Baking & Snack - June 2018 - 83
HIGHWAY TO HEALTHY
Learning from previous mistakes can help the baking industry find a place in modern diets.
For the past 35 years, we as consumers have been on a
journey that involves modifying our diets, according to the
latest theories, with the intent of improving our health. To
that end, some ingredients have been demonized, especially in baking. When the science finally matured, we found
out that we had jumped to incorrect conclusions.
In 1988, medical researcher Gerald Reaven created the
term Metabolic Syndrome to make the radical proposal
that many of the diseases inflicting Western society, including heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, cancer, obesity and autoimmune diseases, were actually connected
with common causes. The theory has yet to be proven, but
there is no doubt that the diseases continue to rage with
little indication of abating, despite many attempts at dietary
solutions. We have tried everything from Atkins to Dean
Ornish to South Beach, Paleo, vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free diets, not to mention celebrity and activist prognostications about food.
It started in 1985 when healthy heart crusader Phil
Sokolof took out full page ads in the major newspapers
accusing the food industry of harming Americans by using tropical oils that contained saturated fats. The industry replaced coconut oil, palm oil and beef tallow with
partially hydrogenated soybean oil in response, and we
went on a fat-free kick, reformulating everything to reduce or eliminate fat. We know now that the trans fats
created by partial hydrogenation were harmful and have
since been eliminated. In hindsight, which of course is
20:20, it was incorrect to demonize fat, tropical oils and
saturated fats. Fat is a required nutrient that we must consume daily to live. Saturated fats have now been shown
to have no negative impact on heart disease, and nut and
fish oils are critically important in the diet to provide required linolenic and linoleic acids. Even butter and eggs
have been vindicated.
When we reduced the fat in our diets, we had to replace
it with either protein or sugar. The result has been a marked
increase in sugar consumption. The evidence is now building to show that Mr. Reaven was right. The diseases of the
Metabolic Syndrome are connected, and interconnected,
with a common set of causes. The science is complicated,
but it boils down to three basic issues: sugar consumption,
dietary fiber intake and exercise. These simple causes combine to create and exacerbate a long chain of events in the
body that result in disease.
When we eat a food that contains simple sugars like glucose, sucrose and fructose, the sugars are absorbed rapidly
into the bloodstream. This causes a spike in glucose level in
the blood that stimulates the pancreas to produce insulin.
When the glucose spike is high, the insulin spike will also
be high. Repeated exposure to high levels of insulin over
many years causes various sites in the body to become resistant to the insulin, and the efficiency of glucose transported into the cell diminishes. The result is that glucose
builds up in the blood to unsafe levels, and the body develops diabetes.
Complex carbohydrates, as found in bread and baked
goods, are absorbed slowly when broken down into glucose. Fiber increases the viscosity of food in the intestines,
slowing down the rate of sugar absorption into the bloodstream, allowing the body time to process it safely. Once
again, we are on a path to demonize an ingredient - this
time, it's sugar.
But the real issue is not sugar but the lack of complex
carbs, especially fiber, that moderate sugar absorption.
Baked goods are the perfect vehicle for increasing the
amount of fiber in the diet. This is a huge opportunity for
bakers. Let's not repeat the mistakes of the past by incorrectly demonizing sugar or carbohydrates but, rather, learn
how to use them safely.
www.bakingandsnack.com / June 2018 Baking & Snack 83