The truth about wheat bread

October 5, 2015

It's been called the staff of life. It also tastes great slathered with peanut butter or dipped in good olive oil. Yet many diet gurus would have you believe that bread is no better than cake or candy. As these guidelines show, bread can still fit into your diet if you choose well.

The truth about wheat bread

White bread raises blood sugar and does a poor job of satisfying appetite. Many popular weight-loss diets use a system called the glycemic index (GI) to help you decide what to eat. Foods that rank low on the GI fight hunger because they take a long time to digest, so you feel more satisfied between meals. High-GI foods, on the other hand, are rapidly absorbed during digestion, causing a blood sugar spike that's followed by a crash, which causes hunger pangs to return sooner.

If you have ever gone on a low-carbohydrate diet, you know that bread is one of the first foods to be crossed off your daily menu, at least in the early stages.

The reason:

  • White bread and most other popular varieties are high-GI foods.
  • To produce most types of white bread, bakers use flour made from grains that have been stripped of much of their fibre and pulverized into powder.
  • The resulting bread is easy to digest — too easy, since it causes blood sugar to soar, then drop again, making your stomach roar.

A few types of bread have low or moderate GI values. In general, look for bread that has a coarse texture, intact seeds and includes the word "whole" in the first ingredient on the label. That means it was baked with flour made from entire cereal grains, which take longer for the body to digest.

Sourdough bread is another alternative. Although it's a white bread, sourdough is highly acidic, which helps to prevent blood sugar spikes. Look to a bakery for real sourdough bread; some manufacturers use sour flavouring agents instead of bacteria to ferment the dough. It's the bacteria that produce the acids that make sourdough better for your blood sugar.

If the package says "wheat bread," it's probably just white bread with a dye job. The fact is that many "wheat" breads are white breads. After all, even white bread comes from wheat. Some so-called wheat breads may have been baked with caramel colouring or some other additive to give them a dark, earthy-looking hue — but that doesn't make them any better for you. What makes a bread good for your health is the presence of whole, unrefined grains, including the grain's tough outer shell, or bran, and its germ, or seed, both of which are removed to make white bread. The milling process also removes most of the grain's fibre and lots of vitamins and minerals, though manufacturers add back some of the nutrients.

How can you tell whether you're getting true whole wheat bread or white bread that has been dyed brown?

Read the package labels — both sides. The words 100 percent whole wheat or 100 percent whole grain splashed on the package are a good sign. But always check the ingredient list, too. The first item should include "whole," as in "whole wheat flour." And choose coarse-looking bread with lots of texture; that's an indication that the wheat has been less finely ground, which means the bread should have less impact on your blood sugar.


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