This post was originally published on October 28, 2015 and updated on February 26, 2021.
Even if you use whole-grain flour, there’s one way to make your homemade bread even more nutritious. Milled whole grains lose their vitamin E when exposed to air. So unless you’re baking with, and consuming, those grains within two days of their grinding, you’re missing out on this potent antioxidant. It doesn’t have to be this way. Instead of soybean or canola oil, an Australian food scientist suggests palm oil for baking healthier bread. Unlike those other oils, Malaysian sustainable palm oil is chock full of nutrients, and won’t break down at high temperatures.
Oliver Buddrick, Ph.D., is not your ordinary scientist. He’s also a master pastry chef, and is studying ways to enhance baked goods’ health benefits. His recent Journal of Food Chemistry report details the benefits of using red palm oil when baking. Fats and oils are used in baking bread to enhance its texture and volume. Buddrick acknowledges that canola oil is commonly used in Western countries, even though its reputation is tarnished because it’s a genetically modified product. Malaysian sustainable palm oil, however, is non-GMO. “It is natural and balanced,” said Buddrick, “made of half unsaturated and half saturated fat.”
Malaysian sustainable palm oil is nature’s richest source of vitamin E tocotrienols. Buddrick’s research shows that using red palm oil can increase bread’s vitamin E content nearly ten-fold. Two slices of bread made without palm oil contains less than half a milligram of vitamin E, yet jumps to nearly 5 mg — one-third of our daily vitamin E requirement — when using the nutrient-dense palm oil. In his paper, Buddrick notes tocotrienols’ ant-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties, which have shown cardio- and neuro-protective effects.
High-temperature stability is also a desirable Malaysian sustainable palm oil quality. “When you use red palm oil for frying, the vitamin E content is retained after three times of frying with the same oil. In other oils, all the vitamin content is gone after only a single use,” Buddrick explained. With today’s emphasis on more wholesome and natural foods, he says switching oils is an easy way to bake healthier bread. “If you need to use oil in cooking, it’s always better to use something that adds value to your daily diet.”
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