This week’s low-carb swap is for a delicious earthy, nutty, gluten-free wholemeal bread. Only a 20th of the carbs, and far healthier, than regular wholemeal bread.
I love bread, of course I do. But to keep the carb count down, I try to save it for a treat (like in pizza form, for instance!) every now and then. I maybe have a salad, say, for lunch instead of a sandwich. And with my weekly Indian, I have vegetable sides instead of naan bread (and instead of rice, for that matter).
But when I do want something bready at home – and I’m not talking about exotic breads today, but the sort you’d serve in thick slabs with butter on – then this week’s low-carb swap for wholemeal bread is one of the recipes I turn to.
This bread is dense, chewy and filling and absolutely gorgeous fresh out of the oven, left to cool, but served still slightly warm with butter. Texture-wise, it is heavier, and a little more grainy and cakey, than regular homemade wholemeal bread. You can make a sandwich out of it, but I prefer it served chunky with butter, or just plain as an accompaniment – to add some bulk, protein and healthy fats – to complete a vegetable soup lunch.
I also found this was fab slathered with the labneh which I posted the recipe for earlier this week. And I used a tablespoon of the leftover whey from that in place of milk in this recipe. But you can use any type of milk you prefer.
You can toast this bread if you like – although I prefer not to, as it involves heating up the precious, but unstable, healthy oils again, and to a high heat – which may cause them to convert to trans fats. (Several studies have indicated that heating ground flaxseeds to normal baking temperatures does not damage them, but at least one study has shown some rancidity developing in products made with flaxseed that has been cooked twice).
Storage-wise, I keep this bread in the fridge wrapped in foil and a plastic bag once it’s been out of the oven more than around half a day. That’s partly for the same reason that I keep all nuts and seeds in the fridge – to preserve the healthy fats and stop them going rancid. But it’s also because it may go off quicker than shop-bought bread as it doesn’t contain preservatives. In the fridge it keeps very successfully for several days – albeit becoming a little drier over time than when first taken from the oven. And it also freezes, pre-sliced, very well.
If you’re swapping this bread into your diet for health reasons, rather than just for the taste, then your take home message from the numbers below is that this low-carb bread is around only a 20th of the carbs of regular bread. That’s MASSIVELY lower!
You should also be delighted that the low-carb bread contains 15g of predominantly healthy fats (see below for more detail). That is against just 1g of fats in the regular bread, which are likely to be from the sunflower oil in the ingredients. And predominantly that is made up of omega 6, which most of us are getting far too much of (I wrote a brief explanation about that here).
If you’re following a low-carb rather than a low-calorie diet, then you don’t need to worry too much that the low-carb bread has higher calories. The point is that they’re healthier calories that will not spike your blood sugar, and that are likely to keep you satisfied for longer. Exercise portion control and have one or two slices only, as part of a meal that is otherwise made up of non-starchy vegetables.
There is also getting on for 50% more protein in the low-carb bread. There is a little more fibre in the regular wholemeal bread used for comparison here, than there is in the low-carb bread. But that will depend on which brand of regular bread you would have bought. Both breads are a reasonable source of fibre.
|Per 100g||Regular Wholemeal Bread*||Low-Carb Wholemeal Bread**|
* Figures for Waitrose Duchy Organic Wholemeal Batch loaf
** Figures calculated using verified information on the MyFitnessPal Database
Flaxseed (linseed) is a good source of omega 3. It’s far better to grind your own flaxseeds if you can be bothered, as it means the fragile unsaturated omega 3 fats won’t have had the opportunity to oxidise and turn into trans fats, as they might in pre-ground flaxseed that has sat on the shelf.
I use flaxseeds quite regularly in low-carb cooking, so I keep a cheap coffee grinder for this purpose, and just grind them fresh as I need them. But it’s up to you. If you buy pre-ground flaxseeds, then only buy one bag at a time, and store them in the fridge to best preserve their oils (as I do with all nuts and seeds). Make sure you use them before their sell-by date, and that you throw them out if at any stage they start to smell rancid. That would indicate that they’ve converted to trans fats. Your body can’t process these properly and they are massively unhealthy.
If you want to maximise your intake of omega 3 essential fatty acids, use butter from cows that have been grass-fed – I always buy Kerrygold as it’s easiest to find reliably.
