Our Better Health

Diet, Health, Fitness, Lifestyle & Wellness


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What the Dairy Industry is NOT Telling You

Magda Rod      March 26, 2014

Why are so many people convinced that dairy is the best source of calcium? A strategic marketing campaign from the dairy industry would have us believe that by drinking milk, we will be protected from bone crippling osteoporosis, but the opposite may be true.

Starting them young: the dairy industry supplies school curriculum that teaches children about the “nutrition” in cow’s milk. Also, most western doctors carry the “3 glasses of a milk a day for strong bones” message to their patients. So how has the dairy industry been so successful in spreading this misinformation campaign? It might have something to do with the fact that over $8 million dollars was spent in lobbying efforts in 2013 alone. Additionally, dairy program subsidies in the United States totaled $5.3 billion from 1995-2012, including $171,578,059 in “milk marketing fees.” That’s right, we’re paying to be misled, and the hidden cost may be our impaired health.

So what is the misinformation in these campaigns? While dairy products from cows’ milk does contain calcium, we don’t absorb all of it. In order to absorb calcium, the body needs comparable amounts of another mineral element, magnesium. Milk and dairy products contain only small amounts of magnesium. Without the presence of magnesium, the body absorbs only 25 percent of the available dairy calcium content. Without magnesium, this excess calcium is utilized by the body in injurious ways.

Additionally, consumption of high protein dairy products like milk creates an acidic environment in the body, which triggers a release of calcium from the bones to bring the blood PH back into balance, and can cause a 50 percent loss of calcium in the urine. In other words, drinking milk leaches calcium from our bones and thereby creates a deficiency in calcium, the exact opposite of the the claims of the dairy industry. This may explain why, as found in The China Study, the countries that are known to consume the highest levels of dairy also tend to have the highest incidence of osteoporosis. Dr. T. Colin Campbell, the world’s leading epidemiological researcher in the field of diet and health, who happened to be raised on a dairy farm, says, “The dairy folks, ever since the 1920s, have been enormously successful in cultivating an environment within virtually all segments of our society–from research and education to public relations and politics–to have us believing that cow’s milk and its products are manna from heaven. … Make no mistake about it; the dairy industry has been virtually in total control of any and all public health information that ever rises to the level of public scrutiny.” He goes on to say, “The association between the intake of animal protein and fracture rates appears to be as strong as the association between cigarette smoking and lung cancer.”

Contrary to the dairy industry’s clever marketing, there are some other reasons why dairy may not be the healthiest source of calcium. High saturated fat content of many dairy products is a risk factor for heart disease. According to Harvard, milk may also lead to an increased risk of ovarian cancer in women and a probable increased risk in prostate cancer in men. As stated on their website, “Clearly, although more research is needed, we cannot be confident that high milk or calcium intake is safe.” Another issue with milk for a lot of people, particularly those of non-Northern European descent, is lactose intolerance. For them, eating or drinking dairy products causes problems like cramping, bloating, gas, and diarrhea.

Cows’ milk is intended for baby cows, not humans. We are the only species that habitually drinks milk from other species, and into adulthood, no less. Dairy cows are kept continually pregnant, and their calves are separated from them upon birth, so the milk intended for them can be sold to us. In the ’40s the average dairy cow produced less than 5,000 pounds of milk in its lifetime. Now, the average cow produces over 21,000 pounds of milk. That’s with an increase of 15% in just the last 10 years. Cows are often genetically manipulated, artificially inseminated, and drugged in order to force them to produce about four and a half times as much milk as they naturally would to feed their calves. Factory farming  has proven to be very profitable for the dairy industry, while harming air, land and water and causing needless suffering to millions of animals. Cows can live up to 25 years, but in the dairy industry cows are typically slaughtered for low-grade beef around their fifth birthday. Most male calves are slaughtered for veal, while most female calves are doomed to the same fate as their mothers.

Adequate, lifelong dietary calcium intake is necessary to reduce the risk of osteoporosis. Consuming adequate calcium and vitamin D and performing regular, weight-bearing exercise are also important to build maximum bone density and strength. With all the delicious substitutes for dairy products these days, one can easily omit dairy from their diet. According to the recommended guidelines for calcium, children 4-8 need 1000 mg and children 9-13 need 1,300 mg and adults, including lactating mothers, need 1,000 mg. There is a long list of plant foods that supply plenty of calcium that is easily absorbed by the body: legumes, green leafy vegetables like kale , collards, mustard greens, turnip greens, bok choy, parsley, and broccoli, cabbage, oats, beans, sesame seeds, almonds, asparagus, as well as fortified plant milks, fortified juices, and firm tofu made with calcium-sulfate.

