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Does Wonderbread hurt my stomach?
February 12, 2012 1:19 PM   Subscribe

Help us settle a dispute. Is cheap, supermarket white bread made with finer flour than artisanal sourdough bread? And if so, does the fine white flour lead to more gastrointestinal upset because "it becomes glue in your stomach"?
posted by peter1982peter to Food & Drink (17 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Are you a celiac by any chance?
posted by oceanjesse at 1:23 PM on February 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


No not that I know of...
posted by peter1982peter at 1:26 PM on February 12, 2012


I'm not sure what you mean by "finer" but I suspect that you mean "more [heavily or extensively] refined". If so I believe that the answer "no." Flour is differentiated by gluten content, but once you've refined it, you've refined it.

I am of the belief -- note: I have not done the research -- that cheap white bread is bad for you for other reasons than the flour itself: specifically, that the Chorleywood process does not provide time for the gluten to develop; and more generally, that the bread is filled with chemicals and preservatives. I do note that the wikipedia page on the Chorleywood process says the process allows the use of lower-protein flour than traditional fermented bread.
posted by gauche at 1:31 PM on February 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


s cheap, supermarket white bread made with finer flour than artisanal sourdough bread?

No typically, no. It can be, but the difference is probably more to be connected to things like ash and mineral content, and most importantly various dough enrichers ranging from oils, to gums, in consumer bread. This precludes the artisan bread using flours with more fibre/bran in them, ie wholemeal, rye, etc.

And if so, does the fine white flour lead to more gastrointestinal upset because "it becomes glue in your stomach"?

No. it doesn't work like that. Bread doesn't become glue in your stomach - store-bought white bread is generally super-low in fibre and that combined with low hydration could cause constipation, but it doesn't become glue, least of all compared to artisan bread.

Except for the fibre, the difference between store-bought and artisan bread could be boiled down to the following:

Fat content (oils, etc)
Sugar content (store = higher)
Other enrichers (gums etc to give the bread that lovely soft texture)

Flour is not the culprit here.
posted by smoke at 1:32 PM on February 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


"Artisanal sourdough" generally would have no ingredients other than flour, yeast, salt and water. Supermarket wonderbread often has all kinds of other "stuff" in it; hugh fructose corn syrup, preservatives, etc.
This is supposedly the ingredients list of Wonder bread:
Whole wheat flour: I have no problems with this ingredient
water: same
wheat gluten: this is fine, I add vital wheat gluten to my whole wheat breads all the time
high fructose corn syrup: personally I'm not a fan of eating much of this
contains 2% of less of:
soybean oil,
salt,
molasses,
yeast,
mono and diglycerides: food additive to make it more shelf stable
exthoxylated mono and diglycerides: emulsifier to make the dough smoother
dough conditioners (sodium stearoyl lactylate, calcium iodate, calcium dioxide): again
datem: food emulsifier
calcium sulfate: to keep the bread from getting too moist and moldy?
vinegar
yeast nutrient (ammonium sulfate)
extracts of malted barley and corn: this one is likely OK. I use barley syrup in some breads
dicalcium phosphate diammonium phosphate: used as a 'yeast nutriet'?
calcium propionate (to retain freshness)

Personally I worry less about the flour than about the other ingredients. I like baking and I use super fine cake or pastry flour all the time, and it hasn't turned me into glue yet. ;) You should probably not gorge on white flour, just because eventually it will give you a sugar high, but it's less likely to affect your health than the other stuff in Wonder Bread.


As far as your original question about the flour, I doubt that Wonder Bread is using cake flour but you never know. Many books on baking contain a few pages on Cake flour vs All Purpose flour vs Bread flour. Check out the King Arthur flour yeast bread article -actually the whole website has tons of good information on various flours and breadmaking.
posted by lyra4 at 1:37 PM on February 12, 2012 [6 favorites]


I don't know whether there are any constraints on what flour is used for artisanal sourdough, so for all I know it could be the same. Or it could be the kind of wholemeal which is the same white flour with stuff added back in.

There is a difference between normal industrial flour and stone ground, however. It's not so much fineness I think, although that may come into it. Factory flour is not really ground these days; the wheat is crushed between steel rollers. These get quite hot, unlike stone wheels, which is said to cook off some oils which are retained in stone ground, among other things.

