an essential amino acid. Once the flour is bleached, aged and sterilized, it is still not ready for the bread batter. It has to be conditioned for easier machine production. Calcium stearyl-2-lactylate and sodium stearyl fumarate are widely used. The recipe also calls for a pinch of softeners and emulsifiers to maintain it even when the bread goes stale. Bakers can use lecithin, polyoxyethylene monostearate, stearyl tartrate, or partial glycerol esters. However fresh the 1oaf may seem, it can still go stale. Bread often sits on the grocery store shelf for much longer periods of time than most shoppers would care to know. Production bakeries therefore must add chemical stale-inhibitors. These inhibitors — including monoand diglycerides, di-ace,tytartaric acid esters of mono- and diglycerides, and succinylated mono- and diglycerides — don't really keep the bread from spoiling. They just make it LOOK fresh. Paradoxically, it may well be due to the lack of protein in the bread — or a poor quality of protein which helps speed staleness. According to a paper published by Dr. Stig R. Erlander and Leatrice G. Erlander in the scientific journal Die Starke, vol. 21, pp. 305-315 (1969), the staling of bread occurs when there is a decrease in the amount of protein. By using good whole wheat flour of high protein content, the staling of bread can be essentially eliminated.
Some Other Additions
But we have not yet baked our bread. The recipe calls for still more chemicals. Even though microorganisms would have a hard time surviving in the stuff, commercial bread dough must have mold and "rope" inhibitors and preservatives to ward off that tell-tale black carpet which means the bread is not exactly oven-fresh. Calcium propionate and sodium propionate are the main ingredients. Other substances have also been used — mainly sodium diacetate, bromates, persulphates, acid calcium phosphate, ammonium chloride, fungal amylases, bacterial proteases, and a few others. Once all the chemicals have been added, a modern bakery can produce multiple thousands of loaves which will look the same, taste the same, and stay the same! No one really knows how harmful the chemicals may be. You eat them with the bread. When Dr. Robert S. Harris of the Nutritional Biochemical Laboratory at Massachusetts Institute of Technology once fed a certain anti-staling agent (sorbitan mono laurate) to a group of rats, most of them died within ten days. But as yet, the chemicals used in commercial bread have not enjoyed the same infamy as cyclamates or saccharin. Perhaps more important than the addition of chemicals, however, is the removal of certain NATURAL nutrients in wheat.
The shortcomings of bleached white flour have been warned against repeatedly by students of nutrition since the days when Sylvester Graham (originator of Graham flour) denounced the bread sold by certain Boston bakers. At the time, those outraged merchants made an unsuccessful attempt to keep him quiet. For years persons such as Graham were considered eccentrics who had gotten much too excited over something they couldn't prove. There was "no real scientific basis" for claiming that white flour was nutritionally inferior to wholemeal. But the discovery of vitamins and trace minerals changed things. Two prominent nutritionists had this to say: "The superiority of wholemeal over white flour could be demonstrated in a variety of experiments on animals. Moreover it was shown that in man the nutritional disorder beriberi could arise as a direct consequence of a diet in which bread made from white flour predominated. "...This demonstrable deficiency of thiamine and other vitamins in low extraction flour, and the practical knowledge of the diseases that could arise there from... convinced most nutritionists between the two world wars of the advantage of high-extraction flour (Human Nutrition and Dietetics, by S. Davidson and R. Passmore, p. 254).
What About "Enrichment"?
In both Britain and the United States, bakers began to "enrich" bread. In the U. S., enrichment of white low extraction flour began on a voluntary basis in 1941. It was made mandatory for all bakery white breads and rolls from 1943 to 1946. When this war measure was rescinded in October of 1946, more than half the states continued to require enrichment, and some processors and bakers continued to enrich their products on a voluntary basis. It is economically feasible to replace only what are called vitamins B1, B2, B3, and iron. The iron is generally in ferric form, which the body cannot absorb as well as ferrous iron. Recent tests have shown that the body absorbs greater amounts of iron from whole wheat flour than from enriched flour containing a like amount of iron. The term enrichment is unfortunate. In fact, it is almost humorous to call such bread enriched, when milling removes 40% of the chromium, 50% of the pantothenic acid, 30% of the choline, 86% of the manganese, 16% of the selenium, 78% of the zinc, 76% of the iron, 89% of the cobalt, 60% of the calcium, 78% of the sodium, 77% of the potassium, 85% of the magnesium, 71 % of the phosphorus, 77% of the vitamin B1, 67% of the folic acid, most of the vitamin A, 80% of the vitamin B1, 81% of the vitamin B2, 72% of the vitamin B3, most of the vitamin D and 86% of the vitamin E. How important are these elements? Read the following and judge for yourself.
