What’s Really Hiding Inside King Cakes

Time to shake a tail feather… it’s Mardi Gras!!

This is one of my favorite holidays of the year, simply because of the fact that it’s all about celebration.  It’s not honoring a holy birth, rejoicing at the miracle of resurrection, or remembering a historic dinner.  Mardi Gras is a day (or in some places, a week) of decadent pagan frivolity.  This is the day to enjoy all of life’s temptations before the gods of organized religion take from you that which you love most for 40 days to test your willpower.  Good thing we have Mardi Gras to fill our bellies before the dark days come!

And oh, how I love cajun food.  Especially king cakes, the popular dessert of the holiday.  But though I hate to propagate negativity on such a joyous day, I think today is an excellent time to examine just what goes into that delicious dough.  After working at two bakeries and a health food store, the topic of bread is very near and dear to my heart.  Because, lets face it, what better combination is there but baked goods and carbs?  Though I’ve already warned you of the dangers of gluten (a tasty killer, but a killer nonetheless), I have to admit that I chose pizza over my gut and live a gluten-filled life.  But there are two words I avoid at all costs: bleached and bromated.

You’re probably familiar with the process of bleaching; you do it to your hair, your clothes, your teeth, all to get closer to that perfect, pure whiteness.  Do you know they do it to foods, as well?  How did you think they make white bread white?  Freshly milled flour is actually yellowish, though it will whiten as it ages.  But America is the Fast Food nation, and we don’t like to wait for our food.  So the whitening is done chemically, with such things as peroxide and chlorine.  Other chemicals are added to increase shelf life, turning that innocent pile of grain into a mini-pharmacy.  Sounds tasty, doesn’t it?  It gets even tastier.  The bleaching process causes a reaction in the flour, producing alloxan.  Never heard of it?  I hadn’t either until I read this article on Dr. Mercola’s site:

“So what is so bad about alloxan?  Alloxan, or C4 H2O4N2, is a product of the decomposition of uric acid. It is a poison that is used to produce diabetes in healthy experimental animals (primarily rats and mice), so that researchers can then study diabetes “treatments” in the lab. Alloxan causes diabetes because it spins up enormous amounts of free radicals in pancreatic beta cells, thus destroying them.  Beta cells are the primary cell type in areas of your pancreas called islets of Langerhans, and they produce insulin; so if those are destroyed, you get diabetes.”  (The Little Known Secrets About Bleached Flour)

Getting hungry yet?  Well, there’s one more ingredient we need to discuss before we can enjoy our Mardi Gras king cake: potassium bromate.  It’s added to flour to make dough stronger and to speed up the rising process.  Bread can’t be American if it takes too long to rise, you know.  What you don’t know is that when it comes to food, America tends to make bad decisions, choosing cheap over nourishing.  Bromates have been banned in several countries for its carcinogenic properties – that is, it causes cancer – and though the FDA has admitted this, they only “encourage” bakers not to use it.  Take a walk down the bread aisle and seen how well that’s worked.  (How and Why is Flour Bleached)

Unfortunately, it’s almost impossible to be completely aware of your food’s ingredients, unless you never eat out.  But who can resist the endless salad and breadsticks at Olive Garden, or the quick and easy dinner of pizza, delivered to your door in 30 minutes or less?  And if you’re a Papa Johns fan like me, you’ll be disappointed to hear that they don’t list their ingredients on their website, nor will they send you a list if asked.  So take a bite and take a chance, who knows what’s in their dough?

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