So when you next hear a dairy advertisement tell you that you need calcium for healthy bones, think about what they aren’t telling you. There are alternatives that may not only be healthier for you, but also kinder to cows, calves and the environment.

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A Better Way to Think About Your Body

Deepak Chopra MD (official)     Founder, Chopra Foundation

We desperately need a new model of the human body. Compliance with the standard model of prevention (moderate exercise, abstinence from alcohol and tobacco, a Mediterranean diet, and stress management) remains fitful and haphazard. Why? It’s not for lack of information but lack of motivation. A positive lifestyle requires that you comply day in and day out for decades if you want to receive the full benefit, which arrives fairly late in life. We pay for early mistakes by a decline that generally doesn’t show overt symptoms until around late middle age. It’s hard to deprive yourself today in order to reward yourself twenty or thirty years from now.

So what would it take to improve people’s motivation? I can find only one answer: reinvent the human body. The way you think about your body leads to the way you treat it. For people to shift their behavior toward self-care and heightened well-being, we don’t need just compliance with standard prevention. There also has to be a drop in our addiction to drugs and surgery as the main approaches of medicine. Over the course of history, there have been four major models of the body:

  • The body as a collection of Nature’s basic elements (the medieval conception of the four humors is an example).
  • The body as the temple of the soul.
  • The body as an expression of the life force (the Chinese concept of Chi is an example).
  • The body as a machine.

Depending on which model your culture accepted, you approached illness and wellness in different ways. A doctor might advise a patient to pray to God as opposed to taking a pill, strengthening his Chi, or correcting imbalances in the four humors. Today the body-as-machine model prevails thanks to the reductionist method of science. Machines are repaired by mechanics who tinker with its defective parts, and that’s basically what doctors do in their practice. But it’s obvious that your body isn’t a machine. Your body is alive, for one thing. It can heal itself. It’s self-organizing and self-regulating. Exercise makes it stronger, whereas a machine, if used more often, begins to wear out.

Yet the biggest flaw in the machine model, as I see it, is its rejection of the mind-body connection. When I was in medical school, no such thing existed. At most we learned about psychosomatic disorders, with the clear implication that they weren’t real, being the result of the patient’s imagination. This situation hasn’t changed much in medical school, sad to say, but the surge in alternative and integrated medicine has brought the mind-body connection to the fore. This development is so important that a fourth model of the body is being formulated as we speak: a systems model.

In the systems model, every cell is intelligent. The body holds together through a constant stream of information that reaches every cell. Homeostasis – a state of dynamic balance – represents health. Inflammation, as yet not fully understood, represents the state of imbalance, leading to many if not most diseases. A person’s habits, attitudes, beliefs, and behavior are the key to well-being, since messages from the brain affect the whole body. The brain plays a critical role in the feedback loops that maintain homeostasis, yet at every level, down to the expression of your genes, feedback repeats the same pattern of input and output. Positive input promotes well-being; negative input impairs well-being.

-The advantages of a systems model can be summarized in a few key points:
– Self-care becomes primary care, not reliance on drugs and surgery from a doctor.
– Beliefs and attitudes assume the same status as physical input, such as food and exercise.
– Improving genetic expression is now possible, extending the benefits of positive lifestyle changes.
– Positive lifestyle changes don’t need years to show benefits but start immediately.
– Most chronic disorders become preventable through routine maintenance of the whole system. This includes heart disease and probably the vast majority of cancers.
– Mind-oriented practices like meditation improve well-being throughout the system, all the way down to the genetic level.

There is abundant and mounting evidence that all of these things are true, which means that a systems model has reality on its side, more so than the machine model. In reality your body is a process, not a thing. Well-being depends on finding your flow, in terms of a relaxed but alert mental state, a steady positive mood about your life, following the natural rhythm of rest and activity, taking realistic, practical steps to reduce stress, respecting the need for a good night’s sleep, avoiding toxins, and relying on your body’s intelligence.

