Monthly Archives: February 2014

Yes, I’d Like it My Way – Hold the Dough Conditioners!

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I realize it’s been said that man cannot live by bread alone, but I’ve generally interpreted that very literally – as in men may be able to live without bread, but not the ladies. I know plenty of women who can indeed subsist quite happily on baked goods, thankyouverymuch. (And maybe coffee.)  My long-term love affair with baked goods has been deflating, however,  as I’ve discovered just what keeps many of our favorite billowy treats so predictably fluffy and chewy. 

I’ve often considered bagels from a well-known chain or a Subway sandwich the least objectionable (and easily vegan) fast food options while traveling; I mean, Subway bakes their own breads, right?  Well. Don’t be fooled by the fresh aromas and hot ovens — Subway dough is highly processed and delivered daily from a factory, each roll uniformly pre-formed and programmed to puff up perfectly and without any large holes every time. How do they do this?

The bread your sandwich is served on at Subway and most other fast-food restaurants (McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, Arby’s, Jack in the Box, to name a few) usually contains “dough conditioners,” including a chemical known as azodicarbonamide (please repeat this four times, fast), which is also used to make yoga mats and the soles of tennis shoes. Yes, that’s right – you’ve been ordering and eating gym equipment all these years.  As if this weren’t bad enough, when heated to a certain temperature, azodicarbonamide breaks down into several products, one of which is urethane, a known carcinogen. Are you lovin’ it??  Subway has recently announced that it is phasing out this particular binder, and I certainly hope they do, but really – don’t we want to be able to pronounce and recognize all of the ingredients we’re putting in our bodies? Wouldn’t you trade a seemingly-immortal, perfectly-uniform roll for a natural product? Of course. The problem is that this information is not widely known.

You may want to put down your bagel for this next negative nutritional nugget: Dunkin Donuts, Dominos Pizza, and Einstein Bros use another type of dough conditioner in their baked goods, an ingredient called L-Cysteine, which is — I can’t believe I’m typing this –usually made from duck feathers and/or hog hair.  I probably have a streak of gray in my hair, an ulcer, and three new large wrinkles in my forehead from digesting this information. For some reason I thought all humans were on the same page re: the sacredness of bread.  Sadly, my friends, this is not the case. 

Luckily, natural bakers abound.  You need look no further than the health food section of your grocery store (Ezekiel 4:9, Dave’s Killer Breads), the farmer’s market, local bakeries, or your own kitchen for baked goods full of healthy, whole ingredients you can pronounce and feel good about eating.  I will be the first to admit I have not baked my own bread for years, but I’m about to start grinding my own flippin’ grains!  I’ll post some bread recipes soon. 🙂

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Coffee, How I Love Thee. . .but dost thou need to be organic?

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So many coffees to sample. So little time. Love love love! (insert crazy face)

Ever since the American Revolution — when tea and powdered wigs were officially deemed un-American — coffee has been our hot beverage of choice (we also consumed insane amounts of whiskey and rum during our early years, but that’s for another time, as is the health effects of huge vats of coffee).

Today Americans consume about 400 million cups o’ java per day — over 4 billion dollars worth of imported coffee beans a year – and I’m afraid I’m responsible for more than my share of these staggering numbers. We actually have a coffee budget in our home, which I blatantly disregard whenever I encounter a beautiful coffee shop, and my students have been known to raise their hands and ask me to slow down if I’m in caffeine-induced super-fast-lecture mode. (Hmmm . . . is this bad?) 

I love my morning (and who am I kidding – late morning, early afternoon) cup of coffee, but I haven’t always paid attention to whether or not I’m buying organic coffee.  It’s not on the Dirty Dozen list of organic foods, and therefore easy to overlook for many of us, but after doing a bit more research into the topic — and finding out that coffee is one of the most chemically treated crops in the world — I’m planning to cut back to one cup a day and make sure I’m drinking an organic brew.  

Most of our coffee today comes from Latin America.  Farmers would like to grow coffee organically, which is cheaper and better for the environment and people’s health. However, because coffee is such a massive market, if we’re not willing to pay a bit more for our beans, they’re going to continue to produce most coffee laden with pesticides and chemicals – to the tune of 250 pounds of chemical fertilizers per acre (yes, you read that correctly!).  A high consumption of pesticides has been linked to various cancers, miscarriages, and all kinds of other nasty health problems, so I think we’re all in agreement that we’d like to avoid them when possible.

But, wait – isn’t your favorite coffee at the ubiquitous Starbucks “Fair Trade Certified”?? This does not necessarily mean farmers are using organic growing methods, but it does ensure they were treated fairly and paid well, which is also important. Unfortunately, only 1.6% of the coffee Starbucks purchased in 2012 was organic. What the what, SB?  Your best bet is to only and always purchase coffee labeled “Fair Trade Certified” and “Organic.” 

Here’s to a beautiful, pesticide-free, fairly-traded day, my friends! 🙂

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