Man Can’t Live on Bread Alone…Can He?
August 4, 2015 Matt Salis - Owner, Great Harvest Bread Co. of Denver
Man living on bread alone. What a crazy thing to even suggest. It isn’t possible, is it? It can’t be healthy, can it? Well, we are going to find out. For the entire month of August, I am only going to eat our 100% whole grain Great Harvest Bread Co. bread. No meat. No veggies. Not even a drizzle of honey or a schmear of butter. All bread all the time. No salads. No grilled chicken. No western slope peaches. No corn on the cob. No grass fed bison steaks. No tomatoes from our garden. Not even a glass of ice cold milk to wash down my bread. Bread, bread and more bread from here to September.
The Hype – Wheat is the Devil!
Why am I committed to such a ridiculously singular nutrition plan? Despite the hype and celebrity endorsements for the belief that wheat is evil, I am 100% convinced that whole grains are as healthy as ever, and I intend to prove it. Book writers, talk show hosts and TV doctors make their money by promising their audiences weight loss and improved health. They glom onto unproven theories and claims made by studies with serious scientific flaws and scare the unsuspecting public into believing them. For the past few years, wheat has been in the cross hairs. Those with enough credibility to draw a crowd but enough of a lack of integrity to argue against proven science are making a fortune vilifying wheat. It is being blamed for everything that ails us from obesity to cognitive challenges.
The three biggest health risks we face as a nation are widely considered to be cancer, heart disease and obesity. It has been scientifically proven that a diet rich in whole grains reduces the risk of all three of these killers. Yet, those profiting from leading the anti-wheat party actually blame these deadly diseases on wheat. You can’t have it both ways. Science can’t prove a link between whole grain rich diets and the prevention of these diseases while wheat is also the cause of these same diseases. I guess I am going to bet my own health on the results of hundreds of years of scientific research rather than a guy with anecdotal stories that landed him on the book best seller lists next to the other scary fiction novels.
While I obviously believe in the power of whole wheat, I do recognize that there are people who should not eat it. Slightly less than one percent of our population has an autoimmune disease called Celiac. The gluten in wheat is dangerous, even deadly to Celiacs, and they must avoid it carefully and consistently. I know a little bit about Celiac disease as both my mother and sister have it. I am not bashing people with a true medical need to avoid wheat. In fact, the unnecessary avoidance of wheat and gluten by so many book readers and TV watchers takes away from the importance of avoiding wheat and gluten for those with Celiac disease or other true medical conditions requiring wheat and gluten free diets.
For the rest of us, picture a field of wheat blowing in the wind. You know…the amber waves of grain. They have been there since the beginning of time. Humans have been making bread from this glorious God given bounty for 10,000 years. It has helped civilizations to thrive. It has nourished mankind and allowed us to develop, learn, grow, create and prosper. Now…suddenly…it is to be feared and avoided? It defies logic. The fanners of the hype flame claim genetic changes to wheat. They claim that modern “dwarf” wheat is nothing like the wheat our grandparents ate. They ignore the sugar in our sodas and chemicals in our processed foods and instead blame wheat, our nutritional cornerstone, for our love handles, muffin tops, diabetes and overall lethargy. The fact is that there is no commercially available genetically modified (GMO) wheat anywhere in the United States. The fact is that dwarf wheat is not the result of genetic engineering, but the result of cross breeding by farmers who find the shorter wheat stalks are less likely to suffer wind damage and more likely to provide better yields. Hybridization efforts over the past several decades have made wheat dramatically more plentiful in an effort to solve our world hunger problem. This is not genetic engineering. It is mating wheat varieties with one desired trait with wheat varieties with other desired traits to feed starving children. This is hardly the work of evil scientists. I am not claiming that big agri-chemical companies are not trying to genetically modify wheat to their own benefits. What I am sure of, however, is that today’s high yield dwarf wheat is safe and nutritious. It is the same stuff our grandparents ate. It is the same stuff ancestors 10,000 years ago ate. It is not killing us. It is helping us to thrive!
Our Plan – The One Man Laboratory Experiment
So confident are we that modern wheat is great for our bodies that I am willing to risk my own health to prove it. I had a physical on July 31st. You know…height, weight, urinalysis, blood pressure, pulse rate and a blood panel. I have another physical scheduled for September 1st. In between, I am going to eat only 100% whole grain Great Harvest breads. Thankfully for me, one of the things that has made us successful as Denver’s whole grain headquarters for almost 30 years is variety. My 100% whole grain bread diet will include breads like Parmesan Pepper Bomb, Cherry Walnut, Roasted Red Pepper Swiss, Blueberry Lemon, Dakota with big old roasted pumpkin seeds, Cheddar Artichoke and my all time favorite Whole Grain Sourdough (original, kalamata olive and roasted garlic varieties). Our bread has protein. Our bread has vitamins and minerals. Gratefully, our bread menu offers variety. Don’t get me wrong…even a committed and crazy BreadHead like me will get sick of eating bread. With this wholesome nutritiousness, however, at least I know I won’t get sick.
I will also continue to partake in the occasional pint of liquid bread. That’s right, I am going to continue to drink beer. There are three reasons for taking a break from water as my beverage of choice from time to time. First, beer is basically bread in liquid form. Think about it. Yeast, water, grain…that’s bread in a glass. Second, if I do drop a couple of pounds in this experiment, I want to eliminate a change to my alcohol consumption as a cause for the weight loss. Third, I really like beer. Aren’t I sacrificing enough?
This experiment with a sample size of one and duration of only one month hardly qualifies as a scientifically sound study. Likewise, I am in no way suggesting that a 100% whole grain bread only diet is a good idea. This is not the introduction of the newest fad diet. That would make me no better than the fear mongers that profit from vilifying wheat. I am just a foodie with enough knowledge about nutrition to know that wheat is healthy and is being wrongly accused of a bunch of stuff. I can no longer sit idly by and watch my friends and neighbors avoid something that is so good for their bodies at their own peril. Yes, it is in my own best interest to reverse this trend and destroy this fad. Think about it, though. It is in your best interest, too. After all, we want our customers to live for a long time so that they will remain our customers for a long time. We are not selling books. We are not interested in TV rating from the shock value food scare of the week. We are selling nutrition one loaf at a time for the foreseeable future. Your good health is to our benefit for the long-haul.
We will report my progress every couple of weeks through this blog. If you would like to keep up on my progress more regularly, look for our several-times-a-week posts on Instagram, facebook or twitter. Thanks for your interest in healthy whole grains, and thanks for your support of the Great Harvest Bread Co. of Denver.
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Great Harvest Bread Co.
765 South Colorado Boulevard
Denver, Colorado 80246
Open Mon. - Fri. 6am - 3pm
Sat. 8am - 3pm, Closed Sun.