It’s the last point that will radically change people’s behavior, I believe. Our basic attitude should be a reliance on the intelligence that is innate in every cell. Instead of seeing the body as a machine that, like a new car, must deteriorate over time, we should see it as a system that learns, adapts, and improves over time. In short, we need to let the body take care of us, for that is what it’s actually doing. The one thing this amazingly self-sufficient system needs from you is better input. A host of things constitute better input:

– Whatever makes you happier.
– Being more relaxed and accepting.
– Strong self-esteem, a sense of worth.
– Being of service to others, giving.
– Showing generosity of spirit.
– Loving, nurturing relationships.
– Any activity that makes you feel light in mind and body.
– Taking time to play, and having a playful attitude.
– Not stressing out other people.
– Devoting yourself to projects that have real meaning and purpose.
– Being self-aware.
– Expanding our awareness. Growing and maturing from the inside.
– Being comfortable with your inner world.
– Working through negative emotions like anger, envy, and fear.
– Self-acceptance.
– Reverence for Nature.
– Faith and a belief in a higher power, whatever that may be.

As you can see, almost none of this is advice you will hear in a doctor’s office, and much of it goes far beyond standard prevention, which is based on risks. Of course it’s good to avoid risks, but thinking in terms of what can go wrong induces fear, and fear is a very poor motivator over the long run. Becoming happier and more fulfilled day by day is a much better motivator, and as you can see, a systems approach expands our conception of the body to include everything that is mentally, psychologically, emotionally, and spiritually fulfilling. That’s the ultimate reason to embrace the new systems model as far as I’m concerned. Do you agree?

Deepak Chopra, MD, Founder of The Chopra Foundation, Co-Founder of The Chopra Center for Wellbeing, coauthor of Super Brain with Rudolph Tanzi and for more information visit The Universe Within.

 


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5 Ways to Use Social Media to Stay Positive

March 25, 2014    By Sally Wadyka

Before you go on Facebook to check out your friends’ status updates, beware of what might happen. According to new research, there’s a high probability that you’ll catch the prevailing mood online—whether it’s positive or negative. That’s right, Facebook feelings are contagious.

In a recent study published in the online journal PLOS ONE, James Fowler, professor of medical genetics and political science at University of California, San Diego expanded on previous research he’d done about contagious emotions. “We had shown that happiness spreads in face-to-face networks, and wanted to know if the same was true in this new world online,” says Fowler.

So he and colleagues used a software program to analyze status updates from 100 million Facebook users in the 100 most populous U.S. cities between 2009 and 2012. The program measured the emotional content of the posts (more than 1 billion of them) and rated each as either positive or negative. Then researchers looked at how rainy days affected posts—both those of the people living in places where it was raining and among those people’s friends in sunny cities. They found that rain not only increased negative updates, but it also led to additional negative posts in cities where it wasn’t raining.

In short, negative posts begot more negative ones, and positive posts increased positive ones. Interestingly, the positive updates were more powerful.

“We were able to show that your friends who live in different cities are affected by your mood,” says Fowler. “In fact, each happy post we write causes our friends who live in other cities to write one to two additional happy posts as well.” Meanwhile, each negative post spurred about one negative update among friends.

Want your Facebook feed to be cheerier? Here are five ways to use social media to spread positivity.

Post happy things. As Fowler puts it, “If you’re happy and you know it, write a post!”

Use the “like” button. The fact that there’s only a “like” button on Facebook (and no “dislike” one) enables the spread of positive messages, Fowler says. So if a friend posts something upbeat, give it a virtual thumbs up.

Ditch downer friends. Un-friend or hide posts from people who routinely write about the bad stuff, he says. An occasional dose of reality is one thing, but constant negativity will just drag you down.

Share fun pictures and videos, too. Words aren’t the only contagious posts, it seems. Seeing pictures and videos of our friends makes online communication more like seeing them in person. “And as virtual life becomes more real, its emotional impact increases,” Fowler says.

Take to Twitter. Facebook isn’t the only place to improve your mood online. Other research has found that positive tweets are three times more likely to be re-tweeted than negative ones.

source: health.com


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Mother and child activity levels linked: study

By Andrew M. Seaman    NEW YORK    Mon Mar 24, 2014

(Reuters Health) – The amount of physical activity mothers get is linked to their children’s activity levels, according to a new study from the UK.

Researchers found that the exact relationship between mother and child physical activity depended on certain lifestyle factors, however.

“It’s a positive thing that maternal physical activity levels can influence the activity level of their child,” Kathryn Hesketh told Reuters Health. “If more time is spent moving, then activity can increase in both.”

Hesketh is the study’s lead author from the Institute of Child Health at University College London. She worked on the study while at the University of Cambridge.

