Bread is one of the most basic foods. It crosses through an abundance of cultures. It is a food that can start any meal, make up majority of the meal, or be crushed up in various forms and used as an ingredient in many dishes. It is a food we find comfort in, a food with a tantalizing smell yet has so few and basic ingredients.
In Judaism, we use bread or different forms of bread at almost any occasion. We have the Sabbath bread – Challah. Then there is the flat bread of Passover, Matzah. We also have the deep fried, oily bread of Chanukah – doughnuts. In Israel, in addition to all the festive breads and the Middle Eastern breads like laffa and pita – we also have the bread you find in majority of the supermarkets. Take a quick peek at the bread section and you will be overwhelmed by the choices presented in front of you. No more is it simply “white” or “brown” bread – but now there are about 20 other options. I have made it my mission to try and de-code some of them:
Starting with the most common bread, that Israelies usually term it as “normal” bread – also called Lechem Achid.
Lechem Achid is the closest thing to white bread in Israel, not including Challah. This bread is subsidized by the government (4.76NIS) – hence why it is so popular. It is similar to light rye bread that you find in the US, made from unbleached white flour and you will generally see it being served in many restaurants and sometimes find half loaves sitting on top of garbage bins. Not really my cup of tea, but probably goes right up there with pita in terms of its popularity.
Another bread that is hard to miss is “Lechem Kal” – light bread. This bread has half the amount of calories a regular slice of bread has (about 35kcal/slice) – resulting in many people eating 10 slices of bread in one sitting and justifying that it’s “light” bread so it doesn’t count. Most of the nutrients are comparable to regular bread, with only the amount of carbohydrates being the main difference (light bread has less carbs than regular bread.)
Coming up next, is what we called “Lechem Chai” – literally translated as live bread or bread of life. It is made from sprouted whole grains and is relatively high in fibre. Some claim that sprouted grains have 50-1350 times more minerals and vitamins than non-sprouted grain.
‘Lechem Einan’ – seen that one around? This is a variety of bread that is made from whole wheat flour, before it is sprouted, also high in fibre. However, it does have a high Glycemic Index (meaning it will raise blood sugar levels quickly).
The old basic rye bread is called “Lechem Shifon”. Phew, nothing too confusing over here. You may get confused when you see the word “Shiffon” and think of “chiffon” – different words.
“Lechem Dganim” – whole grain bread. Again, pretty straightforward. It is made with whole wheat flour, high in fibre and other good stuff.
You can also find sourdough bread in some of the specialty bakeries like ‘Teler Bakery’ or ‘Lechem shel Tomer’. I am still trying to work out the Hebrew term for this bread (I think it might be ‘Lechem Saor, or Chometz?’)
Of course there is the staple ‘Lachmania’ a long bread-roll, akin to a hot dog roll but slightly more squishy. If an Israeli isn’t eating Pita with chummus, he will be having his lachmania with some tuna and chopped tomatoes and cucumber. Don’t be fooled by some of the brown pitot that are sold fresh in the Shuk. Some of them are simply dyed flour and may not be whole wheat. It’s hard to know seeing as they are sold freshly baked from the oven with no packaging.
What should you look for when buying a loaf of bread?
A few important nutrients to check.
Let’s start off with my favourite nutrient: FIBRE. Fibre is what makes this world go round, well not literally but it’s pretty important. Make sure that the bread has more than 7g of fibre in 100g (in Hebrew – סיבים תזונתיים). The label at the back should give you this information.
Secondly – try and choose something that has less than 300mg of sodium in 100g.
Thirdly – check to see that sugar isn’t listed as one of the first three ingredients.
You will also notice that some of the breads have a stamp “Efshari Bari” – which is a tick of approval from the Ministry of Health and essentially means the bread is at least 80% wholewheat, no more than 400mg of sodium per 100g and no more than 250 calories per 100g of product.
And finally, the less ingredients in the bread – the better..the original bread was just flour and water.
*** please note – there is no hidden agenda to secretly be marketing certain brands of bread.