What's your position on bread these days?
I tend to put my tomato in between the ham and cheese, and peanut butter before the jam.
No, I mean bread: bad or beneficial?
I guess it does feel like a guilty pleasure. Starch and soaring insulin levels, right?
Maybe not. I've recently discovered that breads are big in the "blue zones".
Remind me - what supermarket aisle is that?
Blue zones are regions whose populations have extraordinary health and longevity.
They include Sardinia in Italy, Okinawa in Japan, Ikaria in Greece and Nicoya in Costa Rica. These health havens are all home to prolific bread eaters - especially Sardinia and Ikaria, where it's a daily staple.
Something tells me we're not talking burger buns.
And you'd be right. Sourdough is the star, according to Dan Buettner, the researcher who first defined the blue zones and still studies them.
In Sardinia, he found that elderly people had half as many bone fractures than their counterparts elsewhere in Italy. He credits the gut-friendly properties of their local home-baked sourdough.
Gut and bones? What's the link?
Sourdough is fermented and eating more fermented foods helps your digestive system absorb key nutrients, including magnesium zinc and iron, which all support bone strength - a key factor in longevity.
Fair enough. Although I could just drink kombucha for my ferment fix.
But you wouldn't be getting your whole grains - bread's other health hero.
Wholegrain bread gives more fibre, plant protein, nutrients, and antioxidants - great for heart health and longevity.
Unrefined, organic and as simple as you can is the blue zone way ...
Unrefined, organic and as simple as you can is the blue zone way. And it's also about what you load it with: Blue Zone citizens use bread as a vehicle for fresh fruit, veggies, beans, nuts, avocado, lentils, seeds, and healthy fats like olive oil.
Salad sandwich? I'm in. Just don't talk to me about home baking. I saw enough of that during the pandemic to give me a flour phobia.
Ah. Then you might not like Buettner's other bread bonuses. He reckons that home baking your bread boosts your mental well-being by bringing family and friends together. Plus, he says, the exercise from an hour of solid kneading is a health win in itself.
Dough! I didn't knead to hear that.
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