Is bread bad?
THE BIBLICAL instruction - 'Man shall not live by bread alone' may actually contain sound nutritional advice, especially with today's bread. Not all breads are created equal and some are considerably less healthy than others. Modern technology has transformed bread, once considered the staff of life, into a weak unhealthy crutch.
Originally, bread was made from wheat ground between large stones to make a flour that contained everything in the original grain, including the germ, the fibre, the starch, and a wide array of vitamins and minerals. The final whole wheat product was a blend of all the naturally occurring nutrients.
Without refrigeration, stone-ground flour spoils quickly so modern food manufacturers remove the outer coat of the grain to increase the shelf life of flour-based foods. The outer coat contains healthy wheatgerm oil that rapidly becomes rancid when exposed to heat and light, so by removing it, a longerlasting flour is created. This produces financial profits for the food industry, but nutritional disaster for the consumer.
White bread is made from white flour which was once wholewheat flour stripped of most of its nutrients. This happens when the bran and the germ of the grain is removed.
And then to make bread an even brighter white, with scant regard to consumer health, flour is
treated with a chemical bleach similar to Clorox. The bleaching process leaves residues of several toxic chemicals in the bread. This mass-produced bread is lily white, soft, spongy, devitalised, laced with added chemicals and nutritionally deficient. The mighty Food and Drug Administration has actually approved more than 30 different chemicals for addition to bread.
Do not be misled, if the product claims to be enriched. Up to 30 nutrients, including fibre have been removed from the flour, while only a few (iron and some B vitamins) are replaced.
Research reported in the British Medical Journal, The Lancet, revealed that dogs fed only white bread died of malnutrition within two months. However, dogs fed a diet of only bread made with stone-ground, whole-wheat flour lived in good health for an extended lifespan.
Choosing your bread
Unfortunately, slick advertising and fancy claims make it difficult to distinguish a real healthy bread from the 'not so healthy' variety. To determine which bread is best, read the label carefully.
Regardless of the name of the bread, the first ingredient listed on the label should be 'wholewheat' flour or 'wholegrain' flour. Not 'wheat' flour, 'bleached' or 'unbleached wheat' flour or 'enriched wheat' flour. The terms 'stone-ground' and 'wholegrain' flour indicate a healthier bread.
Choose a product that is brown in colour from natural flour without any colouring agents added. Look for a bread with a minimum of chemicals listed on the label. Wholegrain bread does not rise as much and thus contains more wheat and less air. It will be heavier to lift and firmer to squeeze. If you squeeze it and your fingers sink in easily and the bread springs back, that's not a very nutritious loaf. When eaten, the chewier the bread, the better.
Limit your bread
According to research from Tufts University in Boston, and published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, people who eat too much white bread have larger waistlines than those who eat whole grains. The investigators found that calories from white flour settle at the waistline and result in a half-inch increase per year for people who regularly eat white bread. By the end of the study, those who ate white bread gained three times more belly fat than those who ate whole grains.
In fact, white bread, or bread of any colour if it is made with finely processed wheat flour, raised one's blood sugar about the same as an equal number of calories of ordinary sugar. That applies even to wholewheat bread, if made with finely milled flour.
Thus for the many individuals with blood sugar imbalance or frank diabetes, high blood pressure, cholesterol or triglyceride disorders, obesity, cancers or inflammatory disorders, eliminate or reduce to a minimum your consumption of foods made from flour, especially white flour. To make matters worse, most baked flour products have added sugar and unhealthy fats. That includes not just bread, but the vast array of biscuits, crackers, rolls, cakes, puddings, dumplings, buns, pastries, pastas and pizzas that are an ever-present part of our modern diet. And by the way, don't be misled into thinking that toasting bread makes it any more nutritious. It doesn't.
Are you addicted to bread? Some experts have identified some specific chemical substances in wheat that creates pleasurable feelings in much the same way that the drug morphine does. That may explain why some people seem addicted to bread.
And then there is the question of gluten, another protein found in wheat. But that's the subject for another article.
- You may email Dr Tony Vendryes at email@example.com or listen to An Ounce of Prevention on POWER106FM on Fridays at 8:20 pm. Details of his books and articles are available on his website www.tonyvendryes.com.