(+ a word on Carbs)
There is just something about a fresh-baked loaf of bread. Sure, it’s super easy to grab a loaf pre-baked and pre-sliced at the store, but it is exactly 874 times better to make your own. Because, 1) You know all the ingredients in it. 2) It tastes better. 3) You can bake extra and store it in the freezer for quick bread needs. 4) Bread makes a great gift + people are always impressed by homemade bread.
Also, it makes me feel kinda awesome whenever I can trade out a store-bought item for a homemade one. I do this as often as possible. [Check out them Homemade Fig Newtons.]
On the subject of bread – I’ve gotten lots of questions regarding it. Is it good for you? Bad for you? Should you avoid white flour and only eat whole grains? You eat bread?
My response: There is a time and a place for everything!
Take, for instance, sweat pants. Post gym-sesh Saturday mornings on the sofa (preferably with a cup of coffee and a nice veggie frittata) is the perfect time for sweat pants. At your best friend’s wedding? Prrrobably not.
In similar fashion, there is a time and a place for a whole spectrum of dietary choices.
And I do mean a whole spectrum. Infra-red through ultra-violet status. Case in point: You know from some of my posts that I’ve gone low-carb before (like when I made this low-carb cheesecake!) Sometimes that’s just what I need. But you also know my love of carby things. I mean… I bake - a lot - and sometimes these baked goodies even have sugar & flour in them. Yes, this is true. Sometimes I even go all crazy and put butter on my toast and frosting on my cupcakes. What can I say? I like to live on the edge.
My point is, though, that I don’t go through life banishing certain foods from my world until the end of time. I believe that as long as we maintain a healthy relationship with our food (more about food-relationships in an upcoming post), are not intolerant/allergic to a food, and know the time and place for each kind of food, it is actually possible to eat pretty much anything you want.
Before I get carried away and write a book on this subject – hey, we’ve got a great recipe to get to, after all – let’s just start with carbs. This is a recipe for homemade bread, so it seems only right that we address the primary macronutrient in bread, no?
Note: I am not a dietician, just someone who does her homework and cares about nutrition – so, as always, keep reading from published scientific articles to learn more! This is just meant to get you interested & looking for facts!
Carbs are surrounded by some of the biggest dietary quandaries, given that they affect blood sugar + fat storage more than dietary fat + protein do. (This is why it’s more important to focus on where your calories come from than how many calories you get!) I feel though, that not enough information or misinformation on carbs can lead to their being thrown out the door and shunned like a bad boyfriend.
Don’t make carbs the bad boyfriend. All kinds of carbs, even fast carbs like sugars, can be helpful… but only if you know (say it with me, now) THE RIGHT TIME AND PLACE FOR THEM.
How much carbs to eat: Your activity level and sensitivity to carbs are big factors here, so each person will need a different amount. I won’t pretend that this exact number is an easy thing to calculate, but it’s usually best to figure out how much you currently eat for a baseline, and then go from there depending on your weight goals or activity goals. The general rule: The more active you are, the more carbs you’ll need to perform at your best.
Ie., If you lift heavy weights, it’s a good idea to keep your carbs a little higher. If you do endurance training, like cycling or running for longer periods of time – 90 minutes or more of steady work – you’ll need more carbs. Some activities, like high intensity interval training (HIIT) sessions, use up more carbs, too. Growing kids need plenty of carbs. That’s who carbs are most important for, generally speaking, but it’s still a tad more involved than that.
Not all carbs are created equal, and timing these carbs makes a difference, too. There are quick (high-glycemic) carbs, and there are slow (low-glycemic) carbs. Quick carbs are what sugars + processed white flours are made up of, and are digested, er… quickly… so insulin spikes when you eat these. (That response is slowed down in combination with fats and proteins, though.) Slow carbs, like sweet potatoes, pears, and oatmeal have fiber that releases the energy more slowly + are generally more filling for longer.
