(Oh how I will be crucified for this.)
I began eating multigrain bread in place of white bread my first year in chiropractic school. It had more fiber, a bit more protein, some B vitamins, some minerals. And besides, who didn’t eat sandwiches like, 6 years ago?
I didn’t like the nutty texture or flavor, but I ate it anyways. I even bought multigrain Italian bread (big mistake, Italian bread shouldn’t be nutty, it should be crusty and soft, warm, and glutenacously chewy–yes I just made up the word glutenaceous).
Then I switched my rice, from white to brown, or wild depending on my budget. I’m not eating white bread, I shouldn’t be eating white rice either, it was the same concept–the germ was removed, and most of the nutrition was in the germ. Well, brown rice lead me to quinoa, because I heard it had a nuttier taste than rice, and more protein and fiber to boot. Then it was a cascade. Quinoa lead me to chia seeds, and flaxmeal, barley, buckwheat, and amaranth. All grains or seeds, sure, but all began taking the place of pasta and white rice and breads. My meals were now more fibrous, and depending on if I soaked my grains beforehand, more nutritious, and less of a glycemic load on my body. Alternative grains led me to lentils–lentils are my go-to food recommendation for those that I cannot convince to eat meat, as they are higher in protein than most beans.
More things began happening…. I began to read the backs of the packages. I have always advocated for “whole foods.” “Whole grain” and the fact that I could actually see the whole grain kernel in my bread equated with “whole food” in my mind, yet I was still buying up to 50% of my calories in plastic packages–it’s not “whole food” when it comes in a plastic bag. So I read the backs of my packages. I wanted to know what exactly made this bread “whole” or “multi-grain.” Some breads were better than others–they included different kinds of nuts and seeds, some used sugar, and some used high fructose corn syrup, some had 8 ingredients, some had 20 ingredients.
When I moved South and couldn’t find a good Italian bread, I looked into making my own bread, and discovered bread doesn’t need more than four ingredients–flour, water, sugar, and yeast. So what on earth was all that other crap they were putting in it? Soybean oil, dough conditioners, azodicarbonamide, triticale, malt extract? Many of these obscure ingredients are added to make the bread shelf-stable for a longer period of time, or make the dough easier to work with, or generally to facilitate mass production. So for a few weeks last summer I made my own bread by hand. That was short lived, it’s quite time consuming. So I gave up bread. Wait wait, back up–I gave up bread that came in a plastic bag or that called itself “whole grain.” I will never turn down a good Italian bread, let’s make that clear right now.
Bread’s out, but quinoa, nutty rices, barley, buckwheat, beans, and lentils are in. And now my mind was opened to a whole new world without bread.
“Well what do you make sandwiches out of?”
Use lettuce as your bread, or don’t make a sandwich at all and just throw all your sandwich ingredients over a salad instead. Better yet, skip the processed deli meats, and use leftover meats from the chicken you roasted the other night for dinner. That’d be more congruent with my mantra of “whole foods are better than processed foods.”
I strove for healthier options. I didn’t want bread and all its additives, and upon entering my first year in my master’s program for nutrition, I learned about the paleolithic diet and how grains were inflammatory, and how inflammation is the root of most, if not all, chronic diseases.
Grains peaced out for a bit, and I ate vegetables, fruit, and meat. Period. I had discovered where evolution had lead us, as humans, to be nutritionally. It was like a religious awakening.
And all because I gave multigrain bread a chance a couple years before.
Today at the office somebody told me they are making the switch from white bread to multigrain bread. As a scientifically minded doctor with nutritional knowledge, a little part inside me cringed.
But then I recalled my own journey.
And as clinician, I commended them and said that’s a step in the right direction. You see, the difference between a clinician and a scientist is that a clinician needs to take into account the human experience. Some people cannot flip the nutrition switch and go from only pizza and donuts one week to only steak and veggies the next. Most people need to discover for themselves, through a process and a journey, what real food is, and what real nutrition is. As clinicians, we guide them, and celebrate every step in the right direction, even if they aren’t marching along on the well-paved road, but rather meandering about on foot trails. As long as they’re making the conscious decision to begin thinking about their food, as long as they’re moving in the right direction, I’m ok with multigrain bread for a little bit.