By Samantha Bove
There is a misconception that has been programmed into our brains for centuries: If you want to lose weight, cut out carbs. This is simply untrue. Fad diets constitute a multi-billion dollar industry and by eliminating an entire food group like carbohydrates, marketers can influence the consumers’ purchasing behaviors.
Bread falls under constant scrutiny from individuals trying to avoid carbohydrates, gluten, and artificial additives such as high fructose corn syrup.
Gluten-free diets became prevalent in the mainstream in the last ten years due mostly to celebrity culture. While excessive gluten intake is linked to weight gain and fatigue, it poses no life-threatening harm to the average consumer unless they have Celiac disease, or gluten intolerance.
The fact is that all bread is not made equal and when you know exactly what to look for, certain types can serve as an excellent source of fiber, vitamins and healthy omegas.
Most consumers understand that sliced white bread is best to avoid, but does anyone really understand why, and what exactly differentiates it from whole grain, whole wheat and sprouted-grain bread?
Here is exactly what you need to know to boost your confidence next time you’re in the bread aisle.
While few things say childhood like PB&J on two slices of WonderBread, white bread is number one on the naughty list.
“Because white bread is heavily refined and processed, it is stripped of valuable nutrients, minerals and fiber. This gives it a high glycemic index, which means when you eat it, it creates dramatic spikes in your blood sugar leading to low energy, weight gain and moodiness,” says Molly Lee, Board-Certified Holistic Nutritionist and Founder and director of Energizing Nutrition. “As well, because of the lack of protein and fiber content, although it may taste good, it will leave you feeling hungry – you could eat a whole loaf and not feel satiated.”
Unlike whole grain products, which have the all three parts of the original kernel intact (bran, germ and endosperm), the bleaching process of white bread strips everything but the endosperm away. By removing the bran, which contains antioxidants, fiber and vitamin B, and the germ, which contains vitamin B, vitamin E, zinc, magnesium, protein and healthy fats, about 25% of a grain’s protein is lost.
The process of extracting the whole grain is what makes white bread a refined carbohydrate, just like white rice and pasta. According to Dr. Mercola, 50-90 percent of essential minerals and vitamins such as vitamin B, E, magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, and iron are lost after this process.
Whereas saturated fats have previously been thought of as the main contributor to heart disease, studies now show that excessive intake of refined carbohydrates is being considered the main contributor of heart disease, which if you didn’t know is currently the leading cause of death in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
If the lack of nutrients and evident health threats aren’t enough, have you ever thought of how a naturally brown-colored grain turns into the white hue you see on store shelves? The answer is bleach. Various types of bleach are used during the refining process such as chlorine, benzoyl peroxide and chloride oxide. While little research has been done on how these traces can affect the human body long-term, research has found that one toxic by-product of the bleaching process, alloxan, is produced. Alloxan is used in lab rats to induce diabetes so various treatments could be tested. If the thought of abandoning white bread forever is still scarier to you than the risk of heart disease and diabetes, Lee suggests eating sourdough instead.
“It’s fermented so it’s easier to digest and also has vitamins and nutrients unlike plain white bread,” Lee says.
Whole Grain Versus Whole Wheat:
The Whole Grains Council has a super simple way of breaking down the difference between whole grain and whole wheat bread. They suggest thinking of the two as you would vegetables and carrots, meaning that wheat is a type of grain, therefore all whole wheat is technically whole grain, if processed correctly, yet all whole grains do not fall under the whole wheat category. Whole grain bread is typically made from a variety of cereal grains like oats, barley and flax. The best thing to do when shopping is to look for the “100% whole grain or wheat” listed as the first ingredient. The “whole” indicates that the product has not been refined, keeping the health benefits intact. When choosing between wheat and grain, it just depends on what type of grain you are looking to add into your diet.
Sprouted Grain Bread:
Sprouted grain bread is one of the industry’s best-kept and yummiest secrets. Sprouted grain bread, most commonly known as “Ezekiel bread,” differs from all other types because it goes through a unique process of sprouting. This means that before the flour is made, the grains are soaked in specific temperatures of water until they grow a sprout, which is then ground into the flour. The sprouting process breaks down starches that build up within grains while also transforming them into simple sugars (which are easier to digest than complex sugars). This process also released vitamin B and C and keeps in the nutrients while reducing harmful anti-nutrients like phytic acid, which binds to and inhibits the body’s absorption of minerals such as magnesium and calcium.
Warning: If you do not wish for your entire home to smell like French toast smothered cinnamon, do not purchase nor toast Food for Life’s Cinnamon Raisin Bread.
The Bottom Line:
So now that you understand the difference between the breads, it all comes down to being an observant shopper. When in the grocery store, experts suggests looking past the packaging and reading into the labels.
“If a bread has more than 4 grams of fiber per slice, I consider it a high fiber source,” says Carol Guizar, registered dietitian nutritionist and founder of Eathority.
Not only is fiber necessary for a well-balanced diet and maintaining bowel health, but the higher the fiber, the fuller you feel.
Remember that carbohydrates are crucial for proper brain and body functioning and as long as you remember to read your labels, reach for the whole grains and wean off the white stuff, you can enjoy that toast without regrets.