OPINION: Only way to avoid eating bread full of sugar is by making it yourself
PUBLISHED: 12:10 08 October 2020 | UPDATED: 12:17 08 October 2020
Some bread served at takeaway restaurants should be classed as confectionary says our columnist
I would never subscribe to the ‘joyless’ school of food, that which would have us all eating meals which were purely about nutrition, and nothing to do with feeding our soul.
In these dark times, the comfort which tasty food can give us is vital to our wellbeing: not just our physical health, but our emotional and mental health as well. That means that sometimes, there are compromises to be made.
We all know, for example, that alcohol is bad for us, but most of us will also know the relaxing and destressing effect that a tipple taken at the end of the working day can have. Low alcohol beer just doesn’t do it, and low alcohol wine is an abomination suitable only for washing paintbrushes.
Many of us, stuck at home during lockdown with time on our hands, have taken to baking (provided we can get hold of any flour). For me, a slice of cake with my afternoon coffee has brought a smile to my face, even as its sugar content adds an extra inch to my waistline. No matter, the beneficial effects on my wellbeing outstrip any possible harm to my physical health; in fact, it’s just encouraging me to run a bit further (and, ironically, giving me the energy to do just that).
Despite the continued efforts of the killjoy Sugar Police, sugar is a vital part of our baking, and a sugar-free cake is both a sad shadow of what it should be, and also no better for us (there is not room here to go into the problems with artificial sweeteners such as aspartame and saccharine).
However, where I do agree with the Sugar Police is when they campaign against unnecessary sugar in foods, which simply panders to a childish desire for everything we put in our mouths to be sickly sweet. So it was three cheers from me for the Irish Supreme Court last week, which ruled that the ‘bread’ used by sandwich chain Subway can no longer legally be defined as bread, because it has a ridiculously high sugar content.
Staggeringly, the dough used by Subway has a sugar content of roughly ten per cent of the weight of flour used, according to the Irish Times. On that basis, a Subway sandwich should really be classed as confectionery.
This surfeit of unseen, unnecessary and unwanted sugar is present is so much of the food we eat. That tomato-based pasta sauce you buy in a jar is also about ten per cent sugar, which means if you use a 450g jar on your family’s spaghetti, you are essentially sprinkling on nine teaspoons of the stuff on their plates.
Perhaps you buy low fat yoghurt, in the hope that by eliminating the fat you will be cutting down on the calories. Well, the texture and flavour has to come from somewhere, and guess what – it’s mainly sugar. About a seventh of what is in the pot is sugar, so not such a diet product after all.
A slice of standard sliced white bread has about 3g of sugar in it, which means every round of sandwiches comes with its own added teaspoon of the white stuff.
The silly thing is that none of this is necessary. Of course you need sugar when you are baking sweet treats such as cake, but there is absolutely no reason to use it in savoury foods or staples such as bread.
This, of course, is the other area where home baking wins through. The many people who have discovered the joy of baking their own bread during lockdown will have realised that as ingredients go, less is definitely more. All that should be in bread is flour, yeast, water and, salt, and a little oil. Leaving out the sugar will not only make it healthier, but it will taste better, too.
What chance is there of our UK government institutions taking the same kind of hardline against the pointless sweetening of our foodstuffs that the Irish government has taken against Subway? The answer, I’m afraid, is very little. Sadly, the confluence of big business and government ministers is so close to corruption as to be indistinguishable from it. Vested interests will always, it seems, take precedence over the wellbeing of the people. Welcome to modern, democratic Britain.
We can get angry about this (and we should), but that will probably just harm our own wellbeing. So perhaps the solution is to get in our kitchens and bake, safe in the knowledge that even if we create something sinful and luxurious, it will probably be better for us than most of the food we buy in the supermarket.
Once again, the answer is cake. Now, what was the question?
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