She and her colleagues write in the journal Pediatrics that physical activity is tied to healthy development among kids, but activity levels are known to fall as people get older – especially after they have children.

Previous studies examining a possible link between parent and child activity levels have produced inconsistent results, they add.

 

momdaughter

For the new study, the researchers used data from 554 four-year-old children and their mothers who were part of the UK Southampton Women’s Survey. Both kids and mothers wore devices that tracked their movements for 14 to 15 waking hours over the course of about a week.

Among children, about five of those hours were spent sitting or standing still. About eight hours were spent on light physical activity such as walking and about another hour was spent on moderate-to-vigorous activity like running.

Among mothers, about an hour was spent standing or sitting still while seven hours each were spent on light and moderate-to-vigorous activity.

More active mothers tended to have more active children. The strength of the association varied depending on the child’s weight, time spent at school, the mother’s education and the time of day and week, according to the researchers.

Hesketh said understanding the factors that influence the relationship between mother and child physical activity may help researchers develop programs to increase activity overall.

And while mothers with young children already face a long list of demands, Hesketh said it’s important to know that even small increases in activity can benefit not just the mothers themselves but also their children.

She said that future research should focus on whether the association exists even as children get older. There also aren’t many studies examining the role of fathers and physical activity among children, she added.

SOURCE: bit.ly/uFc4g2 Pediatrics, online March 24, 2014     reuters


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Scientists Probe Dark Chocolate’s Health Secrets

Heart benefits may stem from reaction in stomach bacteria, research suggests

By Robert Preidt      HealthDay Reporter    WebMD News from HealthDay

TUESDAY, March 18, 2014 (HealthDay News) – It’s said that dark chocolate can be good for your heart, and new research may have uncovered why.

Louisiana State University researchers tested cocoa powders in a model of the digestive tract and found that certain bacteria in the stomach eat dark chocolate, ferment it and then release anti-inflammatory compounds that benefit the heart.

The study was scheduled for presentation Tuesday at a meeting of the American Chemical Society in Dallas.

“We found that there are two kinds of microbes in the gut: the good ones and the bad ones,” Maria Moore, an undergraduate student and one of the study authors, said in a society news release.

“The good microbes, such as Bifidobacterium and lactic acid bacteria, feast on chocolate,” Moore said in the news release. “When you eat dark chocolate, they grow and ferment it, producing compounds that are anti-inflammatory.”

Study leader John Finley, a professor in LSU’s department of food science, said, “When these compounds are absorbed by the body, they lessen the inflammation of cardiovascular tissue, reducing the long-term risk of stroke.”

Finley said he believes this is the first study to examine dark chocolate’s effects on different types of stomach bacteria.

The researchers also found evidence that people could gain even greater health benefits if they eat dark chocolate with solid fruits such as pomegranates and acai.

Data and conclusions presented at meetings typically are considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.


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Canada’s obesity rates triple in less than 30 years

N.L. and N.B. have highest rates of obesity, while rates are lower in western provinces

CBC News Posted: Mar 03, 2014

Obesity rates in Canada have tripled between 1985 and 2011, according to a study from Memorial University in St. John’s.

Dr. L.K. Twells analyzed national and provincial data from a number of Canadian health surveys conducted in that time period. His findings, published by the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ), project that about 21 per cent of Canadian adults will be obese by 2019.

More alarming is the assertion by Twells and his team that health surveys collect information on heights and weights that are reported by individuals. Many people tend to under report and therefore, predictions of Canadians’ body mass index (BMI) are likely an underestimation.


Obesity, defined as a BMI of 30 or higher is associated with health risks such as diabetes, high blood pressure and cancer and associated with an annual cost in Canada between $4.6 and $7.1 billion.

Normal weight is classified as a BMI 18.5 to 24.9 while overweight as BMI 25 to 29.9.

Newfoundland and Labrador and New Brunswick had the highest rates of obesity, while rates were lower in western provinces.

Researchers say they are especially concerned about the massive increase in the extreme ends of the obesity spectrum – class 2 and class 3.

In terms of obesity:

  •     Obesity class 1 is BMI 30 to 34.9.
  •     Obesity class 2 is BMI 35 to 39.9.
  •     Obesity class 3 is BMI 40 or over.

