We have often heard that it is bad for our health. You may have also heard rumors that bread and grains make you fat, or that eating bread is the same as eating sugar. Are these stories really true? Is bread bad for you?
We will take a look at the facts and science behind these claims to find out. While most people eat bread, pasta or grains on a daily basis, some of these scares have to lead to gluten-free diets, low-carb diets, and even no bread intake at all. How this affects your body can be confusing. We will find the answers today.
What Is in It?
Without getting too carried away with bread ingredients (we won’t talk about things you can add to a recipe), most stores bought types will be derived from the same basic things. You will have some form of bread flour, either white flour or a grain flour, as well as salt, fat, leavening, and yeast.
Some other types will also include milk, eggs, sugar, and spices. These will all result in one of three basic types of bread: white, whole wheat, or wheat grain.
However, it is not just what is in it that causes concerns; it is how our bodies handle these ingredients. One of the most looked at aspects is the calories. We all watch calories for diet, exercise and weight loss.
White bread (two slices) will typically have about 133 calories. Wheat bread will carry about 135 calories. Whole grain or whole wheat bread will typically tip the scales at 140- 160 calories.
Why Is Bread Bad For You?
The discussion goes back and forth, and the results depend greatly on what aspect of it you are talking about.
If you are trying to lose weight, you are most likely looking to save on your caloric intake. In this case, it can be bad for you because of the number of calories per slice. You can easily find substitutions that have fewer calories. However, that doesn’t make it bad for you; just high in calories.
White Bread Is Nothing But Sugar
One common saying heard around the debate is “the whiter the bread, the sooner you’re dead.” This came about because of what happens to it when we digest it. Nutritionists have wanted us to avoid white for years now, focusing instead on whole grains such as wheat.
When we digest it, it is rapidly broken down by our digestive system. Bread, particularly white, is high in carbohydrates. When these carbs are broken down, they become glucose and are absorbed into our bloodstream.
This absorption, in turn, results in a high spike in blood sugar levels. Any time our blood sugar levels change, either high or low, it can cause health concerns. If you have an insulin deficiency, diabetes, or other blood sugar concern, this is something you need to keep an eye on.
However, what quickly goes up, quickly comes down. While we do experience a rise in blood sugar, it doesn’t last very long. In a typical healthy human, this spike is only noticeable by machinery designed to detect blood sugar levels.
By the time it drops back to normal, that person is generally hungry again. Because bread breaks down in our system so fast, it is not going to linger in our stomach. This is why people on a high carb diet tend to be hungry more often.
This doesn’t make it bad for you, but it is something to keep an eye on. However, if you have bread as part of your intake, you won’t notice much of an effect, if any.
Wheat is Better
Wheat being better for you than white may be one of the most popular myths out there. The difference between wheat and white, in general, is the type of flour that is used. White bread uses white flour and wheat bread uses enriched flour.
However, both tend to use the same ingredients otherwise. Our body will also break down the fine grain flours just the same. Whole grain wheat will use wheat flour that is just finely ground wheat. The end result is the same though: rapid breakdown and absorption and increase in blood sugars.
Regardless of the base flour used, bread is a carbohydrate. Starches and carbs break down into glucose. Because of this, one is not necessarily better or worse for you than another.
White Bread Nutrition
Two slices of white bread will account for about seven percent of your daily recommended caloric intake. However, you should also be aware that white contains sugars or high fructose corn syrup. This will add to the nutritional value.
Typically, white bread will have 1.5 grams of fat, 25 grams of carbohydrates and 4 grams of protein. White is also very high in salt. In a typical brand, two slices of white will net you about 340 milligrams of sodium. This is more than 14 percent of your daily allowance.
Wheat Nutrition and Whole Grain Nutrition
It has been claimed that wheat and whole grain bread are better for you. Is this the truth though?
Wheat bread will contain, per two slices, 2.14 grams of fat, which is more than white. It will also have 24 grams of carbohydrates and 4.7 grams of protein. Not at all dissimilar to white. The one benefit is in the sodium. Wheat will have about 276 milligrams of sodium or 12 percent of the recommended daily allowance.
What about whole grain? One of the most popular is rye. Rye bread, per two slices, will contain 166 calories, 2 grams of fat, 31 grams of carbohydrates and 5.5 grams of protein. If you are on a high carb diet, rye bread may be your answer.
However, being better for you than white is highly unlikely. Rye bread also contains 422 milligrams of sodium so those with sodium concerns may find white bread a better option.
Does Bread Make You Fat?
We gain weight (unless due to medical reasons) by taking in more calories than we burn. In that sense, everything we eat can make us fat. Of course, there is a lot more science that goes into weight gain than this article is equipped to get in to, but the essence is: calories, especially calories from fat, in more than calories burned equals weight gain.
Likewise can be said of the opposite. If you burn more calories than you take in, you will lose weight. If you are concerned about the calories from your sandwich, when you take your lunch break, go for a walk. A 40-minute moderate walk will burn over 150 calories.
The bread itself will not make you fat. Leading a sedentary lifestyle, ingesting more than you burn and not eating a balanced diet will contribute to gaining weight. However, the myth that you will gain weight because you eat bread is just wrong.
Celiac Disease and Wheat
Ever since Peter Gibson, a professor of gastroenterology at Monash University, released a study on gluten sensitivity, the world has gone crazy trying to rid their diets of gluten.
The idea, released in 2011, stated that gluten sensitivity causes Celiac disease and that gluten, such as found in wheat, kills the lining of our small intestines and can cause discomfort, irritable bowels and constipation, among other factors.
During the time since most products on the shelf carry a gluten-free badge with honor. Bread became the enemy once again, and people believed that eating it would cause them harm. However, in 2014, just three short years later, the study was redacted by Gibson, who stated that Celiac disease and the underlying small intestine issues were not caused by wheat or gluten.
If you already have Celiac disease, you are more likely to have issues when digesting gluten. However, wheat and gluten do not cause the disease.
So is bread bad for you?
It is no worse for you than anything else you digest on a regular basis. White has less sodium than rye bread, and whole wheat is just as likely to cause blood sugar spikes as any other starch.
The truth is, we can’t really get away from it. It is, in basic form, in almost everything we eat or drink. When taken in moderation, as with everything else, it can be a part of a healthy and nutritional balanced diet.
If you already suffer from certain medical conditions that affect your digestion, insulin levels or blood sugar levels, you should be cautious about how much you ingest. Monitor your health closely and speak to your doctor about your bread concerns.
However, if you are the type that just rides along with the hype, and you think white bread will kill you, or that it will make you fat, we hope this article has helped to clear some of that up. Be active, exercise regularly, and enjoy your garlic toast whenever you like.