What Deficient Flour Means to You
Heart attack and diabetes victims are generally deficient in the chemical element chromium. When experimental animals are deprived of this element the inner walls of their blood vessels become thick with fatty deposits much like those which clog the arteries and cause heart attacks in humans. Chickens and other experimental animals deprived of manganese grow improperly and become sterile. Rats and chickens deprived of selenium undergo liver deterioration. Zinc speeds the healing of wounds. And a severe deficiency of zinc has been known to produce dwarfs. Cobalt is vital to the maturing of the red blood cells which carry the iron, which in turn carries the life-bearing oxygen in every warm-blooded animal and man. Calcium is essential in bone and tooth formation. Without sufficient sodium the body cells will either dry up or swell to the bursting point. Magnesium activates exchanges of energy within cells. Phosphorus mediates all the energy exchanges throughout the body, enabling us to move and think. Normal manufacture of DNA and RNA, the chemicals which pass along the genetic code from one generation to the next, depends a great deal on an adequate supply of vitamin B1 vitamin B12, and folic acid. Steroid hormones cannot be produced in the human body without pantothenic acid, nor can sound cell walls be built without choline. Vitamin A is essential in the maintenance of good vision and unblemished skin. Vitamin B2 is important in the maintenance of mucous membranes of the eyes, mouth, and tongue. Vitamin B3 is an important safeguard against pellagra. Vitamin B6 is an important element in the metabolism of the amino acids from which are built the proteins that make up most of the body. Vitamin D is an important mediary in utilizing calcium to strengthen the bones. Vitamin E is important in retaining the structural integrity of cell membranes. All these are vital elements found in wheat; all these vital elements are missing to one degree or another in white flour. All these vital elements are found in the correct ratios and balance in whole wheat. With this in mind, it is a little disgusting to hear the disciples of enrichment refer to white bread as a "modest miracle." Doesn't it seem a little odd to take most of the original organic food value away, put a few chemical substitutes back in, and joyfully call the result miraculous? Dr. W. H. Sebrell of the U. S. Public Health Service was strong in his remark during the forties when the original controversy was on. "To me it does seem a little ridiculous," he said, "to take a natural foodstuff in which the vitamins and minerals have been placed by nature, submit this foodstuff to a refining process which removes them and then add them back to the refined product at an increased cost. If this is the object, why not follow the cheaper, more sensible, and nutritionally more desirable procedure of simply using the unrefined, or at most, slightly refined natural food?"
The Finished Product
White bread may look nice. It smells all right. It is very handily sliced into convenient uniform sections. It also bounces if you wad it up into a little ball. Nutritionally, it is more or less worthless. So far, it has not been controversially linked to cancer, although some of the nutrients removed from it help the body fight this disease. It won't kill you instantly — your death may be long and lingering. President Nixon's French-born nutrition advisor, Dr. Jean Mayer, says America's white bleached dough products would not even be called bread in his native land. Its food value is negative. White flour is preferred by food industry executives because it keeps on the shelf longer than the more nutritious whole wheat bread and because insects avoid it — it doesn't have enough food value to keep them alive.
Our Way of Devitalization
Wheat is not the only devitalized food on the market. Rice is polished, refined and de-nutriented. So are nearly all the major grains — and then "enriched" with a few chemicals. Sugar is refined and is so "pure" that it will not support life. According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, most Americans eat upwards of 100 pounds of the "white death" per year! Sugar is everywhere: soft drinks, ice cream, baby food, canned fruit. Brown and raw sugars contain a few trace elements, but still have been refined. Most experts, realizing the dangers of normal sugar consumption, advise the use of unrefined honey or unrefined molasses as a sweetener whenever possible. Nearly all convenience foods - such as the popular instant frozen dinners — are preserved in a great deal of potentially harmful chemicals. Read the labels and find out! Highly processed foods, when compared to natural products, have fat less nutritional value.
