Is Enriched Bread Good for You?

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Enriched bread may not have as much nutritional value as you think.

You do a fantastic job, MOTHER EARTH NEWS, but occasionally something that is just plain wrong — and even potentially damaging — slips into the magazine. I think this is the case with Mike Carmichael’s enriched bread recipe. Carmichael makes a lot of claims about the nutritional value of his “wonder bread”, and much of what he says is ridiculous nonsense. His most serious error is in claiming a 30% protein content for a loaf made primarily from whole-wheat flour (protein content, about 13%). In fact, the only constituents of Mike’s bread with a protein content of 30% or more are the soybean flour and the brewer’s yeast . . . of which a grand total of three tablespoons are used in the recipe. There are darn few foods — including meats — that supply 30% protein!

Carmichael further states that his bread “contains all the B-complex vitamins with their accompanying essential amino acids”. Wrong again. Vitamins are vitamins: amino acids are amino acids. There are no amino acids that regularly or necessarily accompany the B complex. The eight amino acids not synthesized by the human body must be derived from dietary protein, as Mike says. But — as anyone who has seriously and knowledgeably pursued a vegetarian diet knows — providing the required pattern of amino nutrients in the absence of animal-protein sources is a highly complex task.

The only vitamins recognized as essential in the human diet (and for which minimum daily requirements are thereby established) are A, B, C and D. Although Carmichael praises E for mending the gash on his leg, the healing power of tocopherols has never been proven and is in considerable dispute. I’ve never even heard of the vitamins F and T (what’s that again?) that Mike says his bread contains.

It’s true that there’s a lot of bad food around — a la Ye Olde Supermarket and otherwise — but there’s also a plethora of harmful nutritional information being touted by instant experts. Folks interested in what’s going on in their bodies might well invest a couple of bucks in good old USDA Handbook No. 8, Composition of Foods, which lists the protein, fat, carbohydrate and vitamin content of 2,500 foods (from abalone to zwieback). To discover the amino acid percentage of a wide selection of foods, check out Food Values of Portions Commonly Used by Bowes and Church. Any basic-nutrition text will supply information on the daily amounts of vitamins and amino acids that people require. Peace, and good eating.

Brian Weiss
Del Mar, Calif.