The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

Heart Healthy Bread journey

Sam_CO's picture

Heart Healthy Bread journey

Will start with some history.
So here I am a year after a heart attack and having 3 stents put in, plus a pacemaker. I'm active, not overweight, and in pretty good shape. When all the blood tests were complete, the cardiologists were left scratching their heads.  Cholesterol was high. but not to far over the desired values, triglycerides were in the normal range, but on the high end of the range, and no inflammatory markers. Did have high blood pressure though. They told me they couldn't figure out why I had so much blockage. I found a functional medicine cardiologist that told me it's genetics (with my family history, that's kind of a "well duh" conclusion). What he did say that was interesting is, because of my genetics, my body does not handle fat like a normal person, so I have to be more aware of what I'm doing. The one thing he figured was the fairly high fat diet I was on was part of the problem. Due to being active and having I high metabolism, I was able to get away with it without putting on weight. So no problem, right? Well, not in my case.

After healing from the surgery, I went through the Pritikin cardio rehab program. Part of that involved a class 3 times a week on diet. The information in there has changed my diet, and that change sent me looking for breads that would better fit into what I needed. (Because I LOVE bread)

So what were the requirements I was looking for?

Low sodium (Pritikin does not want sodium eliminated, but kept to preferably 1500 mg a day, definitely under 2000)
Lower fat, especially saturated fat
Whole grain (I've always preferred whole wheat anyway)
Low cholesterol
Little to no white sugar (inflammatory ingredient)
Little to no white flour

Looking on the store shelves, I couldn't find anything that fit all of these criteria. And I found flatbreads had horrendously high sodium content for the size of the bread. So I pulled out the bread machine and started experimenting with loaves of breads first. Flat breads will come later.

Now this has been an interesting process because I live at 6500 ft, In the past, I'd just add more salt and reduce the yeast to slow the gas production from the yeast down. This is to prevent it from collapsing while rising / baking at altitude. Well, now I had to go the other way.

So less salt meant I needed to adjust the yeast amount. And less salt means it seemed to have less flavor. A month ago, I bought some wheat berries, milled them in our Ninja Pro kitchen blender and made some pancakes. The flavor difference blew me away. So next was a loaf of bread. Again, what a major flavor difference.

So down the rabbit hole I went learning about the different kinds of wheat. Why? I wanted to know what my alternatives were to using white flour. Of course, the first thing I learned was I'd be giving up lighter, airier breads for more dense ones, but that's ok. For me, it's about crust and flavor anyway.

Some of the things I've found:
Ground Flaxseed as both an egg substitute and binder to help with lower gluten breads (plus it has lots of heart benefits)
Monkfruit and stevia as alternatives to white sugar (honey is okay, so I can use it as listed in a recipe)
According to Pritikin, I have to cut back on whole eggs, so I use egg white powder as a substitute. And BTW, some people cannot handle more than 4 egg yolks a week, as it becomes toxic over that level because their genetics. But for me, no yolks means no cholesterol from the eggs.
How different salts affect rising  (Himalayan pink, sea salt, table salt, etc)

I now have a grain mill on order. 
All of this lead me to looking for a site with lot's of information, and tada, I signed up here.
One of the things I tried and failed on was overnight rising which failed miserably. Five minutes on this site and I now know why. ;)

So now I'm here finding there is much more to learn, but the goal is to still make a heart healthy bread. I didn't see a lot of info on this, so I was wondering. Is there much interest on this topic? Should I start a blog even though I'm relatively new at the process compared to many people here, or should I just make posts?

And thanks to the people that put this site and forum together and for all the people sharing such great information and experiences. You've already helped.

(And yeah, the low sodium / sugar is also leading me to canning my own veggies, sauces)

GaryBishop's picture

That is a great introductory post. I'd be very interested in following your heart healthy pursuits. With such a coherent theme I think a blog would make sense but they aren't treated very differently here. 

I wonder about your specific need to lower sodium. It's clear why that would be in the Pritikin plan because so many heart patients have high blood pressure but you don't. But I'm a computer guy, what do I know?

I envy you the grain mill, I may do that one of these days. First I want to buy some freshly milled flour to see how I like it. 

I say go for it. You will find a community here for sure. 

Sam_CO's picture

As mentioned I did have high blood pressure, so I'm on a low dosage right now. But with the Pritikin diet, it's getting low enough I may have to go off the medication. Which is one of the benefits of the diet.

GaryBishop's picture

Excellent that you have been able to lower it. 

squattercity's picture

Congrats on starting your dietary changes and contemplating baking for yourself.

A few thoughts as you start out:

1. I routinely cut the salt in bread recipes by 1/3 and have not detected any problems in fermentation or taste. Indeed, I think the taste of the grains emerges really well with less salt. That being said, bread will never be a low-sodium item: most recipes call for a lot of salt compared to what you're allowed on the Pritikin diet.

2. Ordinarily, I'd recommend pane sciapo -- Tuscan bread -- because it uses no salt. But in your case, that won't work, because it's traditionally made with white flour. Still, if you're willing to consider recipes with some white flour, I think you could mix whole wheat and white 50/50 and produce a really good pane sciapo.

3. I'd suggest that you make a sourdough starter. If you want to do whole grain breads -- particularly ryes -- that's the way to go.

I wish you a rewarding bread journey. It really is fun. Bon voyage!


clazar123's picture

There is a learning curve to whole grains but once you learn the basics, it is not that difficult. Take a look at my past postings on whole grain-I've had a journey on this over the last 10 yrs. 

