The Advantages of Baking Your Own Bread

The Advantages of Baking Your Own Bread

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Baking bread is a satisfying task.

They look rather harmless, sitting there on your plate. But those two slices of store-bought white bread are probably made with refined flour - a process that strips bread of its fiber, minerals and vitamins. The pair of slices probably add up to 160 to 200 calories, but contain little nutritional value. The obvious remedy to processed bread is baking your own bread - a decision that allows you to have fun with flour and make other healthful choices, such as cutting out salt, adding seeds and nuts and experimenting with nutritious flavorings.

Have Fun with Flour

Whether you choose to bake your homemade bread by hand or in a bread machine, you can substitute half of the white flour called for in bread recipes with whole-grain flour or one-third of the white flour with quick oats or old-fashioned oats. These grains still need some of the bulk supplied by white flour.

In addition to being a good source of energy, fiber and protein, whole grains are healthy because they provide B vitamins, iron, magnesium and selenium. In addition to oats, some other whole-grain flours include barley, buckwheat, corn, quinoa, rye and wheat.

With so many types of non-grain flours crowding out white flour on store shelves, it can be fun to experiment with other healthy substitutes, too. Three varieties include:

  • Almond flour, which is made from finely ground almonds and is rich in fiber and protein. It's a light flour that can replace one-quarter of the white flour called for in a bread recipe.* Coconut flour, made from ground and dried coconut. Since coconut flour absorbs lots of liquid, it's best to substitute no more than 20 percent of white flour for coconut flour. Or, if you increase the ratio, add an egg to help bind the mixture.
  • Garbanzo bean flour, made from chick peas, is high in protein. Try not to fear a “beany” taste in your homemade bread. Once garbanzo bean flour is baked, the flavor is neutralized and tastes mild.

Pass on the Salt

Those harmless pieces of white often disguise something more besides refined flour: sodium, to the tune of 200 milligrams per slice. This makes bread the top source of sodium in American diets, followed by pizza and sandwiches - a redundant ranking since most sandwiches consist of bread.

Make just one sandwich and you'll consume about 17 percent of the sodium you should ingest in one day, according to the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which recommends consuming no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium a day. Baking your own bread gives you the chance to cut back on salt - or cut it entirely.

Add Seeds or Nuts

Seeds can add nutritional value as well as texture to bread. They contribute protein and fiber, as well as healthy fats. Try ground sunflower or pumpkin seeds, or ride the growing wave of favor found in flaxseeds. They're tiny, but they're a good source of fiber, magnesium, manganese, protein and vitamin B1 (thiamin).

Ground nuts can add many of the same nutrients as well as the flavor you crave. Choose from ground almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, pecans, pine nuts and walnuts - all of which are available at most large grocery stores.

Apply Your Signature Touch

For more conventional flavor, substitute yogurt for milk in bread recipes. Greek yogurt is even better than plain yogurt because it contains less sugar and more protein.

Though it may strike you as rather unconventional, it's worth experimenting with diced-up vegetables such as squash, tomatoes and zucchini in homemade bread. Since these vegetables contain a lot of water, it's smart to strain as much of it as possible before adding the veggies to your bread mixture.

Top if all off with your favorite herbs, going easy at first with, say, half a teaspoon of basil, dill, oregano or rosemary. You can always add more to the next batch as you become adept at making your own bread - and enjoying the health advantages in every slice.