My only knowledge of this comes from working in a flour mill many years ago, so memory may fail or things may have changed. But I think it's quite possible that the flour in two given loaves of the kind you mention is different in various ways which might affect digestibility. Glue, I couldn't say.
posted by Segundus at 1:48 PM on February 12, 2012


the Chorleywood process does not provide time for the gluten to develop; and more generally, that the bread is filled with chemicals and preservatives.

Just a heads up, this process mostly isn't used in the U.S., as far as my meager five minutes of research could find. There's certainly a lot of highly processed bread here, but it's mostly processed in other ways.
posted by limeonaire at 3:07 PM on February 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


The "glue" being thought of is wheat paste, which can be made with raw flour and water. Bread and saliva and stomach acid will not chemically combine to make the same substance.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 3:12 PM on February 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Just a heads up, this process mostly isn't used in the U.S., as far as my meager five minutes of research could find. There's certainly a lot of highly processed bread here, but it's mostly processed in other ways.

Whoops. My mistake. Thank you.

Out of curiosity, what's the U.S. process for making the spongy, virtually crustless "sandwich" bread that is omnipresent in the grocery stores? I just assumed it was the same process but I'd be curious about the details.
posted by gauche at 4:49 PM on February 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


A good explanation of the origin of the U. S. process

It all started out with such good intentions.
posted by mygoditsbob at 5:25 PM on February 12, 2012 [8 favorites]


One significant part of the "evil" of huge production bakery bread is the bleaching process to produce "white" bread. An artisanal bread which uses "bleached flour" would not be a good thing, in my opinion.

When you combine this with the multiple additives used to prolong shelf life and the few things (e.g. sweeteners) to speed the process you have traveled a long, sad road from the locally produced, fresh daily bread we all should know and love.

As significant as the health differences may be, it is the taste that tells the tale. If you don't know the difference yet, try it. It's a different world. (Disclosure - part of a top quality small local bread bakery).
posted by uncaken at 5:38 PM on February 12, 2012


Mygoditsbob, that should be a FPP. Fascinating article!
posted by DoctorFedora at 8:15 PM on February 12, 2012


DoctorFedora, it is one As I just discovered having made one myself and then found it a double in the preview
posted by Blasdelb at 10:13 PM on February 12, 2012


Sourdough is not just a flavor!

A sourdough bread has a bulk fermentation time (i.e. the time between when the dough is mixed and when it is divided and shaped) that is at least triple that of a non-sourdough. In addition to long fermentation time a portion of the dough will come from a sourdough starter that has been fermenting for 12 hours or so. In addition to that sourdough breads are often retarded (or refrigerated) to slow down the yeast and give the bacteria that produce the sour flavor more time to work. Final proof for sourdough breads is usually 2-3 hours. In the end, you're looking at a total production times between 18 and 30+ hours.

A straight dough (one without a preferment of any kind) will use an excess of yeast to compensate for the short fermentation time. Chemicals are sometimes added to to break the starches into sugars the yeast can digest instead of waiting on the natural enzymatic activity. (The article mygoditsbob linked above does a better job than I could explaining how they work.) Bulk ferment for straight doughs is usually on the order of 90 minutes or less, with a final proof of 40-60 minutes. Resulting in a total production time under 3 hours.

In that extra 15 hours, the enzymes, yeast, and bacteria in the sourdough have time to fully break down the starches and digest the sugars in the dough, essentially predigesting your bread for you.
posted by clockwork at 4:36 AM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


There are no artisanal bread police who round up bakers who are using Gold Medal self-rising flower and various additives and industrial margarines to game the color and texture. Some home and craft-bakery bread is awesome. Some is not. None of it is glue.

You might want to do some baking, just for fun, to learn how different techniques and ingredients work.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 7:46 AM on February 13, 2012


Traditional preparation methods, including fermentation, improve nutritive content and increase digestibility of grains. Potentially irritating compounds such as gluten are reduced by these processes. This could be part of any perceived difference between how you handle different types of wheat products.
posted by Earl the Polliwog at 6:42 PM on February 13, 2012


There have been recent studies that have found that with enough fermentation, the sourdough culture breaks down wheat gluten to the extent that it can be tolerated by some of the less reactive celiac patients.

Anecdotally I have found that fermented or partially fermented foods are much easier on my stomach than their raw or simply cooked counterparts. For example, I can't really tolerate cabbage in even a small amount but I am able to consume buckets of sauerkraut with no ill effects.
posted by hot little pancake at 9:20 PM on February 14, 2012


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