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Bread Face Off: White Bread vs. Wholemeal Bread

July 18th, 2009 · 7 Comments ·
 
 

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British call it wholemeal bread and American call it whole wheat bread. That is not the discussion today. What I intend to do is to find out which one is better, wholemeal bread or the normal white bread.

First of all, we have 2 types of wheat flour, white flour and wholemeal flour. To produce wholemeal flour, whole grain is used. Nothing is removed during milling for whole meal whereas white flour is refined.

Wholemeal or whole wheat bread has about the same calories with white bread. However, wholemeal bread contains more fiber which fills up stomach quickly. Therefore, eating it more often can help us consume less calories because it helps fill the stomach quicker. So, we end up eating less bread. In addition to that, eating foods high in fiber helps speed up the movement through the digestive tract. That means less time for fatty acids to be absorbed before it is eliminated resulting in less calories absorbed.

The only good thing about white breads – they often have more calcium, especially if they are made with milk.

So, what kind of bread should you choose?

Whether it is white bread or wheat bread, find one that is high in fiber, high in calcium (for kids and elderly) and which tastes good. The healthy choice will be a 100% whole wheat bread (remember to check the ingredients) that is fortified with calcium.

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How Can I Tell If Bread Is Really Whole Wheat?

  • Colour used to be a clue, but not really anymore. Although white bread is white, because it has been bleached, some dark bread has just had caramel coloring or molasses added to it. Neither of these ingredients offer much in the way like fiber. The trick is, read the nutrition label and look for “whole grain”, “whole meal” or “whole wheat” as the first ingredient on the label. If some other ingredient comes first, put the loaf back and keep looking.
  • Also, pay attention to the fiber content of the bread and go for the highest amount possible. If possible, get the one with 3 to 4 grams of fiber per slice.

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Category: Nutrition


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7 responses so far ↓
  • Greg Arnold // Jul 18, 2009 at 1:40 AM

    I’m a baker – a bread baker. I own my own natural, non-preservative, local, bread company. I find it conflicting that your focus is on one topical subject – white vs wheat. In reality it should be preservatives vs natural. You can go to the grocery store and pick out the most expensive whole wheat bread and read on the ingredient list a bevy of things like mono-triglycerides and BHTA and artificial coloring and flavors. It can have all the fiber you’ll ever want. It can have all the enriched wheat flour (which is required by the FDA to list because ALL wheat flours are enriched by law). Yeah, you learn this kinda stuff when you’re in the industry so you can answer to the public regarding product manufacturing from sources like your suppliers. But is it really worth it in the long run?

    I’m not saying you don’t know what you’re talking about. But I am saying that it’s almost irresponsible to point the finger at “white” flour which is still wheat since there’s no such thing as a stalk of “white” and not mention the fact that most manufactured bread products at the store are full of preservatives – stuff that spikes your blood sugar levels – stuff that keeps it fresh on the shelf for 2 weeks – stuff that wrecks havoc with people’s digestive tracts.

    You can make your own bread at home, not with a machine, but with the best apparatus God’s given us – your two hands. Yeast, salt, flour, water, milk – use the natural ingredients available – I know I do. Or you can buy the crap on the shelf because it’s convenient. If your health isn’t important go with the crap. But if it is – I suggest you READ the label for the preservatives and make your choice based upon that. Fiber or not, if you’re filling your body with unknown substances don’t blame the bread industry if you make yourself sick from ignorance.

  • bsim // Jul 18, 2009 at 4:48 PM

    Wow, thanks for the interesting blog, Mun. Appreciate the sharing from Greg. Really woke me up from my slumber!!!

  • Jibby // Jul 20, 2009 at 3:47 PM

    Can you do a piece on the difference btwn UHT milk, sterilized milk and pasteurised milk? The price difference btwn the categories can be more than 50% but are there significant nutrition or health benefits?

  • Yin Teing // Jul 21, 2009 at 1:35 AM

    I used to take Gardenia’s Breakthru bread coz they say it is whole wheat and it supposed to be low in the Glycaemic Index. But now, I take mostly white bread- and we make a lot of bread at home. With just 1kg of flour, there’s enough bread to last us for 4 days- including breakfast and for tea time. Homemade bread is really very filling.
    Well, we really cannot run away from chemical laced food. What I have learned from almost a year of travelling and living in remote areas in Thailand and eating a lot of canned sardines, white rice and white bread- eating lots of carbs but losing weight and was fit and healthy is the state of mind is very important. If we are fussy, inflexible and pessimistic, the most nutritious food in the world still works against us. But if we learned to let go, relax and not get worked up with stress, the improved physical health is amazing.

  • Mike Elgan // Jul 26, 2009 at 5:35 AM

    Which is more healthy, store-bought white bread or store-bought whole meal bread. The answer is: No. ; )

    I’d like to address what I think are the three key topics surrounding the “white vs wheat” debate.

    1. Most “whole wheat,” “whole meal” and “wheat” bread available in stores isn’t 100% whole grain bread and is also highly processed.

    2. The healthiest bread you can buy in stores, at least here in California, USA, is Food For Life bread, which is made with 100% sprouted whole grains. The sprouting process triggers the production of protein, vitamins and other nutrients in the grain, which makes it FAR more nutritious.

    3. Someone mentioned that fortified bread is required by law, which one of about a dozen reasons why you shouldn’t buy most bread available in stores. Instead, bake your own. The easiest bread to make is also the most ancient, most delicious, most nutritious and cheapest. Buy organic wheat berries. Soak them for 12 hours, then mash them into a dough. There is no flour in this process. If you soak them for 12 hours, then sprout them for another day or two (there are instructions all over the internet for how to do this), they’ll be that much more nutritious.

  • Mike Elgan // Jul 26, 2009 at 5:42 AM

    One other thing that needs to be mentioned here.

    Our health and diet culture obsesses over the biochemistry of food (calories, protein, vitamins, sugars, etc.) and ignores the biophysics of food.

    But the distinction is extremely important. As an extreme case, liquid high-fructose corn syrup is a form of sugar. And the cellulose of plant foods (which provides structure to plans) is also a form of sugar. When you ingest the former, the sugar is dumped almost directly and immediately into your bloodstream, causing an insulin spike and contributing to a wide range of health problems. But when you ingest the latter, it is never ingested into your bloodstream, and instead is passed as nondigestible dietary fiber.

    They’re both similar biochemically, but stand at opposite ends of the spectrum biophysically.

    Food labels don’t address this all-important issue of how “soft” food is. And that’s one of the big differences between bad bread and good bread. Bad bread, like white bread and industrial “whole meal” bread, is ultra soft. Real bread is not so soft, and that “roughness” is required for health.

  • Tom Parker // Aug 9, 2009 at 3:44 AM

    Good post Mun. I used to eat only white bread but thankfully I am now converted to the higher fibre, wholemeal variety. I find eating too much white bread made me really sluggish in the afternoon so I’m glad I made the switch.

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