According to the findings:

  •     Obesity rates surged 200 per cent between 1985 and 2011 (from six per cent to 18 per cent).
  •     For the obesity class 3, New Brunswick reported the highest rate (2.8 per cent) while B.C. and Quebec had the lowest at 1.2 per cent.
  •     There was a 350 per cent increase in obesity class 2 and a 433 per cent increase in obesity class 3 overall.
  •     All the provinces had increases in obesity classes 1 and 2.

“These results raise concern at a policy level, because people in these obesity classes are at a much higher risk of developing complex care needs,” said the study’s authors.

In conclusion, the study points to the various national, provincial and local programs aimed at encouraging healthier lifestyles and weight management, but say that “it’s difficult to know which strategies are effective.”

They encourage an analysis of all the programs across the country and for an “improved understanding of why such substantial interprovincial variations exist” in terms of approaches to the prevention and treatment of obesity. 

source: www.cbc.ca


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Has the Gluten Health Mystery Been Solved?

By Tom Philpott   Wed Feb. 12, 2014

Washington State University’s agriculture research and extension facility in Mount Vernon, about an hour due north along the Puget Sound from Seattle, looks at first glance like any recently built academic edifice: that is to say, boring and austere. On the outside, it’s surrounded by test plots of wheat and other grains, as well as greenhouses, shrouded in the Pacific Northwest’s classic gray skies and mist. Inside, professors and grad students shuffle through the long halls, passing quiet offices and labs.

Yet one of those labs is not like the others—or any other that I know of, for that matter. When you look down the length of the room from the back wall, you see two distinct chambers, separated by long, adjoining tables: gleaming chunks of impressive-looking machinery to the left; flour sacks, mixing bowls, a large, multileveled oven to the right. And in place of the vaguely chemical smell of most university labs, you get the rich, toasty aroma of fresh-baked bread.

Mounted on the outer edge of the short wall that divides the two tables, there’s an image of a human brain, with its two halves. “Aha, that symbolizes the lab,” says lab staffer Jonathan McDowell. The left side is the “analytical laboratory, where raw objective data is generated by high-tech machinery,” he says, gesturing to a contraption that measures the protein level in flour. The right side, meanwhile, is the “intuitive laboratory of the artisan baker, where hands and palate are the means of validation.” Taken together, the Bread Lab is like a “unified mind, where science and art coalescence,” he says.

McDowell is a slender, bespectacled, slightly flour-dusted young man in red trousers, black loafers, and V-necked white T-shirt, his face framed by a thick beard and mop of close-cropped dark hair. He looks like he’d fit in better onstage at an indie rock show than at an ag research center in a rural county. Yet he couldn’t be more at home. McDowell is the staff baker here at the Bread Lab, the brainchild of Washington State wheat breeder Stephen Jones, who’s also the director of the Mount Vernon research outpost. Jones believes fervently that grain breeding—the art and science of creating new varieties—has been hijacked by large seed, milling, and baking interests, giving rise to high-yielding but boring varieties geared to the mass production of crappy, and mostly white, bread.

For the last half-century or so, says Jones, wheat has been bred for industrial mills, where it is ground and separated into its three components: flour, germ, and bran. Usually, the flour gets turned into white bread, while the germ and bran—which contain all of wheat’s healthy fats and fiber, and much of the vitamins—go to other uses, including supplements and livestock feed. In most of what we now know as “whole wheat” bread, some—but not all—of the bran and germ are mixed back in.

For Jones, these are inferior products—both in nutrition and taste terms. So he has been working with farmers in the Pacific Northwest to develop wheat varieties that can be milled into flour that’s suitable for being baked directly into bread. And it falls to McDowell—who took over the role of the lab’s baker from Jones himself last year—to show the world that 100 percent whole-wheat bread isn’t just edible, but delicious.

According to Jones and McDowell, low-quality industrial white flours and fast-rising commercial yeasts, along with additives like vital wheat gluten—a wheat product added to give bread structure despite superfast rises—have generated a backlash against bread in the form of the “gluten-free” craze. While people with celiac disease genuinely can’t process the gluten in wheat, they argue, most people actually can. The problem is that most industrial bakeries only allow bread to rise for a matter of minutes—not nearly long enough to let the yeast and bacteria digest all the gluten in the flour, let alone the extra dose in the additives. The result can lead to all kinds of problems in our gut.