Needed: A Change of System
The industrial societies have built for themselves an environment that will not ALLOW them to live a healthy life. To add to the gargantuan problems of overcrowding and overpopulation, over urbanization, pollution, drugs, crime, etc., etc. — men have knowingly added the further problem of "food pollution." Because the basic tenets of this society involve profit making at a large volume, food production has been made to conform to industry — rather than industry conforming to the quality of food people should be eating. Yet, eating nutritious food in the right amounts and of the right kind and of the best quality is one of the basic laws of radiant health. Once we break that law on a national and international basis, we will have to pay the penalty. In a world busy leaping on the ecology bandwagon, it is easy to forget that environmental pollutions are no more dangerous than the changes in the composition of the food we eat — changes which, like environmental pollution, have come as a result of advancing technology coupled with an economic philosophy encouraging growth at all costs If we are to maintain the technology and the economy which allow the sought-after "good life" — and maintain it without increasingly sick and debilitated bodies — something will have to change. We must upgrade the quality of food, rejecting today's chemical-laden, foodless, "empty caloried" foods, or we will continue inexorably on the same path of degeneration. Individually, it is a relatively simple matter to avoid refined sugar. And by taking a little time and expending a little effort, people can substitute whole grain products for devitalized ones. They are available — but not popular. It takes a while to establish a pattern of avoiding over-preserved and processed instant meals, but the results are well worth it. There is a lot the individual can do if he tries. How much is good health worth?
How to Bake WHOLE WHEAT BREAD by Dr. Stig R. Erlander and Leatrice G. Erlander
WHOLE GRAIN WHEAT can be purchased in bulk form from local mills, stores which sell grains in bulk or even by mail from the mill. Most reputable health food stores could give information about the best places to purchase whole grains. The best bread is made from "hard" wheat grown in such areas of the northern United States as Montana or North Dakota. This wheat has a 14% or higher protein content, which is not only nutritionally valuable, but aids in the prevention of bread staling. It is best to grind your own flour.
Using An Electric Grinder
Electric grinders are fairly expensive, costing around $150. But consider the following: An average family may eat one or more loaves of bread per day. If sweet rolls, cakes and other bakery products are considered, this amount is even greater. For a one-pound loaf of good whole wheat bread (such bread is almost impossible to find in many areas) you will pay about 55 ¢. Although they do not grind wheat as quickly and efficiently, hand operated grinders can be purchased for about ten to fifteen dollars. An electric grinder, even though expensive, is well worth the price. The best grinder on the U. S. market at the present time is the All-Grain two-stone electric grinder. For home-made bread, using even more expensive ingredients, the cost of a one-pound loaf is about 24¢ (The following recipe yields two loaves which weigh about one pound each.) By making your own bread, you may save about 31¢ per loaf.
Whole Wheat Bread Recipe
There are many recipes for baking whole wheat bread, some less involved or quicker than others. The recipe given here has been selected because of its reliability and time tested overall quality.
WHOLE WHEAT BREAD (2 loaves) 1 3/4 cups milk 2 tsp. salt 1/3 cup olive oil 1/2 cup water 1/ 3 cup honey 2 eggs 2 cakes of yeast 6 cups whole wheat flour (approx.)
Summary of Procedure
Scald milk and cool slightly. Add salt, oil, honey, water, eggs, and yeast. Mix well. Sift flour and add to mixture. Add enough flour to make dough the consistency of a cake. Let stand 15 minutes. Sift and add more flour until too thick to stir with a spoon. Work with hands and then turn out on floured pastry cloth (fold and push, add flour). Knead for about 10 to 20 minutes. Put back into bowl and let rise until double in size (takes approx. 45 minutes). Divide into two pieces and shape into loaves. Place in buttered loaf pans. Cover and let rise until double in size. Place in oven and set at 350 F. For better rising, do not preheat oven. Bake for 1 hour.