The British certainly do love their bread. But in recent years they have also embraced pasta as a staple food on many family meal tables. In fact, sometimes both bread and pasta feature together!
Apart from being highly versatile, both starchy foods are a great way of “bulking out” a meal, making it more filling. And both bread and pasta are relatively cheap.
But have you ever stopped to consider the impact on your health? Particularly when it comes to cheaper brands that are not as scrupulous about including additives to prolong shelf life.
Maybe it’s time to look more closely at these household staples, and their impact on your body.
UK’s troubled relationship with gluten
It's no secret that diabetes, obesity, digestive problems and allergies are all becoming more common.
When considering food-related health issues, fingers generally tend to wag at sugar, fat and salt. However, there is a growing appreciation that starchy goods – containing gluten – are not as innocent as previously thought.
Gluten is a combination of proteins called prolamins and glutelin. It is found in various edible grass-related grains, such as wheat, oats, barley and rye. Medical science is currently concerned about one of the proteins in gluten - gliadin – which is believed to cause dietary problems. More and more people are experiencing gluten intolerance symptoms and digestive problems leading people to change for gluten free lifestyle. What is strange most of time the test of gluten allergy and intolerance is negative.
Looking deeper into Gluten free products
This understanding has led to many people being advised to avoid gluten, particularly sufferers of celiac disease. Many other people are choosing a gluten-free diet, and they report improvements not only in their digestive health, but also other aspects of their body and mood.
One thing that can trip consumers up though, is failing to appreciate that even gluten-free products still contact starches. The body converts these to glucose, leading to weight gain and adding to diabetes risks.
What to look for in bread and pasta
If you care about what you eat and the impact it has on your health, then bread and pasta need more carefully considered. Opting for the cheapest could certainly be detrimental long-term.
Whatever the marketing information on the packaging of your bread and pasta products, it is highly sensible to check the nutritional information carefully, along with the commercial antecedence of the product.
Part of the problem is the way agriculture has created hybrid grains, which our bodies have not yet evolved to deal with.
It is a myth that “wheat is wheat”. There are many variations in its quality and chemical make-up, including the newer hybrids used for more efficient farming.
Grains vary from country to country too. For example, both durum wheat (often used for pasta) and semolina wheat have a high gluten content.
The problem is that, human body and its genes needs hundred thousand of years to adapt genetically unknown artificial ingredients.
The price of wheat – and the huge market for it - means that big companies produce vast quantities by whatever means possible.
Wheat Commercial Price Per Tonne in UK
Further down the supply chain, the manufacturers of bread and pasta add in sugar, bulking agents and sometimes preservatives. These also complicate the digestive process needed to strip out nutrients from the food and deal with the waste effectively.
From the growers to the supermarket shelves, the emphasis is on making grains – particularly wheat - as cheap as possible to produce, use and sell. From that, they get their profit margins.
Brief supply chain and its cost for manufacturing a bread.
- The average raw price of wheat in UK £140/tonne. 1Kg=£0.14 + Delivery cost + storage (whole year) + profit
- Delivery to mill+ labour cost + operation cost + operation safety cost, maintenance cost of mill + development+ storage of wheat + loss + profit. 1Kg of flour needs 1.3 Kg of wheat.
- Flour delivery cost to bakery
- Added raw ingredients of a bread (grains, seeds, sugar, yeast etc) costs and delivery cost to bakery.
- Bakery: labour + operation and operation safety cost + maintenance cost + loss + storage + product development + profit. Additional cost could be delivery to retailers.
- 1Kg of bread needs 750-800g flour. 800g needs 500-600g of flour.
- The cheapest supermarket 800g bread selling price is £0.80-£1.50 should cover all costs above and profits.
- Is it possible to produce a loaf under £1? (based on economies of scale).
- The selling price of a real 800g loaf should start £3 and this should be the cheapest.
- What do these breads contain?
What consumers can do
The best investment in your health is to not consider the price of bread and pasta, but its origins. Is it from a responsible, ethical supply chain?
Find products that have carefully balanced nutritional values, and the least possible processing or additives. Your body will thank you for it.
Supply chain: is interconnected or interlinked networks. A supply chain is a network between a company and its suppliers.
Economies of scale: The reduction of production cost that is a result of making and selling goods in large quantities, for example, the ability to buy large amounts of materials at reduced prices.
AHDB (2018) Cereals & Oilseeds Available at: https://cereals.ahdb.org.uk/markets.aspx
Investopedia (2017) Supply Chain Available at: http://www.investopedia.com/terms/s/supplychain.asp#ixzz4xI6cjJvp
Cambridge dictionary (2017) Economies of scale in business. Available at: https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/economies-of-scale