Gerhard’s blog: Bread and Circuses

Gerhard casts serious doubt on whether Prime Minister David Cameron’s decision to ditch bread for his diet is a healthy choice. 

After Christmas, more and more people seem to go on some form of detox or diet. In some ways it’s not surprising. All the socialising over the holiday period is accompanied by copious amounts of food and drink, and those who choose to anchor themselves on their comfy sofa throughout will most likely be piling on a few pounds.

Now, I am not suggesting that our Prime Minister is a couch potato – far from it. We often see him jogging or cycling. Like many of us, however, he found it hard to tighten his belt in January. While, for some of us, this had to do with having to send a nice/nasty (delete as you see fit) cheque to HMRC, in his case it was literally the circumference of the waistline that was the bother.

As a result he decided to go on a diet and, for Mr Cameron, this means no bread! He is not alone in his thinking. Many people look at bread as a culprit for the excessive pounds they carry. In addition, reams upon reams of books have been written about the devastating health consequences of eating wheat- or grain-based products (especially in the US).

I think it is sad that Cameron feels the only way to lose excess pounds is by avoiding bread. Perhaps it’s less the bread, but what goes on it, that compromises his weight. And what about the rest of his lifestyle?

Culture

For me, bread is part of our culture, as well as a balanced diet, and by this I mean variety as well as quantity. For centuries, bread has provided people with a source of fibre, protein and carbohydrates, and much more besides. Clearly, some loaves are healthier than others, and consumers have a choice: sometimes nothing else but a slice of white farmhouse with butter and jam will do, while on other occasions a couple of slices of wholemeal toast are just the ticket with smoked salmon and scrambled eggs. Or I choose a butter croissant with cream cheese, mortadella and avocado followed by fresh fruit salad for my breakfast. This is not, however, something I eat daily and I will probably have a crunchy chicken salad (with a small roll) for lunch and a hearty vegetable soup in the evening (plus a few cake samples in between).

On the other hand, I have to respect that some people burn their carbohydrates more easily, while others store their excess as fat. Not for nothing is there also the term “middle-age spread”, and with Cameron knocking on 50 he needs to account for the changes in his body, but I think he needs to do more than just make a big statement about not eating bread to save him (and the nation) in the long run.

With Britain topping Europe’s obesity tables, there are big issues around nutrition, and the education around food that all governments need to tackle.

On a personal level I suggest to Cameron that he ditch the bread-maker and invest in a fitness tracker, so that he can enter his daily food intake. This will tell him exactly where he goes wrong and what he should eat more of – and bread may not be the culprit. More likely it will tell him that he needs to do more walking and a trek to a bakery might just be the ticket.

Meanwhile, this presents a great opportunity for bakers to highlight healthier breads, such as wholegrain and loaves with extra fibre, nuts and seeds. But let’s not be quiet about it: We can learn from politicians and their sound-bites. We need to highlight the benefits of bread as part of a balanced diet. This is all part of the fun and games of being in business — or should that be bread and circuses?

www.konditorandcook.com

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