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Carbs, Reconsidered

Paleo diets and gluten sensitivities are not going away, but bread is staging a comeback as part of the farm-to-table movement, using ingredients like wheat berries and other grains that are picked fresh and hand-milled within 24 hours of harvesting. According to bakers and nutritionists, these efforts are more than artisan aesthetics--this bread is loaded with nutrients and safe for carbo-loading

“There’s fiber in there, which is missing from people’s diets altogether,” Adam Leonti, a baker who grinds his own flour for pasta, bread and pizza dough, told The Wall Street Journal. “You have all these enzymes that are alive and volatile, which are extracted from white flour to make it shelf stable. Those are the things your body is searching for to make digestion happen, to make nutrition happen.”

Like other ingredients getting the slow food treatment, hand-milled grains are not cheap. The Wall Street Journal reported how Rick Easton, an acclaimed baker who closed his Pittsburgh bakery, Bread & Salt, a few months ago, paid $1.40 per pound for a whole-milled product, compared with the 20 cents a pound bakers pay for commodity flour.

If hand-milling sounds too pricy and labor intensive, there’s the allure of ancient grains and the emerging sprouted grain movement. The Whole Grains Council describes sprouted grains as kernels that are given the correct temperature and moisture conditions to begin growth. Panera Bread, which offers Sprouted Grain Bagel Flats, touts sprouted grains as “earthy and nutty.” The chain’s website describes sprouted grains as containing starch that is “converted into a simpler form that is easier to digest, offering all the health benefits of whole grains without the problems many people have digesting them. What’s more, sprouting increases many of the grain’s nutrients, including vitamin C, B vitamins, fiber and minerals.”

Sprouted grain products have seen a 12.8 percent growth rate in sprouted grain claims since 2011, according to Nielsen Scantrack, adding up to $97.4 million in retail sales, $74.8 million of which is from retail bread making sprouted claims.

Grocerant-Ready Ideas:

  • Partnerships with local bakers to bring premium loaves to sandwich menus
  • More ancient grains used for in-house baking programs
  • Gluten-free options using ancient grain flours to keep more nutrients intact
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