Over the past 10 years, there has been a greater concern over the content and source of the foods of which we eat, more so than we have ever cared to know. We look at the details of where our food comes from, how it has been handled, what it has been fed, what type of dirt it was gown in, how far it traveled to get to us, etc… We’re overwhelmed with a number of different questions before we even get down to the specific product that we’re buying. Is all this scrutiny necessary, and what does it have to do with bread? Well, much like any other food that you may eat on a daily basis, bread is one of those foods which we often take for granted. There are many different types of breads out there, and some are healthier for you than others. What is specifically important is the source of whole grains that you are able to add to your daily diet. This week we’re going to talk to you about the differences that are present between white and whole wheat bread, and why those differences are so important to your health.
We’ll start with the obvious choice that most people make which is standard commercial white bread. Many of you may think that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with a couple of pieces of white bread with your eggs at breakfast, or perhaps with a side of pasta at dinner. It could even come in the form of croutons with your salad. Bread is a hard carbohydrate to avoid, but as long as we understand which types of bread are good for us there is no need to avoid it as much as you may think. Now, as always we’ve taken the time to research many aspects related to this topic, and we can assure you that we’ve come across some absurd claims with regard to white bread. As such, we’ll simply point out the obvious scientific facts behind each type of bread, and why it is healthier or, in some cases, unhealthier for you.
We looked over the nutritional information for generic brands of different breads. Our first comparison is with a standard commercially prepared (used in a restaurant) white bread, versus a commercially prepared whole-wheat bread. The comparison was done using one slice of bread as the common serving size. Below is a chart showing the data that we extracted from the comparisons:
Nutritional Facts (http://www.healthaliciousness.com/nutritionfacts/nutrition-facts-compare.php)
|Bread – White, Commercially Prepared||Bread – Whole Wheat, Commercially Prepared|
|Serving Size||1 Slice (25grams)||1 Slice (28grams)|
|% of Daily Caloric Target||3.35%||3.45%|
|% of Water Composition||36.4%||38.6%|
At first glance, it might seem that white bread really isn’t that different from whole wheat bread, but there are subtle differences that add up very quickly. The first of which comes in the form of carbohydrates. There are two different types of carbohydrates, simple and complex. 1“Simple carbohydrates are easily and quickly broken down by the body to produce energy. Examples of simple carbohydrates include glucose and fructose.” 1a“Complex carbohydrates are made of simple sugars linked together in long, complex chains. Complex carbohydrates are broken down much more slowly, in order to release the energy stored in them. Examples of foods containing complex carbohydrates are whole grains and vegetables.”
How does all this help distinguish the difference between white and whole wheat bread?
When you look at how each type of bread is made, whole wheat bread is made from all the different parts of the wheat kernel which contains a lot of vitamins and nutrients. White bread on the other hand, is only made from the very small endosperm of the wheat kernel. All of the nutrients that are found in the kernel are stripped away when making white bread. That’s why when we look at the chart above you can see that the carbohydrate difference is largest in terms of dietary fiber. With one slice of white bread you’re only getting 2% of your daily need of dietary fiber, compared to the 8% that you get from whole wheat bread.
The amount of dietary fiber that you get in a day is very important. 2“Dietary fiber – found mainly in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes – is probably best known for its ability to prevent or relieve constipation. But fiber can provide other health benefits as well, such as lowering your risk of diabetes and heart disease.” Fiber is also very important to those of you who may be suffering from diabetes. This is because fiber helps to slow the absorption of sugar which helps to stabilize blood sugar levels. The most important relationship that fiber has with the human body is literally how filling it is, not only in terms of chewing and eating, but also in terms of the chemical response that it has on your brain. When you eat foods which are low in fiber content, it’s very easy to eat a higher amount of food of that type because it’s “less filling,” not only to your body but also to your brain. Fiber, on the other hand, specifically helps to send signals to the receptors in your brain that your stomach is reaching it’s full point. So it’s also a key ingredient in aiding weight loss, because the healthier choice in bread will not only make you full faster, but it will also curb your hunger cravings.
The second important factor to look at is the sodium content. It’s not a large difference between the two types, but again, over time it can add up to being a major difference. What’s most important to keep in mind is that sodium is directly related to your blood pressure. So as we just mentioned, even though the amount per slice isn’t very different, when you put it on the scale of your daily diet, and you start your day off with a higher sodium content, you’re also starting your day with higher blood pressure than you should. Making the change to a whole grain bread will help to lower your sodium first thing in the morning, which will make it easier to control your blood pressure through out the day.
Is eating whole grains more beneficial to your health than what some simple numbers regarding sodium and fiber content show? 3“Consuming an average of 2.5 servings of whole grains each day is associated with a 21 percent lower risk of cardiovascular disease compared to consuming only 0.2 servings,” said Philip Mellen, M.D., lead author and an assistant professor of internal medicine. The findings for these results were found using seven studies that involved more than 285,000 people. So the information that it’s based on is presented as the result of collecting data from all seven sources.
It may seem as if the data isn’t very conclusive, or that the number of people sampled was too small. What is very clear is the correlation between the non-nutrient having endosperm of the wheat kernel which is used to make white bread, and the whole wheat bread which contains all of those missing nutrients. The higher sodium count leads to having higher blood pressure, and ultimately more strain on the heart which can cause heart disease. The missing fiber allows you to consume more calories in a given meal than you normally would which can lead to weight gain, and again put strain not only on the heart but other organs as well, and can cause a disturbance in your body’s ability to control its insulin and glycemic index. So although you may not believe the studies that have been done, the science behind them doesn’t lie.
So aside from the taste difference, which is misleading, we have reached the conclusion that eating more foods which are based on whole wheat kernels are in fact much healthier for you, and can also aid in preventing long term problematic conditions. This would include cereals, oatmeal, bread, and yes even many pizza parlors now offer pizza dough which uses whole grains as opposed to enriched white flour only. As always, speak with your doctor before making any changes in your dietary habits, but be sure to talk with them about areas in which you could substitute whole grains instead of enriched white flour. Remember to read the ingredients list on your foods and look for Whole Grain Flour or Whole Wheat Flour to be the first ingredient in your bread choices.