‘Diet bread’ fan begins exploration of futuristic fiber

Nearly every Monday after work I head over to the Aunt Millie’s bread factory just down the street from the newspaper building for 35-calorie Healthy Goodness bread, whole wheat bagels and whatever else looks interesting.

My go-to bread.

My go-to bread.

The timing is perfect: Monday is mark-down day at the thrift shop,  and my shift ends at 10 a.m., before most of the good stuff has been snatched up. I usually come out with a big bag of 75-cent loaves of bread, 59-cent bags of bagels and 50-cent packages of Slimwiches to stuff into the freezer.

I love the giant Sunbeam sign with the revolving bread slices that’s gazed out over Pearl Street for as long as I can remember. (When I first started working at the paper it overlooked a seedy stretch of porn shops and transvestite bars. Now there’s a yoga studio, a coffee bar and a shop that sells custom denim creations I can’t afford.)

It’s cool that the company that makes my favorite diet bread – I prefer Healthy Goodness to Healthy Life the way some folks prefer Coke over Pepsi – is just a short walk from my workplace. Though Aunt Millie’s (formerly the Perfection Biscuit Co.) has bakeries throughout the Midwest, its headquarters are in Fort Wayne. They don’t make “my” bread here, though. According to the company’s website, that’s produced in Jackson, Mich.

Underneath all these warm fuzzy feelings, however, I’ve often wondered just how they – and their Healthy Life rivals, Lewis Bakeries out of Evansville – can make a 35-calorie slice of bread. It’s not just that the slices are smaller, though that’s part of it. The key is something called resistant starch. My preferred whole grain variety contains both resistant corn starch and something called resistant maltodextrin. The 35-calorie Healthy Goodness potato bread I picked up yesterday has both of those plus a third variety, resistant wheat starch.

According to Wikipedia,  resistant starch is “starch and starch degradation products that escape from digestion in the small intestine of healthy individuals. Resistant starch is considered the third type of dietary fiber, as it can deliver some of the benefits of insoluble fiber and some of the benefits of soluble fiber.”There’s a boatload of information and studies out there, and I haven’t begun to sort it all out. Here are the conclusions I’ve formed so far:

  • Resistant starch seems to have a lot of health benefits, and appears to refer to the starch/fiber in whole foods as well as  food industry products. Bananas, for example, have resistant starch. It’s the “starch degradation products” that creep me out. One company’s filing with the FDA talked about a heating process that used some kind of acid to treat the fiber involved. But I still don’t have a handle on what exactly starch degradation products are — or how you can tell on an ingredient list what’s regular RS versus a “starch degradation product.”
  • Resistant starch may make the food processing industry the world’s leading producer of bad Borg puns, such as this headline: “Prepare for the ‘Resistant Starch’ Assimiliation — Resistance is Futile.”
  • My hunch that no amount of fake fiber can stop serial overeaters like myself appears to be validated in this study, “Fermentable fibers do not affect satiety or food intake by women who do not practice restrained eating,” published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics in September 2012.
  • There is no end to the oddball diets some people will try, such as the “Potato Diet Hack” that I found on a paleo diet blog, of all places. (This guy purportedly lost 21 pounds eating nothing but 20 potatoes a day for 60 days.)
  • Finally, I don’t have any plans to give up Healthy Goodness bread any time soon, nor do I have any reason to believe, at this point, that there’s anything wrong with it. At 75 cents a loaf, and 35 calories a slice, it’s hard not to keep buying (and eating) it. But it’s been a long time since I baked my own bread – since I lost weight I guess I don’t trust myself not to eat vast quantities of it – and at some point it would obviously be nice to start doing that again.
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