The most basic thing to learn about making whole grain bread come out tender rather than crumbly is to allow the flour time to fully absorb the moisture in the dough. I often made the dough in the evening as a rather sticky dough, put it in the refrigerator overnight in an oiled container and by morning, it was a soft, tacky dough.

Do a search on these words: autolyse, sponge, tang zhong, preferment, biga. Any of those methods is good to use on 100% whole grain. Natural levain adds another dimension to flavoring a loaf (and not just adding sourness-my naturally leavened breads are never sour) but that is another learning curve. Get some baking under your belt first.

Salt and saltiness is a learned preference. Give yourself some time and you will find your palate will adjust. Most bread recipes will have between 1 and 2% salt (as a baker's percentage of the total flour.) "Baker's percentage" is another phrase to look up. Getting a good bulk ferment will add great flavor to your loaves and using a biga,autolyse,preferment,etc promotes those lovely flavors. 

Grinding your own grain will give you the most flavor-it is amazing how grassy the flavor can be. 100% whole grain,flax, and honey is a winning combination. 

Rye is also worth visiting but does have a whole different learning curve. 

THIS is one of my favorite recipes/methods of making 100% WW bread. It uses a biga and an overnight process. The salt can be adjusted wherever you want and I usually add a bit more honey. 

Have some delicious fun!

clevins's picture

I agree with @clazar123 that WW isn't that hard. One piece of advice, though.. get a scale that measures in grams and use it. Volume measures can work but the fact is that a cup of flour isn't always going to be the same from flour to flour or even week to week (the latter as moisture changes). Plus, it's FAR easier to calculate baker's percentages in metric.


alcophile's picture

Welcome to TFL!

I have also reduced salt in my bread baking to reduce the total sodium in my diet. I routinely reduce the total salt specified in a recipe, but I also replace some of the table salt with NoSalt potassium chloride (KCl). I have found that flavor is not affected as long as I replace less than half the table salt with the KCl. I did some research into how the replacement would affect the dough and bread. Some of what I learned can be found here. Your cardiologist should be consulted before introducing the KCl in your diet.

Whole grain breads can use less salt as mentioned in the other posts. I like Peter Reinhart's "epoxy" method described in Whole Grain Breads. The recipe linked by @clazar123 is essentially Reinhart's method with some tweaks. I also second @squattercity's suggestion of sourdough, and rye in particular. Rye supposedly has some positive effects on metabolic markers.

Good Luck and Happy Baking!

Neland's picture

You should look into the PANIS RESPECTUS method by the bread ambassadoers. They have published several books, one for people with various health problems. Overall they utilize very low inoculation sourdough and very long fermentation to improve health benefits and digestibility of the final breads.

The easiest way to bake WG bread is to bake with rye. I'm Danish and could not live without my 100% WG rye bread, which I also bring with me on vacations). You may want to try my recipe, it contains a lot of steps and predoughs, but it's very forgiving.


Yippee's picture


I want to tell you about an excellent technique for making soft, aromatic, 100% whole grain/whole-wheat, fat, egg, and dairy-free bread.

It involves making a sourdough in just 24 hours. You then use this sourdough to make whole-wheat bread with commercial yeast. Because this sourdough is so robust in developing flavor, there is no need to prove the dough overnight. As a result, you will have flavorful, wholesome whole-wheat bread in just a few hours. This sourdough is called "concentrated lactic acid sourdough" (CLAS).


Here are a couple of the fat-free, egg-free, and dairy-free whole-wheat bread I made with CLAS:


Cranberry Walnut


Cinnamon raisin


If you like what you see, I think you would be interested in hearing the testimony of one of the bakers who is learning to bake 100% whole-wheat bread with CLAS:


"...It is the softest and chewiest ww loaf I have ever had, wonderful taste. Crust is thin." 


"...I do not think I have ever had a 100% whole grain loaf like this-chewy, so soft, pliable, not at all heavy. I can't believe it.

(the bread texture of 100% whole wheat bread with honey, oil , vital gluten, milk powder is very different)."


"...No artisanal bakery in the Bay Area has 100% whole wheat lean loaves like this."


I can't say enough good things about CLAS. It contributes so many benefits to bread. I encourage you to check out this baker's blog and videos, from where I learned to bake with CLAS.




jo_en's picture

Try the recipe above on whole wheat with clas! It is the simplest of all.

(Don't sweat over the 1st step on making clas- just get your whole rye or whole wheat ready; mix it with vinegar and water and place in temp controlled setting (28-32C) for 24 hr.)

Yes- grind your own whole wheat berries and rye too.

Eating whole wheat that we grind has even improved areas like dry skin!

To me flat breads like pita are much easier than loaves but take your time and explore the whole wheat sourdough world!

There are experts here on whole wheat and I keep learning from them and seeing what others are trying. You've come to the right place.


rondayvous's picture

If you haven't tried it yet, try King Arthurs White Whole Wheat flour. I've made some wonderfully light, airy loaves with that flour, since that seems to be what you're looking for.

There are several different ways to start and keep sourdough. If you choose to go that route you will find there are several advantages to sourdough, one of which is additional flavor which can compensate (to some degree) for less salt.

You might also want to try sprouted whole wheat flour for flat bread, pancakes and the like.

This link has some of the sourdough options you might want to try.