From the time I was young, one of my dad's favorite sayings has been "the whiter the bread, the quicker you're dead!" Obviously, I've grown up in a house where we eat wheat bread, and I love it! But here are some things everyone should know about the truth of white bread...
1. Understand how the Rate of Digestion Affects Energy
To understand the nature of sugar in white bread and its affect on health, it helps to know the fundamentals of digestion. In essence, some foods digest faster than others and consequently release sugar more rapidly into the bloodstream. This is called the glycemic index of foods.
The more refined and processed a food is, the higher its glycemic index and the faster sugars present in those foods are absorbed. When the blood sugar level is too high, the body reacts by pumping insulin from the pancreas into the system, which leads to a lower energy level after the initial sugar high. For many people who feel fatigue, this is the cause. Over time, it can overstress the pancreas and lead to Type II diabetes.
2. Know the Difference
With white bread, the portions of the wheat grain that would slow digestion--the nutritious, fiber-rich bran and germ--are removed in processing, causing the starchy, sugary part to get absorbed most quickly. The much better alternative is 100% whole grain bread, which also contains full portions of native nutrients that are diminished or removed from white bread: calcium, phosphorus, iron, magnesium, manganese, potassium, copper, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid and Pyridoxine.
3. Read the Label For years, people eating "wheat bread" were misled into thinking that they were getting something nutritionally superior to white bread. In fact, those breads were processed flour missing the bran and germ but enhanced with brown food coloring. The words "100% whole grain" should appear on the product package. Since 2005, baking companies have begun marketing "white whole wheat" breads, creating some confusion in the marketplace. The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) has filed suit with one manufacturer that in fact is using refined white flour in combination with whole grain. "The intent is to confuse consumers, who are denied the nutrition they think they are paying for," says CSPI litigation director Steve Gardner.
4. Other Benefits In addition to a favorable glycemic factor, whole grain breads, pastas and other baked goods provide benefits to diabetics and anyone interested in generally good health and weight management. The dietary fiber creates a feeling of fullness that is non-caloric, something referred to as energy density. Eating foods with lower density (whole grain foods, as well as fiber-rich fruits and vegetables) digest more slowly so the urge to eat again happens later rather than sooner.
5. Switching can Spell a big Difference An Australian study found that people who ate the most white bread (average: 17 slices per week) had the highest risk of diabetes. Tellingly, people who still had high sugar consumption via fruit had a lower risk. "Changing bread type may be a more acceptable dietary change than one requiring a whole new eating pattern," researchers wrote in Diabetes Care magazine (November 2004).