With America’s obesity rate rising over the years, Americans are looking for healthier food options and alternatives to traditional fare. One of such is to replace white bread with wheat bread. However, is one really healthier than the other? Read on to make wise choices when choosing your bread.
What Is White Bread?
Traditional white bread is made with refined flour, meaning that the wheat and grains used has been milled so that the bran, germ, and endosperm are removed. Since parts of the grain are removed in the milling process, much of the wheat’s original fiber, vitamin B, and iron content have been removed. In an attempt to restore some of its lost properties, manufacturers can enrich white bread or flour to re-add the b vitamins and iron; dietary fiber, however, is lost and not replaced. The result is bread that has a white appearance with a soft, fluffy texture.
What Is Wheat Bread?
The key to identifying whole wheat bread is the term, “whole grain,” in the ingredient list or the packaging name. It differs from regular white bread, because the wheat used in whole wheat bread still contains the bran, germ, and endosperm of the wheat grain. As a result, the appearance of the bread is brown when sliced, and has a tougher texture versus soft, white, fluffy bread. While there are newer strains of wheat that can produce whole wheat bread with a white appearance, it may still be safer to go with traditional whole wheat bread to make sure you are reaping all the benefits of the whole wheat grain.
(To learn more about whole wheat grains, check out Health Benefits Of Whole Wheat Grains.)
Benefits Of Whole Wheat Bread VS White Bread
Choosing to eat whole wheat bread over white bread can harbor many health benefits, as the wheat grain is able to keep its original source of nutrients. Some include:
- Excellent source of dietary fiber.
- Can help protect the heart by reducing cholesterol and lowering the risk of heart disease.
- Can help a person lose weight, as whole wheat gives a sense of fullness with fewer calories.
- Whole wheat bread also takes longer to digest and converts slower into sugar, so the person can stay fuller and energetic longer.
- For those who are watching blood sugar levels, whole wheat bread has a lower glycemic index than white bread.
- Has a myriad of b vitamins (including thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folate, etc.), which is important in metabolism.
- Other nutrients include iron, magnesium, and selenium.
Be Mindful Of Variations
Manufacturers can use marketing tactics to confuse consumers on the quest of finding whole wheat bread. Here are other variations that often get confused with whole wheat bread, but may not be made of whole wheat:
- White whole wheat bread: this is a relatively new bread label that can be confusing. Traditional whole wheat bread is brown in appearance, but a new strain of wheat can make white bread that is still made with whole wheat grains. While it is the same nutritionally, be sure to carefully examine the ingredient label to verify they used whole wheat grains. When in doubt, just go with traditional whole wheat bread.
- Wheat bread: wheat bread, made from wheat flour is made with milled wheat, which no longer has the bran and germ of the whole grain wheat, which holds the important nutrients found in whole grains. This term may be confusing, so be sure to look for “whole wheat flour” instead of just “wheat flour.”
- Multigrain bread or “made with whole grains”: if the ingredient or package does not list whole grains as the first few items, multigrain bread can be made with more than one type of milled grain, and only contain a very small portion of whole grains. In fact, wheat may not be one of the grains at all, so you will not be reaping the nutritional benefits of whole wheat grains.
- Brown colored bread: just because a loaf of bread is brown in appearance does not mean that it is made with whole wheat. Manufacturers can use coloring agents or molasses to add color to their bread, so it can actually be white bread in disguise.
- “High in fiber”: manufacturers may add additional fiber to their bread, but it does not make it whole wheat bread. It can be white bread with added fiber.
- “Unbleached” or “enriched” white flour: just because it is unbleached or enriched does not make it whole wheat flour. They are merely refined white flour with a fancy term.
- Stoneground wheat: there is no legal definition to what “stoneground” means, so be sure to check the ingredient list and look for “whole wheat” on the packaging.
Remember to always look for “100% whole grains” on the label, and that “whole wheat” is listed as the first item in the ingredients. Happy bread shopping!