/ Food & Drink

Is bread a cornerstone of your diet?

Traditional bread making has been enjoying a renaissance over the past few years, with a wave of TV shows and festivals promoting real bread and home baking. Is bread a key part of your diet?

This Friday sees the launch of the first ever Real Bread Festival in London. It’s the latest festival to embrace Britain’s renewed love of baking. The Cake & Bake festival took place a couple of weekends ago, while TV programmes like The Great British Bake Off and Britain’s Best Bakery continue to draw in viewers.

But while home baking is enjoying a boom, and a whole new generation of artisan bakers is promoting real bread, there’s an obvious ambivalence towards bread in our culture. Most consumption is still of the supermarket, quick-fermented variety, while lots of us now avoid bread altogether on health grounds. Have we lost confidence in the role of bread our diets?

Give us this day our daily bread?

While bread has gone through a multitude of fads and phases over the millennia we’ve been eating it, it’s invariably been seen as an essential part of a nutritious diet. Phrases such as ‘breadwinner’ and someone’s ‘bread and butter’ show how integral it’s been to our culture.

But since working as a researcher at Which? and talking to lots of people about bread making, I’ve been struck by the number of us who no longer subscribe to the belief that bread is a daily essential, and who now question its nutritional benefits.

My mother has celiac disease – an autoimmune disorder caused by a reaction to gluten – and her necessary avoidance of bread was considered extreme when I was growing up.

Now, I’ve lost count of the number of friends who have decided to give up wheat, yeast or gluten for one reason or another. ‘I’ve got a breadmaker but it just sits in the kitchen cupboard now that I’ve given up bread,’ a friend told me the other day. It’s a common (admittedly largely middle-class) tale that often sees all bread tarnished with the ‘evil foodstuff’ brush.

The stuff of life

Yet, one aim of the Real Bread Festival is to get us to differentiate between real bread and, as Chris Young of the Real Bread Campaign referred to in his guest Convo, ‘the other stuff’.

That is, the industrial ‘plastic loaves’ full of salt, excess yeast, artificial additives and (sometimes undeclared) enzymes, which have accounted for most of our bread consumption since the 1960s. It’s these factory and supermarket loaves, it seems, that are responsible for bread’s reputation among many as inherently indigestible.

In contrast to this, the expert bakers who’ll be appearing at the Real Bread Festival all emphasise the health benefits of a proper daily loaf, and our right to access them. Food writer Rachel de Thample says:

‘A nice loaf of bread from a bakery may cost a little more, but you’re actually buying something that’s good for you, as opposed to something that could wreck your digestive system.’

Will real bread rise again?

Do you still see bread as an important part of your diet? Would you like to see new regulations to make it easier to distinguish real bread from industrial loaves?

And if you’ve given up bread for health reasons, are you willing to try eating ‘real bread’ again to see if you find it more digestible?

If you’re a Which? member who makes your own real bread at home, join us for our online bread-making live Q&A with expert baker Patrick Moore tomorrow from 12pm to 2pm. You’ll be in with a chance of winning a Best Buy breadmaker if you sign up.

Gerard Phelan says:
4 October 2012

Until I retired I ate a slice or two of bread in the evening as a tea/supper meal, my main meal being lunch in the works canteen. Now I am retired, I cook every day that I am at home, so there does not seem to need to continue eating a second meal based on bread. Having written that I made a wholemeal loaf today in my bread machine, but immediately worry that it will go mouldy before I find the opportunities to eat it.

I find it very odd that the British are so keen to regulate life, by passing laws, in this case on bread labelling, which just inspires an sub-industry of advisers on how to circumvent the rules. Our neighbours over the Channel solve the same problem by educating themselves and their children into recognising and demanding quality food.


I’m afraid I settle for nothing less than Waitrose’
most expensive wholemeal, making oneself had
done so (long) years ago but not anymore.

An alternative is good French bread.


I’m afraid following what I’d said earlier, most supermarkets almost w/out exception stock very poor breads as lacking in taste, roughage, fibre ecetera which taken to any (significant) extent causes constipation apart from anything else. These include Waitrose’ budget range.

There is no need to be concerned abt breads going
mouldy as they freeze rather well.

Sophie Gilbert says:
4 October 2012

When I go abroad it’s easy to get good bread. Back here I have to hunt for it. I think it summed it all up one day when I got long life, bake-it-yourself rolls at breakfast in a B&B in the Highlands. I’ll never forget it.

par ailleurs says:
4 October 2012

If you’ve the time make it yourself. You know what’s in it then.Otherwise buy the best you can afford, preferably from a baker. ‘Real’ bread lasts quite a while without going mouldy and makes truly delicious toast when not quite so fresh. Our tastes have changed over the years and we seem to worry about stronger, more robust textures and flavours.
Obviously coeliac sufferers must avoid gluten but the rest of us might be surprised at the differences between good bread and that baked by the Chorleywood process. The real thing hardly affects me but the C’wood stuff makes me bloat up and feel uncomfortable, even when labelled as wholemeal. Hence I no longer eat it. With this approach bread can be a nutritious daily treat in all its varied forms.


Price does seem to be a good measure of quality.

I don’t believe that there is any reason to condemn the Chorleywood process. Yes it is mainly used for bland mass market bread, but it can equally be used for specialist breads. The essential feature is that it requires a very powerful mixer, allowing bread to be made more quickly.


I enjoy fresh wholemeal bread with lots of chewy bits in it, though ordinary wholemeal bread is acceptable for sandwiches. I enjoy eating good fresh bread on its own, without butter or any of the ghastly grease spreads on it. I don’t eat bread every day, because I run out and can’t be bothered to go shopping or to bake it.

I would not feed white bread of any type to ducks.

par ailleurs says:
4 October 2012

Don’t agree with you on Chorleywood bread wavechange. There might be variations of it but certainly in one type it is actually injected with extra liquid gluten.
Whether or not this is detrimental to well-being is debatable but it certainly seemed to affect me in larger doses hence I no longer eat it if possible.
The definite thing about C’wood that makes it unacceptable to me is that it is purely a means of producing large amounts of uniformly shaped ‘bread’ at high speed without the need for long proving etc. A couple of slices of home made or good baker’s bread is very satisfying but I could eat half a loaf of the other stuff in sandwiches and just feel bloated but not satisfied.