The whiter the bread, the quicker you’re dead!

… So the saying goes.  I’m often asked what the best type of bread one should eat is.  Generally people know that wheat is better than white.  But is it really?  And what about all those other breads?  What about whole wheat, whole grain, and multi-grain?  It’s becoming more and more confusing by the day just to go to the grocery store.  So hopefully I can answer all of that here and you’ll spend all but two seconds in the bread aisle.

White: White bread is processed differently and refined.  The flour is made only from the starchy part of wheat grain (leaving out the bran and the germ) and it has been refined so much so that there’s barely any fiber left in it.  And nutritionally, that’s what bread has to offer to us.  The most nutritious part is basically sucked out of it.  It might make you feel more “at home” to get enriched white bread because you think it’s got the familiar taste and also the healthfulness of whole wheat bread.  But no.  Enriching it with vitamins and minerals does not replace all that was lost and not included in the refining process.

Wheat: Wheat bread is merely a mixture of white flour and whole wheat flour, thereby making it not “whole.”  So yes, it’s better, but it still has a lot less fiber and other nutrients than you would think.  Here’s a more in-depth look at what wheat bread really means (via WHFoods):

60% extraction-the standard for most wheat products in the United States, including breads, noodles and pastas, baked goods like rolls or biscuits, and cookies-means that 40% of the original wheat grain was removed, and only 60% is left. Unfortunately, the 40% that gets removed includes the bran and the germ of the wheat grain-its most nutrient-rich parts. In the process of making 60% extraction flour, over half of the vitamin B1, B2, B3, E, folic acid, calcium, phosphorus, zinc, copper, iron, and fiber are lost.

Is that surprising to you? It sure was to me!

100% Whole Wheat/Grain: Whole wheat is processed to include all three nutrient-rich parts of the wheat grain (the bran, the germ, and the endosperm (starchy part)).  This makes the bread high in vitamin B6, vitamin E, manganese, folic acid, copper, zinc, and magnesium.  Most importantly, it is high in fiber.  High-fiber content foods are good for cardiovascular and digestive health, and also helps with weight maintenance by keeping you feeling full longer.  Other non-wheat grains that you may be interested in include rye, quinoa, rolled oats, amaranth, etc.  As long as you see 100% whole wheat or grain as the first ingredient, you’re pretty much good to go. [Click for further reading].

Multi-grain:  The sketchy part about multi-grains is that unless it says so on the label, they may not be made of whole grains and therefore lack the high fiber content.  So if you want to try multi-grain bread, make sure it says it’s whole multi-grain!

Conclusion: 100% Whole Wheat or Whole Grain is your best bet.

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