Poor white bread; for years it’s been labeled ‘bad’ by food and nutrition experts. The carbs are supposed to be sent from the devil and all you have to do it look at it to put on weight around your middle. So what if it’s light and airy and tastes delicious with butter, if you eat it you’ll go straight to nutritional hell.
But, some people have been fighting in white bread’s corner for years, trying vainly to have their voices heard above the anti-white bread brigade. For example, one of the UK’s most reputable nutritionists, Jane Clarke, has been telling people that white bread is just fine since at least 2007.
Have a slice
In 2007, wrote Clarke had a regular advice column for the Daily Mail, and in one of her letters to an aggrieved husband she said, in no uncertain terms, that there is nothing wrong with white bread. Her reasons: by law, white bread flour has to be fortified with heaps of nutrients (iron, calcium, etc), it’s full of energy and it’s easy to digest. She adds that all the fiber and things that are supposed to make whole bread so healthy can actually make you feel full too soon so you don’t get as many nutrients as your body requires – which might explain why it’s so popular among weight-loss fundis.
Obviously, she’s not giving anyone license to go out and eat two loaves of white bread a day, each slice smothered in a rich butter and dripping in sugar-laden syrups and jams. But, as with most things diet-related, a little moderation goes a long way.
A helping hand
Clarke’s words of wisdom have been given considerable credibility by the British Nutrition Foundation which recently (September 2012) released a paper stating that white bread is not the boogeyman that we have been led to believe. It doesn’t make you bloated and uncomfortable, it doesn’t cause wheat allergies and it doesn’t make you pile on the pounds. The foundation also says that contrary to public belief, white bread contains many important vitamins and minerals, like calcium, which is more validation for Clarke.
If you’re adamant that white bread makes you feel a dog’s breakfast that has just been brought back up to see the light of day, then perhaps you should consider everything else that you eat and drink with your white bread.
Worst case scenario
One of the few things that anti-white breaders have going for them is the fact that white bread contains a lot of sugar – which is where a lot of its energy and fat comes from. We tend to make it worse by drenching our bread in honey, peanut butter and syrup, chocolate spreads, and delicious jams. At the risk of sounding like a stuck record, try a little moderation in your diet. And, obviously, if you know that you have sensitive sugar levels or if you are diabetic then exercise the proper caution – and follow the advice of your doctor.
Maybe you don’t like the taste of white bread, or you like a bit of variety, or you are very serious about the whole moderation thing, in which case you might want to know what your bready alternatives are.
- Whole wheat, but Melanie Thomassian suggests that you read the list of ingredients very carefully. If it doesn’t say 100% whole wheat you could be buying white bread with a bit of extra grain thrown in.
- The same principle applies to whole grain bread – whole grain should be the first ingredient on the list.
- Rye bread is often touted as one of the healthiest bread out there and that may be true if you look at your ingredients. It also has a very distinctive taste which not to everyone’s, well, taste.
- Multigrain bread is another one of those bread that sounds like they must do your innards wonders. And, like a lot of those other healthy-sounding bread, it can be wonderful, if you look at your ingredients.
The biggest thing to take away here is that some commercial bread manufacturers are sneaky. They give bread labels that make them sound like you’re on your way to nutrition nirvana but what you often get is white bread with added seeds and fiber.
Let’s go back to Melanie Thomassian for a moment. It appears that the first thing you need to do before you pick a loaf of bread off the shelf is to read the ingredients. If you’re buying whole grain, then that should be the first and most important ingredient. If it comes in under wheat flour, sugar, and salt, you’re in trouble. Other ingredients to watch out for in all bread include vegetable oil shortening and hydrogenated vegetable oil, as well as high levels of corn syrup and sugar.
If you want to be absolutely sure of the quality of your bread, stop shopping at a supermarket and make friends with a reputable baker instead.