ARE WHEAT PRODUCTS REALLY GOOD FOR US?

ADDICTED TO BREAD! Goa has several struggling to survive home bakeries doing yeomans’s service…. Goa Bakery offer whole wheat poie, but I love Vicente Pereira padarias at Caranzalem

By Tara Narayan

REALLY, I don’t want to eat bread, I don’t want to eat bread or chappati, phulka, anything with wheat in it, but I must confess these days of coronavirus I’ve been binge eating on Goa’s range of local breads and in particular a certain kunyachya poie. Every morning I trot down to my two favorite local bakeries to get a couple of poie (one for me and one for my Nepali maid Rupa, and some extra for whatever office staff emergency…the hubby, I know won’t eat it).
On my early morning Blue Angel round for milk and bread I end up at either my favorite Vicente Pereira Padaria (Taleigao) where poie is Rs4, or the newer Lohani Foods Goa Bakery a little further up at the crossroads which promises 100% whole wheat flour poie (Rs5). The Goa Bakery poie is smaller, denser, if what they promise is true it must be at least a higher percent of wheat flour instead of maida which is white refined flour with the wheat germ knocked off. Funny, I prefer the Vicente Pereira padaria lighter poie! This is a much older bakery of course and has some history come and go.
Portuguese colonial rule in Goa and India introduced the art of baking bread, but in the colonial days it was 100% wheat flour bread and local palm tree toddy or sur was used to ferment the bread before baking it. Old timers in Goa will recount any number of stories about the goodness of local bakery breads once upon a time! Not that what one gets today is not still favored by locals ….it is for baked bread is bread, the staff of life, a staple and most Goans are addicted to their Goan range of bread picked up from their nearest or favorite bakery; plus, every neighborhood has a bread man on a bicycle or scooter bringing around local bread in a huge wicker basket in the morning at your doorstep – poie, undo, pau, kakon, exotic sounding roll-call of freshly baked bread in heritage wood fire ovens.
I started eating Goan poie, I stopped, I started again, I stopped, and so it went through my years in Goa. And to come down to earth the whole of this coronavirus lockdown days I’ve been addicted anew to poie, buying it every day, stuffing it with butter and dip, dip, dip in hot morning ginger and mint tea, enjoying it out on whatever balcao I have mining perennially changing rentals! In 2001 my life in Goa started with chasing the bread man every morning at Dona Paula and then I quit eating bread. I was reading all these bad things about gluten-rich wheat and how wheat bread made of whole wheat flour or refined flour is actually one of our premium inflammatory foods — high glycemic, makes for belly fat, not good for the heart, etc.
HEY, some of all this is true so take note of it if nothing else. I have it on good account that today’s hybridized wheat going into the making of all our bread is bad, bad, bad. You may or may not know but it all started in the 1950s when scientists started crossbreeding wheat for a so called green revolution and arrived at hardier, shorter, better-growing wheat — Nobel prizewinning US scientist Norman Borlang introduced a compound to wheat. So came into the market this hybridized wheat which is everywhere in our eating habits (from bread to confectionary to biscuits, pastries, cookies, cakes and more). Like it or not wheat flour predominates all other flours in the marketplace. It’s the gluten in wheat grain (and some other grains like oats, rye, spelt) which is reportedly indigestible and gives the small intestines a hard time.
ASK a Dr William Davis (cardiologist) who later certified that hybridized wheat contains sodium azide, a known toxin; plus he said the use of gamma irradiation while processing wheat makes the wheat unfit for food. And we are eating bread day in and day out anyway! It’s the gluten and gliadin in wheat which is of concern to those who suffer from gluten intolerance, celiac disease…and many do these days. They quit wheat foods and felt much better. Not joking. It is gluten protein in wheat which gives bread its chewy texture and body feel…but some of us are gluten intolerant and the culprit may be bread and as in wheat products. Most of us eat too much bread, that too refined bread.
To say the least here my understanding is that eating whole wheat bread is bad enough, let alone eating refined white bread local or factory-made sliced white bread. Nevertheless bread continues to thrive in our life and nowadays bread in everywhere in many tempting varieties to seduce us, we eat it regardless of such things as high glycemic or low glycemic or constipating.
I also recently learned that grains like wheat create LDL or low-density lipoprotein particle forms which in turn convert into artherosclerotic plaque which in turn makes for concrete arteries as time goes by! So strong is the instinct to live that I’m telling myself I better stop eating my poie right away much though I love it or any other made of wheat stuff. Which is easier said than done because I make phulka, paratha, thepla off and on at home, all basically of wheat flour. I mean folk love them and I make them, getting my Pilsbury’s or Ashirwaad whole wheat atta regularly…prices of which just keep going up.
At one time in the 1950s-60s I remember my grandmother insisting her daughters-in-law go buy the best wheat from a friendly family friend merchant in bulk, several kilos, the wheat came in sacks and it was cleansed, checked for stones if any, dried out in the sun, rubbed with wee castor oil and stored in tin drums (with cow dung patties in it)…the wheat was taken out and milled into flour in a domestic flour mill at home regularly as and when current stock ran out. Our fine rotli or phulka, evening bhakri, plain paratha or thepla were much loved and everyone in the family expected them on the table for breakfast, lunch or teatime or dinner….oh, those days are gone with the wind. Today’s mod con women have no time for all that for they’re too busy being superwomen shuttling between home and office careers!
BUT all this is to reiterate beware wheat (it’s part of our dirty air, dirty earth, dirty water, dirty food syndrome times) – don’t want to spoil your love for bread but also remember this is not the wheat bread of old, before hybridized wheat came along with its hard-to-digest proteins. I’m told sourdough bread is marginally better because its fermentation modifies the structure of wheat flour carbohydrate molecules differently….it reduces bread’s glycemic index, slows down the rate at which carb sugars enter the blood. The ideal solution would be to go find the wheat of old if you can (non-hybrid, definitely non-GMO, and organically cultivated, but is anyone growing such wheat anymore?).
All this regardless of the fact that if you love bread you’re going to eat it anywhere! I’ve grown up eating brun-maska in Irani restaurants in Mumbai-that-was-Bombay in the 1970s and in Goa am positively addicted off and on to Goan poie! (Sigh) As the lockdown comes to a close and normal times return I’ve decided to quit eating poie every day just to see if it makes any difference to my creaking heart and hardening arteries, also no more rotli, bhakri, thepla, khakra, dalia kichadi or sheera, all the biscuits crowding the shelves of our stores, etc, etc. Surely one may live life without wheat in life!
All this is not to put you off bread but just a cautionary note about how much bread to eat in life….and if you do have indigestion problems, check yourself out for gluten intolerance or celiac disease (an immune response triggered by gluten in grain, in the long run damages the lining of our small intestines creating inefficient absorption of nutrients…leading to osteoporosis, infertility, nerve damage, seizures, yes, alas, this is what research reveals regardless of whether you want to hear it or not).
STILL on a final note I will always say c’est la vie as the French do. A buttery croissant or a generously buttered poie once in a way on a rainy blue day may not harm — it’s always all things taken together on the scales of justice of systems balance (as a certain Dr Shiva Ayyudurai would say) which add up to scenarios of no return. The clean or “dirty food” we eat has a bearing on our much compromised immune system and how long we may continue to abuse it. We are only as good our immune system, my friends, and this is the lesson we need to learn from coronavirus in town!

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