Basically, insulin is secreted by the pancreas in response to carbs (other foods, too, but more with carbs), and it helps your body absorb nutrients. Whatever carbs your body isn’t currently using for repair or energy at the time gets stored as fat. This is why sugary candies and bon-bons and ice cream can really stick to your thighs. *Sigh.* BUT the good news is that if you just got through a killer heavy-lifting workout or a half-marathon, quick carbs are actually your best friend for recovery and repair! That insulin-spiking response will help you absorb the other nutrients/proteins you eat to stop muscle breakdown + start repair (provided you have no metabolic disorders).
One good post-workout combo would be an easily-absorbed protein – like whey protein powder – and a banana or dried fruit. Another combo – good ol’ chocolate syrup + non-fat milk. Yep, that’s correct. For muscle-building, you’re totally allowed a little post-workout suga’ (or white grains!).
As you can imagine, though, those insulin-spikes aren’t so beneficial if they’re occurring all day long. While good for a quick post-workout pick-me-up, it’s also good for fat storage. Most of us don’t need a whole lot more fat storage… do we?
That’s where low glycemic carbs like whole grains + fibrous fruit + veggies are important. These give long-term energy that can carry you through a hefty workout or just through the day. Just don’t forget the importance of moderating the amount you consume + balancing it out with plenty of protein + some healthy fats throughout the day! Overdoing it on total carbs – quick or slow – can lead to extra fat gain, too. Sad, but true. Side note: You won’t get fat eating veggies. Free reign on veggies.
There are also times to cut back on carbs, as I found during the last few weeks of my first bikini competition prep. If you’re interested in the how/why/whatyoueat on a low-carb diet, check out the final phase of my bikini prep diet here + a bit of background on low carb diets here (toward the bottom of the page.)
For most healthy, long-term, balanced diets, though, I believe in eating moderate amounts of carbs from whole grains, fruits, and veggies! One GREAT thing to do is try this whole wheat bread recipe + stock up your freezer with double batches!
P.S. For more quick info on carb types and timing, check out this article by Nutritional Consultant, Mike Roussell.
Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread
- 1 ½ T. active dry yeast
- ½ tsp. brown sugar
- 1 c. warm water (105-115 degrees F.)
- 1 ½ c. lukewarm almond milk (90 degrees F.)
- 1 T. vinegar
- ¼ c. agave syrup or honey
- ¼ c. canola or olive oil
- 2 tsp. salt
- 4 ½ c. whole wheat flour
- About 3-4 cups all-purpose or bread flour*
In a stand mixer or large bowl, combine yeast, sugar, and warm water. Wait about 5 minutes, until the yeast proves it’s alive by foaming up.
Then add the almond milk through 3 cups of the flour. Mix everything together until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add the remaining flour 1 cup at a time, mixing in between. When the dough reaches a smooth but somewhat sticky consistency, turn on your oven for about 30 seconds (may want to set a timer) and then turn it off. This creates a warm, draft-free space for your dough to rise.
Cover the bowl lightly (not air tight) with plastic wrap or a lid and place in the center of the warmed oven. Allow the dough to rise about an hour, or until doubled in size.
Spray two 9 X 5” loaf pans with baking spray.
Roll the risen dough into a ball and cut into two equal halves. Place half the dough on a lightly oiled parchment paper and press into a long rectangle. Roll one short end up to make a tube. Fold both ends up and press down. Flip it seam-side down and place the dough in one of the pans. Repeat with the other side. Spray the top with cooking spray to keep it from drying out and sprinkle on salt/ oats/ chia seeds if you like.
Place the loaves back in the (off) oven and allow to rise 40-50 minutes or until nearly doubled again in size.
Take the loaves out of the oven and place on top of the stove and preheat the oven to 450 degrees. The extra heat contributes to the loaves’ “oven spring” and helps it to get a little lift.
When it is heated, put the loaves in the center of the oven. Immediately reduce the temperature to 350. Bake about 35 minutes, or until the loaves are browned on top and sound somewhat hollow when tapped.
*This amount depends on the consistency of your dough toward the end of mixing.
Makes two 9 X 5” loaves with 12 thick slices each.
Nutrition per slice: 174 calories; 3 g fat (0 g saturated); 33 g carbs; 3 g fiber; 4 g protein