Discovery of Another Major Problem with Modern Bread

Activist Post – by Heather Callaghan

The modern day gluten-free mania and marketing is creating a backlash. People who are sick of it fall back on “inconclusive” studies or dismiss gluten concerns altogether. Unfortunately, gluten-free fare is often filled with junk ingredients, which creates more distrust.

Many trending diets have cut grains altogether; others say that’s throwing the baby out with the bathwater. While Paleo cuts out the whole food group, organizations likeWeston A. Price recommend avoiding all refined products and using traditional methods of fermentation and soaking. Books like Wheat Belly and Grain Brain aptly scrutinized the genetic engineering and other issues – via radiation – that mutates the product willy-nilly. It’s true, most of today’s grain products bear decreasing resemblance to our great-grandfather’s food.   

Still others point to the pesticides involved as the real culprit for ill health. And then there are added dough conditioners and bromides which block the uptake of iodine to the thyroid. But most people find it difficult to remove one of America’s favorite staples.

Is there a way to enjoy breadreal bread today? One wheat-breeder says yes.

Tom Philpott of Mother Jones reports:

Stephen Jones, a wheat breeder at Washington State University, suspects that we’ve been scapegoating the grain when we should be blaming the oven. Before I explain why, let me make clear that Jones is no apologist for Big Wheat. Back in 2003, the industry-dominated Washington Grain Commission threatened to stop funding his program after he refused to work with genetically modified varieties owned by the agrichemical giant BASF. He eschews conventional breeding—which he believes is all about generating bland strains tailored to the needs of corporate producers—for his own method, which prioritizes flavor.

Even so, Jones doesn’t buy the notion that the modern breeding he shuns is causing bad reactions to bread. “It’s not wheat itself,” he says, pointing to a 2013 study by the US Department of Agriculture that found “no evidence” of increasing levels of gluten in wheat over the decades. Rather, Jones believes that the true problem with bread is how we make it. In commercial bakeries, rising time has been winnowed from hours or even days down to mere minutes, thanks to fast-acting yeasts and additives. By contrast, the team in Jones’ laboratory, located in a rural stretch along Puget Sound, lets dough rise for as long as 12 hours—and they’ve found that the longer it rises, the less potent the gluten that remains in the finished bread. [emphasis added, HC]

While Jones, being a wheat-breeder, supports the actual wheat, which may or may not be irradiated/sprayed with pesticides – by not using the additives and letting the dough do its thing, the more the bread resembles original bread.

Jones told Philpott of the gratuitous amounts of gluten that areadded to modern commercial bread on top of the amounts present in the finished, rush-baked product. Truly unnatural amounts. He says to look for “vital wheat gluten” among other gluten additives on the label. Allegedly, the nation’s vital gluten intake per capita has tripled in nearly 40 years. Jones firmly believes it is the baking process causing the problems, not the wheat – what do you think?

For what it’s worth Philpott became a believer in Jones’ method when he made a slow-fermented whole-wheat bread with one of Jones’ sourdough starters. Afterward, he did not feel bloated, but instead felt great.

The good news if you wish to continue eating bread? You can make your own traditional bread – let the dough do its business. Speaking of business, more bakeries are falling back on traditional methods as a way to streamline the process for bread with few ingredients, without adding the gluten-free junk additives. You can opt to buy from these bakeries for convenience. Hopefully, they remember to tell you to freeze what you aren’t using – a testament to their traditional, natural state – they get moldy fast!

Heather Callaghan is a natural health blogger and food freedom activist. You can see her work at and Like at Facebook.

4 thoughts on “Discovery of Another Major Problem with Modern Bread

  1. Stephen Jones’s line of thinking is pretty much what I follow: wheat flour, particularly whole wheat, needs fermentation (unless using sprouted-wheat flour) to make it digestible. It’s not that wheat contains a high amount of mineral-robbing phytic acid (it’s fairly low on the totem pole of phytic acid-containing whole foods), but both the gluten and commercial yeast seem to need the fermenting time. For some time I’ve no longer bought commercially made bread because, additionally, despite the ingredients label, I can’t be sure what’s been added to it.

    I know, some of you are nodding off at this point, and that’s ok. But for those of you who are into real-food cooking and baking, here’s my recipe for 40:60 wheat bread (thanks to Mike Avery at for the inspiration for my version of stretch-and-fold dough). Makes 2 loaves:

    356 g whole wheat (WW) flour
    1-7/8 cups whole milk
    2 tablespoons live-culture yogurt, buttermilk, or kefir (or up the milk to 2 cups and mix in 1/4 teaspoon yeast to heated then cooled milk)
    534 g unbleached all-purpose (AP) white flour
    1 tablespoon salt
    1/4 cup water (plus 1 to 2 additional tablespoons water if needed*)
    2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons sugar
    2 tablespoons lard
    1/4 cup water
    1 teaspoon sugar
    1 packet dry active yeast

    *The need for additional water seems to be dependent on the ambient temperature of the kitchen: a bit of additional water is needed for a cool kitchen, but no additional water is needed for a kitchen 80º F or warmer. Plus, it’s easier to knead in a few tablespoons of additional flour than to add additional water when kneading the dough.

    The night before baking, heat milk to 165º F to pasteurize (either raw or commercial milk, the little bugs in there will otherwise retard yeast growth). Or microwave 2 minutes (microwaving is a great way to decimate microscopic biota) and set aside to cool to 100-110º F; then mix together WW flour, milk, and yogurt in a big bowl. Cover bowl airtight and let sit to ferment overnight.

    Next day, heat 1/4 cup water and 1 teaspoon sugar to 100 to 105º F. Stir to dissolve sugar, then stir in 1 packet yeast; set aside to activate yeast and let foam until it measures over 1/2 cup (approximately 15 minutes).

    Whisk the 1 tablespoon salt into the AP flour and set aside.

    Heat 1/4 cup water hot enough to stir in and dissolve 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons sugar and 2 tablespoons lard (melting it), then stir into WW mixture. Stir water-yeast mixture into whole wheat mixture and mix well. Add 3/4 of the AP flour with salt to the whole wheat mixture and stir to mix. Dump the 1/4 remaining AP flour on your countertop, and on top scrape out the WW-AP mixture. Knead to incorporate AP flour. At this point, the dough should be quite tacky but not terribly sticky, i.e., it will stick to the counter if allowed to rest, but will be kneadable without sticking if working quickly.

    Place dough in the big bowl (no need to wash or oil the bowl). Cover airtight and allow to rise 40 minutes in a warm spot (80-85º F is perfect). At the end of 40 minutes, scrape out dough onto counter, and then stretch dough (without breaking gluten strands) into a rectangle big enough to fold in thirds both horizontally and vertically. Fold dough, return to bowl, cover, and let rise 40 minutes. At end of 40 minutes, dump out on counter again, stretch, fold, and return to bowl to let rise again for 40 minutes. At this time, the dough will have risen 3 times.

    Punch dough down, divide dough in half, roll out into rectangles and pop bubbles, shape into loaves, then place in greased bread pans. Cover airtight, let rise until doubled (approximately 1/2 to 1″ above top of pans), then bake at 375º F for 37 minutes (no need to preheat oven) or until loaves are golden brown and sound hollow when tapped. Turn out of pans to cool on wire rack. Enjoy warm with lots of butter!

  2. I don’t buy bread. It’s only a vehicle for other foods.

    One thing I do know is that the big food corporations are owned by people who want me dead, and they’ll sell any poison they can to make another dime.

    MOST of what’s in the supermarket is poison.

Join the Conversation

Your email address will not be published.