Friday, August 9, 2013

Wheat Berry Bread

Whole grains are good, right? Therefore, whole grain flour is good, right? Well, according to some sources, it depends.

First of all, in case you haven't met, let me introduce you to the Glycemic Index or GI. I won't go into a lot of detail, but, according to Wikipedia, "the glycemic index ... provides a measure of how quickly blood sugar levels ... rise after eating a particular food. ... A lower glycemic index suggests slower rates of digestion and absorption of the foods' carbohydrates ... . A lower glycemic response usually equates to a lower insulin demand."

The assertion some people make is that the less processed a grain is, the lower the glycemic index. That definitely makes sense if you are comparing, say, white flour to whole wheat flour. But what about whole wheat berries compared to whole wheat flour? One is the powdered version of the other, but, like a puzzle, all of the pieces are still there.

Here's what Andrew Weil, M.D. says:

"Grains in their natural form have a low glycemic index, while processed carbohydrates, including those made with flour or puffed grains, have a high GI. The reason is that it takes longer for digestive enzymes to reach the starch inside whole grains or grains cracked into large pieces, slowing down the conversion of starch to sugar.

"You can be pretty sure you're eating a natural grain with a low GI ranking if you have to chew it or can see grains or pieces of grains in food products. The more your jaw has to work, the better. But when grains are pulverized into flour, whether whole or not, their surface area expands dramatically, providing a huge, starchy surface area on which the enzymes can work. Consequently, the conversion to sugar happens very quickly."

I couldn't find any studies to confirm this. The one study I did find seems to refute it. Its conclusion: "The particle size of whole grain wheat flour did not substantially affect glycemic responses."

According to Livestrong, "Wheat berries have a GI value of approximately 46 [in the low range], according to the Glycemic Index Foundation's GI database."

I could not find a specific GI value for whole wheat flour.

What I did find over and over was more-generalized advice, such as this from Maria Collavo-Clavell, M.D., endocrinologist with the Mayo Clinic:

"Basic principles of the glycemic index diet may help you better manage and control your blood sugar:
  • Choose high-fiber foods, such as whole grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables.
  • Choose fresh or raw foods over canned or processed foods."
My real-life experience is that it is difficult to find whole grain products, period, and to be sure of what you are getting. Which is one reason why I bother buying grains and using them for cooking and baking, most often grinding the grain into flour first.

Having said all that, I decided to bake Wheat Berry Bread. It is my good old Whole Wheat Bread with wheat berries added.

I cooked the wheat berries in my rice cooker: 2 C wheat berries to 6 C water. I think if you just want to eat the wheat berries, as in a salad, you would use less water, about 1 C wheat berries to 2 1/2 C water. I wanted them to be quite soft, so I used the greater amount of water. I also soaked them over night first.

Here's a closer view of the cooked wheat berries:

I added 3 C of cooked wheat berries to my bread dough as I mixed it. The wheat berries add chewiness and a nutty kind of flavor. You can see them in the bread!

After it cooled, I tried a slice ... and another ... and another. Definitely a keeper! I used it to make the sandwich I ate for supper tonight. That's 1 clove of chopped garlic on a slice of bread, a thin layer of Jarlsberg cheese, a layer of cooked broccoli, to be followed by another thin layer of cheese, and topped with another slice of bread.

And then toasted.

Simple and delicious and nutritious.

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