It’s one of the oldest processed foods on the planet. It’s a staple of our diets. Even with all that going for it, it’s also one of the most disparaged things we eat.
It’s bread and there may be nothing else we eat that is loved by some, and avoided at all costs by others. And both of those groups might consider their reasons for loving or hating bread to be related to wanting a healthy diet.
When Bread is Healthy Eating and When it Isn’t
One of the reasons for bread’s popularity is that it can be enjoyed in so many varieties. Wikipedia includes 138 varieties in their List of Breads. But the target of most of the ridicule that bread suffers can be focused on just one type, white bread (although it’s really white, processed flour, made of grains that have been stripped of most of their fibre, that’s the real villain here, and that can be found in other varieties of bread too).
In the wake of the move to more fibre in our diets, low-carb weight-loss diets, and the gluten scare, much of bread’s unpopularity sprung up in just the last few decades. But once you remove breads made from processed flour, and include only breads made from whole grains and whole-grain flour, much of the fuel for the criticism is removed too.
Why Whole Wheat Bread is Considered Healthier than White Bread
A wheat grain has three main parts.
- Germ – Also known as the embryo, this is the part of the grain that grows into a new plant under the right conditions.
- Endosperm – Forming the bulk of the grain, the endosperm is a source of complex carbohydrates and protein.
- Bran – The outer shell of the grain that’s made up of several layers that protect the endosperm and germ.
Only the endosperm is used to make white flour, the germ and bran (including their fibre and nutrition – like vitamin B, vitamin E and an assortment of minerals) are stripped away.
That results in two main nutritional differences between white bread and whole-wheat bread. First, the carbohydrates in the endosperm are broken down more easily by your digestive system when they come from white bread because of the absence of the fibre in the bran and germ. Second, there is less nutrition in the flour because the germ and bran have been removed.
Still, there are those who argue that there is no nutritional difference between whole wheat and white bread.
If you’re looking for more healthy eating tips, check out our article “Is Drinking Fruit Juice Bad for You?”.