The Karma Sense Wellness Facebook page is a fantastic resource for updates on the latest news in the absurd world of nutrition and health. It’s also a way for me to know what on the minds of the Karma Sense Wellness Media Empire community. And to the people who aren’t too shy to ask, I try to respond with candor, humor and omniety.
In this post, I explore two questions raised by readers.
- Is bread a healthy food option or not?
- Is it better to drink water with or without lemon?
Bread and Water
Growing up, “bread and water” was my parents described my future meals at the reform school I was destined to attend. I always knew it was an idle threat because I really wasn’t that bad a kid. Sure there was that whole streaking incident with the cement mixer, ton of lime Jell-O, and the niece of the town’s mayor but most people have moved on since then.
Today, to serve bread to prisoners would probably constitute cruel-and-unusual punishment. Meanwhile, water is a luxury. After all, bread contains carbohydrates and other nasty ingredients that, according to some, makes you stupid right before it kills you. Water, on the other hand, is something you have to beg for at most restaurants. And when you do, they send over the water sommelier who looks at you like you were involved in the cement-mixer-and-Jell-O-streaking incident because you’re willing to settle for tap water.
And this changing status of bread and water is evident in some questions I recently received on Facebook.
I’m pretty active on several social media channels. I try to post curated, relevant and irreverent health content six days out of every week (on the seventh day he was reverent and irrelevant). Recently I posted an article from a website called T-Nation that defended bread’s role in a healthful diet. T-Nation is one of the go-to sites for the bodybuilding set, a group of folks that tends towards carb-o-phobia. I was excited to see such an iconoclastic article and that’s what inspired me to repost it on social media
One of my readers requested my take on the article and here it is.
The saying goes that man does not live by bread alone. And while man or woman may not want to live by bread alone, both could. According to Dr. Bruce German, a food scientist at UC Davis, “If I gave you a bag of flour and water you could live on it for a while but eventually you would die but if you take that same bag of flour and water and bake it into bread you could live indefinitely.” It’s kind of a different take on the whole “give a man a fish meme.”
In fact, in many ways, the invention of bread is one of the first things in the food world that helped create civilized society. Making bread required the synchronous cooperation of farmers, millers, bakers, and consumers. Conversely, history is fraught with examples of civilization breaking down when people lost their ability to obtain bread. In summary, bread is freaking miracle.
On the other hand, bread gets a bad rap because it’s mostly carbohydrates and it contains <insert dramatic music here> gluten. Most Karma Sense Wellness followers know that I don’t subscribe to the Healthy Lifestyle Militia’s notion that either carbs or gluten are bad for most people. But the trick to staying out of trouble is understanding what bread really is.
Bread in its simplest terms, is a mixture of flour, salt and water. Sometimes bakers add a few more ingredients for flavor or consistency including eggs, seeds and additional grains.
Today’s modern store-bought bread consists of about 20 ingredients. Manufacturers (I refuse to call them bakers) go out of their way to extend the shelf lives of their products. The flour ends up being so overprocessed that extra chemicals and flavors need to be added to cover up for the facts that all nutrition is removed and that the “bread” now tastes like dreck. These extra ingredients include but are not limited to:
- Dough conditioners to help the end product feel spongy like bread instead of spongy like a sponge.
- Preservatives to ensure survival in case of a nuclear holocaust.
- Sugar to increase cravings and to hide the subflavor of preservatives and conditioners.
- Synthetic vitamins to make up for the fact that all of the nutrition was removed when making the flour.
In my opinion, this ingredient list doesn’t represent bread. It represents a chemistry experiment that happens to include bread as one of its reactants.
Real bread can be part of a healthy lifestyle. If you can, buy fresh bread from a real bakery. You’ll be happier and possibly will eat less because it’ll be so much more satisfying. If fresh bread isn’t an option and you need to go the store-bought route, look for versions that have the fewest ingredients. Also, aim that for every fifty calories in a slice there is at least one gram of fiber.
People with diabetes need to be especially mindful of the sugar content. Less important but still a consideration is the glycemic index of bread. You won’t find this index on a bread label but this link is a good start. I say the glycemic index isn’t so important because people rarely eat bread in isolation. Sandwich toppings and spreads include protein and fat. When eaten with other food, the glycemic index of any individual food becomes moot. That means peanut butter, cheese, or even regular butter are good. Jelly and Nutella, not so good.
Oh, and according to my mom and dad, cement mixers, Jell-O and streaking also aren’t such a great idea either.
Okay, you might be thinking, thanks to popular tomes like Grain Brain and Wheat Belly, bread is controversial. But what question could someone possibly have about water being healthy? This question came from my brother. Glen is a well-known troll, who likes to see how long he can keep me bloviating about a seemingly benign question about nutrition. He’s done it to
This question came from my brother. Glen is a well-known troll, who likes to see how long he can keep me bloviating about a seemingly benign question about nutrition. He’s done it to set me off on artificial ingredients and he’s done it to bait me into commenting on stupid commercials. Recently he did it again and it ended up being a question of a broader interest.
Which is better to drink, plain water or water with lemon?
There is a cult of folks who claim that water infused with lemon has miraculous qualities. They’re right. But most of the benefits they assert come from the water and not the lemon. So, the short answer to this question is, drink whichever version assures you’ll consume your daily need for fluids. This advice doesn’t apply if your lemon-infused water also includes sugar, fake sugar, caramel coloring or rum.
But I don’t want to disappoint my brother so a short answer will never do.
For the purpose of this discussion, we’ll assume that your lemon water contains the juice from one-half lemon.
|25% of RDA for Vitamin C.
Antioxidants called flavonoids. Flavonoids are not considered essential nutrients so there is no minimal daily requirement.Many other foods can be a source of either of these nutrients.
Adding lemon to water may improve blood circulation and insulin sensitivity. The antioxidants also decrease oxidative stress which is a fancy word for aging (a growing concern if one were a MUCH OLDER sibling). There is moderately strong scientific evidence that lemon water can help with all of these concrens but the net difference is relatively small.
There is some evidence that adding lemon to water reduces kidney stone risk. The proof is mostly anecdotal and again much of that benefit is likely from the water.
Finally, some claims about lemon water just don’t, ahem, hold water. These include its ability to alkalize/cleanse/detoxify the body, fight cancer, serve as a diuretic (I told you it didn’t hold water) and assures an Atlanta Falcons win. Still, I didn’t want to take my chances with the last one so I drank some lemon and water during the Super Bowl just in case. That drink also contained hops and barley because, um, antioxidants! It turned out that it didn’t help but somehow the combination of ingredients made it so I didn’t care either.
Now it’s important to remember that lemon water has potential downsides. The lemon is acid so it should be avoided by people with ulcers or other digestive tract conditions that are exacerbated by acidic foods. Also, the acid can weaken tooth enamel so be sure to have proper oral hygiene. Mom and dad didn’t spend all that money on your orthodontist so you could throw it away.
Lastly, be aware that depending on how the lemon is handled, it can harbor some nasties. In a Passaic County Community College study (Go Panthers!), researchers analyzed the lemon that accompanied beverages served in 21 nearby restaurants. They discovered that 70% of the samples contained fecal matter or other microorganisms that could make you sick.
Now, it may be easy to brush this study off because of, you know, Passaic. But, even if your local area is twice as hygienic, you’re still being served citrus flavored turds one-third of the time. On the other hand, it’s our aversion to petty annoyances like poop in our water that’s turning our society so soft. It’s just the natural progression of civilization. First bread, then coprophobia.
In conclusion, I harken on back to the halcyon days of ten paragraphs ago and repeat that advice, do what you gotta do, brah!
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