McDowell gets philosophical when you ask him about the rise (so to speak) of “gluten-free bread.” In a quiet corner of the lab, he ruminates on the topic. “What has been the staff of life is now perceived as the spirit of disease,” he says. “Symbolically, you can look at bread as a representation of our society through history,” he says. “If you look at gluten as what holds bread together, and you look at bread as what holds our society together, what is ‘gluten-free bread,’ then? Is it not a symbol of our times?” McDowell calls the rush away from bread as it’s commonly made now a “wake-up call” and “opportunity” for bakers to reestablish bread as a healthy, delicious staple. And he sounds genuinely undaunted by the project of doing just that.

Moreover, McDowell and Jones say, wheat that has been bred to be made into white flour doesn’t make very interesting bread—and can be downright unpalatable when people try to make it into a whole wheat loaf. That’s why 100 percent whole-wheat bread has a reputation for being good-for-you but kind of awful—cardboard-flavored and overly chewy. For that reason, even whole-foods enthusiasts like me tend to use at least half white flour when we bake.

The quixotic goals of the Bread Lab, in short, are to rescue bread from gluten-villain status, while simultaneously pushing whole wheat from the hippie margin to the delicious center of the culinary world. (Jones and McDowell aren’t alone in this of course—the food writer Mark Bittman has been experimenting with 100 percent whole wheat as well, as have others.)

I tasted McDowell’s bread at an event last fall—and again during my January trip to the Bread Lab—so I knew he could make spectacular 100 percent whole-wheat bread from a sourdough starter. My question was: Could I do it, under his tutelage, in my home kitchen? I’m a pretty rudimentary home baker. Before this experiment, I had made exactly one 100 percent whole wheat bread loaf before. It didn’t make for very good eating, but could have enjoyed a long career as a garden steppingstone. Nor had I ever successfully baked with sourdough—my one previous effort had failed to rise, and I suspected I had murdered my starter before it ever got a chance to feed on the flour I was offering it.

Before I ended my visit, McDowell insisted on gifting me a small plastic vial of his own special starter (to satisfy the liquid-suspicious Transportation Security Administration gods, he made it into a nearly solid paste by adding lots of flour). He also handed me a bag of freshly ground whole-wheat flour; and a recipe, that he scribbled out on the spot, on lined, yellow paper. I had told him that my most successful previous foray into bread baking had been with the “no-knead” recipe popularized by New York baker Jim Lahey and immortalized for all time by Bittman.

The Lahey/Bittman loaf calls for a dough leavened with a tiny amount of commercial yeast, which is left to rise overnight and then cooked in a tightly covered pot in a blazing-hot oven. McDowell adapted his recipe along those lines.

I’m happy to report that, under McDowell’s direction, I have churned out two fantastic loaves. They had a faint sourness that added a dimension of flavor without being at all shrill or dominant. In the first loaf, I had become paranoid that I had fouled up the process of waking up the sourdough starter. But the bread was delicious—nutty and moist inside with plenty of air pockets, surrounded by a thick, hearty crust—”as good as bread gets,” a bread-savvy friend visiting from Chicago declared. The second one, after I had lavishly fed and cared for the starter, was outstanding, too, but seemed a little denser than the first. Go figure. Living creatures—humans and microbiota alike—are capricious. Here’s Jonathon’s recipe—a perfect thing to try on a rainy or snowy day at home. (It takes six or seven hours, very little of it active, from start to finish, once you get the starter prepped.)

wwsourdough

Whole-Wheat Sourdough Bread

Equipment/flour note: This recipe requires a dutch oven—a heavy-duty pot with a tight-fitting lid—because these durable pots capture the steam from the dough to create the thick, blistered crusts you typically only can get from commercial baking ovens. (Dutch ovens can get quite expensive, but for bread-making purposes, my favorite is the relatively affordable cast-iron type.) Also, a cheap digital kitchen scale isn’t absolutely necessary for this recipe—McDowell kindly converted gram weights to cups and tablespoons—but will make the work go a lot more smoothly. Also, please be sure to read the whole recipe before you get started; it requires a few days of planning. As for flour, obviously everyone doesn’t have access (yet) to fresh-ground wheat that’s been carefully bred specifically for whole-grain bread. But mid-sized operations like North Carolina’s Lindley Mills and California’s Community Grains are working with farmers in their regions to produce top-quality whole wheat bread flour products, and are worth seeking out. McDowell says that some Whole Foods outlets offer Community Grains flour ground at the store—a definite win if you can get your hands on it. If you can’t find a regional product, King Arthur’s organic 100 percent whole wheat flour is available nationwide and should “give you decent results,” McDowell says.

