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Pairing a slice of bread or loaf with other food (like cheese) can be found in cuisines around the world. Even athletes who are careful about their diet eat sandwiches from time to time. Nevertheless, in Russia, the reputation of sandwiches is still dubious, they are credited with almost magical harm as opposed to a “full” dinner of soup, hot and side dishes. We asked a specialist if sandwiches are really harmful and if they can be a complete, balanced meal.
Sausage sandwich, Four cheese pizza, vegan burger – all these dishes are brothers, they are made from dough or bread and some kind of filling. In Russia and other post-Soviet countries, this is a sandwich, in the USA and Great Britain – a sandwich and a burger, the French prefer croque monsieur, shawarma and burritos are looming somewhere nearby. The popularity of such food is understandable: the sandwich is easy and quick to prepare, it is convenient to carry it with you and to eat on the go, minimally getting your hands dirty. There is no exact data on who first came up with the idea of putting food between two slices of bread – but, for example, the British attribute this invention to IV Earl of Sandwich, John Montagu . Allegedly, the count loved to spend time playing card games and did not have time to have dinner, so he asked to bring himself meat between two pieces of bread.
In Russia, the reputation for sandwiches is grim. It is believed that “dry” food, which is eaten cold and without liquids, is incredibly harmful, leading to gastritis and other stomach diseases. Interestingly, in the English-speaking environment, there is the opposite myth that no liquids should be taken with food. Both of these statements are erroneous from a physiological point of view. For the normal passage of food through the esophagus and further along the gastrointestinal tract, it is necessary to grind and wet it. Both of these processes take place in the mouth and are achieved by thorough chewing, which stimulates the production of saliva. Normally functioning salivary glands allow food to get wet enough and move further along the digestive system.
Another reason people consider sandwiches to be harmful is directly related to bread. Bread causes two fears: it supposedly makes people get fat and it contains “terrible”, “unnatural” and “harmful” yeast. It is customary to talk about bread as “empty calories” – a product that has energy but no nutritional value. In fact, this is not entirely true: bread is a source of B vitamins, as well as minerals such as phosphorus and magnesium. Whole grain bread contains more nutrients as well as fiber, which is necessary for the normal functioning of the gastrointestinal tract.
Despite this widespread belief, bread by itself does not lead to weight gain – and giving up bread will not help you lose weight. As usual, the point is that maintaining a healthy weight does not depend on individual foods, but on the balance of energy from food in the diet and physical activity. If the daily amount of energy consumed exceeds the energy used (both for processes to maintain the vital functions of the body, and for others – movement, concentration, sports), then the person will recover. The daily diet should include a reasonable amount of carbohydrates – not too much and not too little to meet the needs of the body. In small amounts, bread is an excellent source of carbohydrates, and one slice is usually less than a hundred kilocalories .
Bread is also feared because of two other ingredients: yeast and gluten. Yeast is a single-celled fungus that interacts with sugar to produce carbon dioxide. Gluten, or gluten, is a protein found in the seeds of cereal plants that gives the dough its elasticity and firmness. When the dough rises under the influence of the carbon dioxide produced by the yeast, it is the gluten that will allow it to stretch and hold its shape.
There is a legend on the Russian-language Internet that the yeast used in baking bakery products has dire consequences for the body. Among them are called “acidification” (as we recently understood , it does not exist) and the effect on the intestinal microflora (in fact, the positive effect of yeast on the digestive system and even on the immune system is described in the scientific literature ). They say that due to its small size, yeast is able to infect the body – but all these and other explanations have nothing to do with science. For some reason, these articles do not take into account the fact that yeast is living organisms that die at high temperatures and are no longer able to reproduce. Gluten is also not harmful to most people – except for those who have a gluten intolerance.
At the same time, bread is quickly absorbed, supplying the body with energy and allowing us to function normally – this is an absolute plus for those who live in a fast pace. What’s more, by using bread made from whole grain flour or with seeds, nuts, or dried fruit, you can add fiber to your diet, which is essential for normal digestion. Those who do not really like bread can try other baked goods: pita bread, pita bread, bagels or something else. In terms of composition and digestibility, they correspond to ordinary bread.
If you want to make a healthy sandwich, then when choosing a filling, think about what is missing in your diet and how you can improve it. Recall that the World Health Organization recommends consuming at least 400 grams, or five servings, of fruits and vegetables daily – and a sandwich can partially help in achieving this norm. If your diet lacks plant-based foods, add salad, other vegetables or even fruits, and do not be afraid to experiment.
When picking a sandwich, do not forget about high protein foods. These include meat and meat products, eggs, cheese, nut spreads, cereals, and seafood. Remember that increased consumption of red meat, and especially meat products, is associated with the development of malignant tumors – if possible, choose white meat , such as chicken, or at least home-cooked meat.
If you feel like your diet is high in saturated fat, try low-fat cheese. Be warned, though: some foods advertised as “low fat” may contain sugar and salt instead of fat, making them less healthy alternatives. The same goes for sauces – it is better to choose foods that are low in sugar and salt.
Overall, of course, sandwiches can be part of a healthy diet like any other food. The most important thing is to make them varied and balanced, not to eat exclusively on them, to monitor physical activity and diet in general. Scientists believe that no dry food, no yeast, no gluten harm a healthy person, and we have no choice but to agree with them.