Coconut flour also includes high levels of healthy fats. It’s medium chain fatty acids (MCFA) help lower “bad” LDL cholesterol levels and triglycerides in people who have raised cholesterol levels, and to balance blood sugar. I’ve written previously about how almonds may well also have both these effects. So both these ingredients potentially are positively impacting your blood sugar, on top of the fact that you’ve already removed any high-carb ingredients from this bread.
This recipe contains a lot of eggs, and I’ve said before that that’s ok for most people, because many recent studies have now disproven the theory that they raise cholesterol in the body, just because they contain cholesterol themselves.
Eggs are an exceptional source of low-cost, high-quality protein and other nutrients, including vitamin A, vitamin B2, vitamin B12, folate, vitamin D and iodine. Once again, you can increase your omega 3 intake by using eggs laid by hens fed omega 3-rich feed.
You’re not using very much, but nevertheless the optional psyllium in this recipe, made from the seed husks of the Plantago ovata plant, has a high soluble fibre content, making it a powerful but gentle bulk-forming laxative. Coconut flour is also high in both soluble and insoluble fibre.
Numerous studies have illustrated the positive effects that fibre – and psyllium and coconut added to the diet – can have on lowering ‘bad’ LDL and total cholesterol, lowering blood pressure, and helping maintain healthy blood-sugar balance.
Psyllium can also assist in weight-loss as it absorbs liquid and can help give the feeling of being full. That means it’s also necessary to drink plenty of water with it, and that will also maximise psyllium’s effect.
17g of coconut flour may seem an odd amount to include in this recipe, but you need to be really careful with coconut flour in low-carb baking as it also absorbs liquids, far more than wheat flour, and so a very little goes a long way. Use too much and your recipe will turn out way too dry.
This low-carb wholemeal bread is gluten free because it contains ground nuts and seeds in place of wheat flour. It doesn’t include rice, potato and tapioca flours that are typically substituted for wheat flour in shop-bought gluten-free flours, baking mixes and off-the shelf breads. These sorts of flours, of course, are high-carb, and aren’t going to do your blood sugar any good.
The sorts of high-carb, low-nutrient, flours that are substituted for wheat flour are one of the reasons that I don’t personally advocate seeking out gluten-free products unless you really are coeliac or gluten-intolerant. Gluten free bread flours I have looked at have carbs across a range from 75.1g for one brown flour product, to up to as much as 84.8g per 100g for white. Whereas wholemeal wheat flour has around 59g per 100g, and white around 72g.
Acknowledging that it is thought to be an under-diagnosed condition, roughly 1 in 100 people in the UK, or 1% in both Europe as a whole and the US, are currently understood to be affected by coeliac disease. Unless you are one them, or have symptoms that suggest you might be, I believe that most people should be more concerned about keeping blood sugar stable for managing a healthy weight and guarding against diabetes, than about eating gluten-free for dubious benefit.
Phytonutrients are understood to have antioxidant activity that sweeps up free radicals. Flaxseed is the richest source of precursors to a group of phytonutrients called lignans. Many studies have demonstrated that these interfere with the development of several different diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, mental health disorders, atherosclerosis, liver necrosis, urinary disorders, and various cancers.
Makes around 16 slices
Prep: 10 mins
Cooking: 40 mins
- 240g ground almonds
- 100g flaxseeds, ground
- 17g coconut flour
- 1½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 1tsp psyllium husks (optional)
- 55g grass-fed butter (or coconut oil if you wish to avoid dairy), melted and cooled a little
- 1 tsp baking powder (use gluten-free if this is important to you)
- ½ tsp sea salt
- 5 eggs, separated
- 1 tbsp any type of milk (or of left-over whey from making labneh).
- Preheat the oven to 200°C/Fan 180°C/Gas 6/350°F. Grease a 2lb loaf tin (or like me, use a silicone one that doesn’t need greasing).
- In a large bowl, combine all the dry ingredients and mix well.
- Add the egg yolks, melted butter (or coconut oil), and milk. Mix well again with a wooden spoon until well blended.
- With an electric mixer on high speed, or with the egg whisk attachment in a food processor, beat the egg whites until they form soft peaks
- Pour the egg whites into the flour mixture and fold in until mixed.
- Pour into the loaf tin, level out the top, and bake for 40 minutes, or until a wooden cocktail stick comes out clean.