First, make or acquire a starter:

“Most artisan bakers would be happy to give you a piece of their levain to inoculate your own starter with,” McDowell says. But he recommends trying to start one from scratch. McDowell says that homemade starters primarily utilize the yeast and bacteria present in the flour itself, but that over time, they acclimate to their particular environment. “Not every location can easily start or sustain one,” he warns, but most can. Here’s how:

3 tablespoons whole rye or wheat flour

Enough water to make what looks like a “thick pancake batter.”

Stir to mix and let it sit out, loosely covered, for 24 hours. Then take 60 grams (1/4 cup) of the starter, discarding the rest, and mix it with 60 grams of water (1/4 cup) and 60 grams (3/8 cup) of flour. Repeat this process every 12 hours for 3 to 5 days. By the time it’s obviously alive—slightly bubbly and smelling distinctly acidic—you’ll have succeeded in creating a levain. You can jump straight to step (b) in the section below with this the new starter and bake with it; or store in the refrigerator until you’re ready to bake.

Next, prepare your culture for baking:

When you’re ready to bake, start 24 hours ahead if you’re using a refrigerated starter. You’ll need to wake it up and get it ready to leaven a loaf.

a) Mix 60 grams flour (3/8 cup), 60 grams warm water (about a quarter cup), 30 grams starter (about 1/8 cup) in a small bowl. Let sit at room temperature (70 degrees F) for 12 to 14 hours.

b) Then, take 10 grams (about a tablespoon) of that starter (you can discard the rest), which will have begun to get lively, and mix it with 60 grams flour (about a half cup) and 60 grams water (about a quarter cup).

Let it sit for 12 to 14 more hours. Now you’ll have just enough lively starter for a loaf—a little more than a half cup—plus a bit left over to begin the next batch of starter.

Now, get that next batch going: Scoop out about 10 grams (1/8 cup) of the starter, and add 20 grams of flour (1 1/3 tablespoons) and 20 grams of water (1 1/3 tablespoons). Mix it, and let sit for 3 hours at room temperature, then store in the fridge, covered tightly. Keep it alive by baking every week; or feed it once a week by scooping out 10 grams (1/8 cup) of starter (discarding the rest), and mixing with 20 grams of flour (1 1/3 tablespoons) and 20 grams of water (1 1/3 tablespoons), as above.

Now, finally, make the bread:

Ingredients

580 grams (4 cups) whole wheat flour

506 grams (2¼ cups) water, at room temperature

12 grams (2½ teaspoons) salt

120 grams (½ cup) Starter

Step 1: This is known as the autolyse step. Mix the starter and water together in a large bowl or plastic bread-making tub (see video below—I used a bowl). Add the flour, and mix well. Let sit 20 to 40 minutes.

Step 2: Mix dough by hand, squeezing and folding it to develop gluten. Here’s how.

Step 3: Let it rest, covered, for 3 hours, periodically folding as above (3 to 4 times).

Step 4: Shape the dough into a round by gently folding it over on itself, leaving a smooth, round top and a seamed bottom. This is known as a boule. Let it rest, covered, 20 minutes.

Step 5: Very gently place the boule, seam side up, into a floured proofing basket for 1.5 to 2 hours. If you do not have a proofing basket, you can take a linen (or fine mesh cotton, but linen is best) cloth, rub plenty of flour into it and place it in a small mixing bowl. Make sure there is ample flour covering all surfaces that the dough will touch, and also be sure that the bowl is deep enough to really shore up the sides of the boule. (I used a bowl-shaped metal colander as my proofing bowl, lined with a well-floured cloth.) About an hour into the proof, preheat the oven to 500 degrees and put the empty Dutch oven, with cover, into the oven, so that it will become blazing hot.

Step 6: Very carefully, drop the boule into the hot Dutch oven, seam side down.

Step 7: Make a few incisions along the top membrane about ¼ inch into the dough’s surface, to help with the loaf expansion. McDowell uses a straight razor. I used a serrated (bread) knife. (I forgot to do this in my second loaf.)

Loaf Two also showed pretty good air pockets.

Step 8: Bake approximately 30 minutes , then remove the lid of the Dutch oven and bake until the boule is a deep brown—10 to 15 minutes more. (You can insert an instant-read thermometer into the loaf—when done, it will be within a few degrees of 212 degrees F).

Step 9: Let cool on a metal rack—at least one hour; 4-6 hours is optimal to let the loaf develop flavor.