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The whiter the bread, the sooner you're deadPosted Monday, July 25, 2011, at 9:03 AM
An old wives tale claims, "The whiter your bread, the sooner you're dead". Just a tale, or is it true?
Bread gets its color from the bran in the wheat, but during the milling process grain companies remove the bran and germ, leaving "white" flour behind. But it's more than just color that's lost, the milling also removes the B vitamins (thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, and folic acid), iron, fiber, phytochemicals (plant chemicals that have disease protecting properties), and antioxidants.
Because we need B vitamins for energy, the flour manufactures add them back--along with antioxidants--in a process called enrichment. Enriched white bread contains the B vitamins and some of the antioxidants of whole wheat bread, but negligible fiber, phytochemicals, and wheat germ.
Contrary to the enriched nutrients of white bread, whole grain bread keeps all the key and essential nutrients found in wheat, maximizing the health benefits. Whole grains are linked to decreases in the risk for heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and certain cancers. In fact, whole grains contain more key nutrients than fruits and vegetables!
White bread, however, can decrease blood sugar control. Because white bread lacks fiber, our bodies quickly digest it, spiking blood sugar and increasing triglycerides (think bad cholesterol). To better control blood sugar levels, try replacing white bread or white pasta with whole grain options.
In some people, white bread may also contribute to weight gain. The quicker digestion of processed white flour brings on hunger pangs sooner, leading to increased food consumption.
In addition to helping control blood sugar and weight, whole grains also promote healthy gastrointestinal function, decreasing the risks for colon cancer. Whole grains also help bind and transport cholesterol out of the body which helps to lower cholesterol.
How do you know if you have chosen the right "wheat bread?" Look for "whole wheat" or "100% whole wheat" as the first ingredient on the food label. Breads that say wheat, multi-grains, honey wheat, cracked wheat, all sound like a healthy wheat breads, but more often than not, they are refined, enriched wheat breads.
If you don't like 100% whole wheat bread, there's even a bread for that! Look for 100% white whole-wheat bread. It really does count. The wheat used has a bran without color, but still complete with the beneficial nutrients. The bran also has a softer texture and more mild taste that many find pleasing.
Diabetes, heart disease, stroke, colon cancer -- "The whiter your bread, the sooner you're dead." may just have a grain of truth. Some health experts posit that consuming less refined grains and more whole grains may be the single most important thing Americans can do to improve their health.
Next week's blog will discuss the various whole grains, servings sizes, and choosing whole grain products.
From Worthington, Tracey is a Registered Dietitian. She currently lives in Arlington, Va., with her husband, Ed and three children, Lilly, Charlie, and Kate. For additional nutrition tips, recipes, menu ideas, articles, and more, follow her on Facebook at Tracey Linneweber, RD. The information contained in this blog is not meant to substitute for your physician's advice.
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