How Long Can You Survive on Just Bread and Water | What Would Happen?


Bread in a Bowl and Water in Wine Glasses

Most people are familiar with the story of Jesus Christ feeding an entire crowd with just a few loaves of bread. However, this would not have been for an extended period of time. I did quite a bit of research and came to some interesting conclusions.

How long can you survive on just bread and water? Due to having enough vitamins A, B, D, and C a human would likely only be able to live for about 6 months on just bread and water. After 2 to 3 months, the first problems would probably begin as scurvy would start to develop from a lack of vitamin C.

Now let’s take a look at the reasons why surviving on bread alone is not a good idea. As a bonus, I’ll also tell you how to make your own long-lasting bread to keep in your survival stores.

Surviving on Bread Alone

Just as mentioned in the Bible, “Man does not live by bread alone”. No one food can provide you will all the nutrients you need and despite all of its benefits bread is not an exception to this rule. At most you’d be able to survive for 6 months before succumbing to severe health problems.

At first, you’d experience mild fatigue and aches within the initial weeks. Unfortunately, bread does not have vitamin C and you’ll be susceptible to scurvy. Without protein and fat, your body will be unable to repair muscles and your internal organs will begin to suffer.

Of course, there are ways to get around this, and we’ll discuss how to improve the quality of your survival bread below.

Is Bread Actually Healthy?

Bread is a universal food staple found in all cultures around the world with everyone having their own variant of this carb. By bringing flour or other bread mixes with you into the wild or finding suitable plants you are able to create hearty, mobile, and easy meals.

As a carbohydrate bread is an excellent source of energy for your body and can provide fuel long after you’ve eaten it. Plus, the carbs also act as a mood booster, making your brain produce chemicals like serotonin. This is perfect as a survival food as bread will make you feel full and act as a morale booster in one neat package.

The fiber in bread also helps maintain regular bowel movements and can assist with cardiovascular health. You’ll also be able to get more nutrients from the grains when you turn them into bread compared to eating them in something like porridge.

What Is the Healthiest Bread?

There are tons of different types of breads, so choosing the best to eat can difficult to figure out. But there is an old saying, “the whiter the bread, the quicker you are dead.” And there is a lot of truth to that.

The healthiest two breads by far are:

  1. Whole Grain Bread- By eating whole grain bread, you are assured of getting all the nutrients in the wheat kernel. These are the germ, the bran, and the endosperm.
  2. Whole Wheat Bread- Whole wheat bread is basically whole grain bread on steroids. That is because they add other grains to the mix like barley or oats. This variety maximizes the number of nutrients one can expect to get from a serving.

What Are the Nutrients in Bread?

If you look at a label on a common brand of whole wheat bread, it usually looks something like this:

Serving Size 1 slice (28g)
Total Fat .09 g1%
Cholesterol 0 mg0%
Sodium 112 mg4%
Potassium 69 mg1%
Carbohydrates 12 g4%
Dietary Fiber 1.9g7%
Sugar 1.6g5%
Protein 3.6g7%
Calcium 3% Iron 4%

What Nutrients Does Bread Lack?

As you can see, bread has plenty of protein and carbs to sustain you. Where it falls short is in the essential micronutrients like Vitamins A, B12, D and Vitamin C.

In order to make up this shortfall, you would need to supplement with leafy vegetables like spinach, beans, and meats or dairy products.

How to tell if you have a nutrient deficiency from eating bread alone?

Without the necessary micronutrients, you would eventually have nutritional deficiencies develop including dry skin and poor wound healing from a lack of Vitamin A, celiac or Crohn’s disease from lack of vitamin B12, scurvy from lack of Vitamin C, and osteoporosis from not having enough vitamin D.

How Many Calories Does Bread Have?

Bread typically has about 70 calories per 1 slice serving (28g). That means you would have to eat somewhere between 20 and 30 slices per day for calorie maintenance under normal circumstances.

Is Hardtack Bread?

Hardtack uses flour and water just like basic bread. The only difference is that bread typically has sugar and yeast in order to make it rise before cooking. Otherwise, it is basically the same.

Making Survival Bread

Making survival bread is actually quite easy. Essentially, you will be making a form of hardtack since it’s unlikely you will have yeast, sugar, or anything beyond the basic bread-making ingredients.

