Former research director at INRA in Clermont-Ferrand, Christan Rémésy describes himself as a nutritionist and farmer. For some time he has been fighting for an improvement in the nutritional quality of vegetables, including bread. He publishes save the bread, both a document and a guide asking bread to regain its place as a staple in our diet, but a better nutritional quality bread than most of those consumed in France. This would be, it demonstrates, any benefit to health and biodiversity. The book offers several optimized bread recipes.
LaNutrtion.fr: Why did you write this book on bread?
Christian Remesy : I had an atypical career as a nutritionist because I focused my research at INRA on the role of plant products in maintaining health. I first became interested in the digestive and metabolic effects of dietary fiber, before turning more directly to the nutritional value of fruits and vegetables, which are both rich in dietary fiber and protective micronutrients.
At the end of my scientific career, I realized that most of the supply of white bread was not satisfactory to meet human nutritional needs. It was necessary to improve the nutritional value of the bread, change the type of flour, the bread-making methods, make better use of the sourdough and insert a wide variety of seeds into the bread. But such a paradigm shift could not happen overnight and it took me twenty years to raise awareness and prepare the bakery for this nutritional leap. I have been able to observe in recent years that the bread offer has begun to diversify and that people’s minds are more ready to accept a great return of sourdough and seeds in bread. Hence my decision to write save the bread to drive more meaningful change.
One of the messages in the book is that we should eat bread regularly. Why ?
I have an original answer to this question because I realized that the essence of man in terms of nutrition is to function with a stable food base, which in turn allows him to satisfy his need for food biodiversity. Bread permanently supplies part of the glucose and dietary fiber we need and the regularity of these contributions stabilizes our metabolism and above all our intestinal microbiota. The stability of this microbiota is essential and requires a regular intake of the same sources of dietary fiber. Furthermore, baking with natural yeast ensures the pre-digestion of dietary fibers and there is therefore a notable complementarity between the natural yeast microbiota and that of the intestine. Natural yeast can also synthesize prebiotics. In the end, it is clear that bread plays a much more important role in digestive microbiota balance than many yogurts.
How is white bread harmful to health?
Bread is not an anecdotal food. We eat it all our life, so it has a good or bad influence on our health depending on its nutritional quality. White bread does not seem ideal for staying healthy for at least three reasons: first, its starch is digested too quickly, then it is too low in dietary fiber and finally it contains too much salt. However, eliminating white bread alone is not necessarily a health benefit because there is a good chance that it will be replaced by ultra-processed products or various sources of sugars to compensate for the carbohydrate deficit. In fact, we need a bread with a high nutritional value that serves as a food base for our body.
What is the impact of white bread on biodiversity?
From an ecological point of view, pure wheat white bread is not very conducive to agrobiodiversity. Plus, sticking to pure wheat, whole wheat bread is also not ideal from a nutritional standpoint. My book save the bread he explains that today it is possible to introduce a wide variety of seeds into bread, and in particular of legumes, thanks to the effectiveness of modern wheat gluten in including them in the same matrix. For agriculture, the diversification of seeds for bread making is a good opportunity to reduce the monoculture of wheat.
What are the nutritional differences between sourdough bread and leavened bread?
The role of yeast is mainly limited to the release of carbon dioxide. It has little influence on the activity of the flour enzymes because it has a negligible influence on the pH. As it is very active, it reduces the duration of the enzymatic maturation of the dough which becomes very insufficient: a kind of unleavened bread is obtained.
With the sourdough the wild yeast population is less active than that of industrial yeasts, the leavening of the dough (puntatura) is slower. Furthermore, the sourdough contains a very wide variety of lactic bacteria which inevitably lead, once fermentation is complete, to a lowering of the pH, which has the property of activating a very high number of hydrolytic enzymes, in particular phytases and proteases.
How does the bread you offer in the book bring us closer to the bread eaten by our ancestors?
The bread I called Granipain contains at least 20% seeds and at least 20 seeds. Of course we can go further, but it is not necessary from a nutritional point of view. It is clear that a wide variety of seeds can be used in bread making without significantly changing the texture of the bread. Furthermore, sourdough has the property of developing a specific taste of bread that largely cancels that of the various seeds. It is possible that some people remain attached to pure wheat bread and do not want to change their habits in any way. In a way, granipain is similar to the cakes our ancestors used to make a mixture of crushed seeds fermented with mother yeast. What has changed compared to the past is the availability of wheat, which facilitates the cooking of the seeds thanks to the binding power of its gluten.
Can people with gluten sensitivity eat this bread?
Non-celiac-type gluten hypersensitivity often results from unbalanced nutritional behaviors. When the gut of these people is weakened by insufficient consumption of natural plant products and too many ultra-processed products, there can be a risk of gluten hypersensitivity with plain breads. As soon as the bread is well baked with long fermentation mother yeast, this risk is considerably reduced. Therefore, to eliminate this problem, it is necessary to take care of the entire food mode, adopt sufficient food and plant biodiversity consume bread with a high nutritional value, like the ones I offer. Returning to these solid dietary bases is essential for tolerating wheat gluten perfectly, but when the gluten sensitivity problem is real, recovery can only be gradual.
What can consumers do to get better quality bread? What can supply chains do? The bakers?
I wrote a book on bread to address the general public and initiate a new dialogue between consumers and bakers in order to create a new demand for bread of better nutritional quality. After reading this book, consumers will be able to ask relevant questions to bakers about the nature of the flours or seeds used, or even about baking methods. After so many years of obscurantism, the doors in the bakeries are finally opening!
The modification to be implemented, however, requires that a sufficient diversity of seeds intended for bread-making be ordered from agriculture. Ideally, all grain producers would be in favor of this new diversification of their crops and would support in some way the nutritional revolution of bread what my book offers
Of course, bakers’ adherence to the evolution of bread making is essential for any major change in the bread offering. They will have to appropriate these new cooking methods and adopt the most suitable formulations for them.
Is nutrition labeling mandatory for bread sold in bakeries? What should he mention? Why isn’t it already in effect?
Bread cannot be subject to the same nutritional labeling as products processed by the food industry, particularly as bread can hardly be a standardized food. However, it is absolutely abnormal that the composition of the flours used and the main loaves produced in a bakery are not clearly visible. It would be normal for the bakers’ union and the wheat bread industry to take on this type of information. But having so far opted for a majority offering of white bread, will they have the motivation to do so as this type of nutritional information would detract from the image of the baguette? Public authorities should require nutrition information to be provided on bread. Furthermore, it is urgent to finally clarify the meaning of the type of flour, which remains obscure for an uninitiated public.
It would not be necessary to fully describe all nutrients. Consumers should be able to know the content of carbohydrates, proteins and fibers, those of some minerals such as potassium, phosphorus, magnesium and the salt content, all expressed in nutrient density, for example for 250 kcal. Knowledge of these parameters would be very useful in informing the consumer’s choice.