Preparing Survival Flour

If you’re lucky, the area you’re in will have a ready supply of grains such as maize. Otherwise, any high starch plant such as the roots of cattail can be turned into flour.

By pounding or grinding you can transform these raw materials into usable flour. Be warned, that if there is too much moisture you’ll end up forming a paste so much sure your materials and workspace are sufficiently dry. Though this is more important if you intend to be using this batch of flour for transport or future bread-making purposes.

When pounding out grains you will notice the husks falling away. While not entirely necessary to remove them, keeping it will increase the amount of fiber in your bread though some will find it less pleasant to eat. The choice is entirely up to you. When grinding, make sure to use stone of sufficient hardness. The last thing you want is to have powdered rock in your baked bread.

If you’re preparing to go into the wild make sure your flour mixture is ready to go. If you like, you can include yeast, salt, and baking soda in the mix but it is not entirely necessary.

Preparing survival dough

By mixing your flour with water you can form a dough. You’re unlikely to have exact measurements out in the wild so you’ll want to add more flour or water until you have a ball of dough that is soft and firm but not sticky.

At this stage is where you can begin deviating. By working in things like nuts and berries you can further supplement your diet and improve not only the taste but the nutritional value of the bread. If you have any animal fat from previous meals or traps, you may opt to add it now to also improve flavor and add additional nutrients.

If you’re making your own flour it unlikely you have yeast to make leavened bread but worry not, simply leaving your dough ball out in warm, open-air can expose it to free-flying yeast spores found naturally in the wild. Be warned though, the results can be unpredictable and the taste can be unpleasant so some experimentation will need to be done.

Cooking your survival bread

The great thing about survival bread is that you don’t even need an oven to cook it. As long as you have a heat source and a utensil to cook it with, you can make bread.

Slapping your dough on a rock can yield flatbreads. Rolling out your dough into a tube and spearing it onto a stick makes bread on a stick and you can cook it in the same way you might a hotdog. You can even just throw it onto the coals of a dying fire, flipping it when one side is cooked. Though I recommend first “dampening” the coals first to reduce the chance of burning. In fact, this style of bread is called damper.

I recommend cooking the bread in small batches to ensure that they are cooked thoroughly and thus reducing the chances of spoilage. This is especially important if you’re taking the bread on the go. The more moisture you remove, the less it will weigh, the more compact it’ll be, and even less likely to go bad. This is essentially how breads like hardtack are made and while it may not be tasty or pleasant to eat, it will keep you going.

Bottom Line

No food is a miracle survival food, whether fruit, bread, or anything else has every nutrient needed for human survival. If you solely ate bread you would likely suffer mild discomfort in the coming weeks, permanent organ damage in half a year, and death beyond that.

With that being said, in a survival situation, you can definitely make your own bread if you find the right plants. Bread flour is great because of its ease of transportation and bread requires very little in terms of cooking equipment to make and requires only water to turn into dough. As long as you have a fire you can cook your bread, even if it is as minimalistic as just using the dying coals.

Assuming you use grain flour you actually access more of the nutrients by turning it into bread and bread is not only filling but also can act as a morale booster in a tough situation. Above we mentioned that you can suffer nutritional deficits by only eating bread but by adding in berries and other scavenged fruit you can stave off scurvy. Adding animal fats and nuts can also improve the quality of the bread but also supplement missing nutrients.

Any leftover bread can also be stored for later consumption and under the proper conditions has a low chance of spoilage making it ideal for travel.

Related Questions

How long can one survive on water? How long one can live on water alone depends on a number of factors including a person’s general health, amount of body fat, and getting the minimum amount of water to survive. There are documented cases of over 100 days with just water.

Is it bad to drink water after eating bread? There is no documented information on ill health effects from drinking water after eating bread. This is likely an “old wives tale.”

Does bread and water cause constipation? Gluten has been known to cause digestive problems including constipation. Therefore, bread that contains gluten can cause constipation.

Jim James

Jim James spent most of his childhood outdoors fishing on lakes in his area. Due to his scouting background, he has always been interested in survival, camping, and the outdoors in general. Jim is a best-selling author and has a degree in History, Anthropology, and Music. He lives with his family in Charlotte, NC.

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