So, is white bread ready that bad for you? Unfortunately, there’s just no beating around the bush… the answer is a resounding yes.
Bread, rice, pasta and potatoes are important sources of starchy carbohydrates that our bodies store as sources of energy and dietary fibre. The Food Standards Agency recommends a third of the food we eat comes from starchy (or complex) carbohydrates to form the basis of a healthy diet. But, and this is the important bit, not all starchy foods are created equal.
Back in the 1800s the roller mill was invented, which meant that whole grains could be refined. The advantage of refined grains is that they stay fresh longer than whole grains (especially in hot climates). But this processing also comes with a nutritional cost. To start with, all grains are made up of hull (an inedible outer coating), bran, germ and endosperm:
Bran is the inner protective layer, and an excellent source of fibre, vitamins and minerals
Germ is a concentrated source of protein, vitamins, minerals and polyunsaturated fat
Endosperm provides most of the carbohydrates and some protein
When a grain is processed the bran and germ are removed, along with almost 90% of the nutritional content, leaving the endosperm as a refined grain. This means refined grain products like bread, cakes and biscuits (white flour products), white rice and cereals are virtually devoid of protein, fibre, vitamins and minerals – isn’t that crazy!
Not only that, there are many more reasons why refined grains are inferior to whole grains:
- Up to around 25 different chemicals are added to refined grains and bread products during the milling process
- Refined grains are fumigated
- Bleaching chemicals are used to achieve that pristine snow-white look
- Artificial colourings and flavourings are used
Studies repeatedly show that people who eat foods made from refined flour and white rice have higher rates of cardiovascular disease and diabetes than those who eat predominantly whole grains. Plus, refined grains also contribute to several degenerative diseases, such as calcium leaching from your teeth and bones, and the sugar in refined flour products is a major cause of tooth decay and brittle bones.
On the other hand, whole grains are rich in fibre, complex carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals, fats, antioxidants and phytochemicals, and they reduce the risk of many diseases. While some nutrients may be replaced (“synthetic” vitamins are sometimes added to refined grain products), whole grains are undoubtedly the better choice and it’s incredibly simple to introduce them to your diet or up your intake.
Check back soon, I’ll be posting a whole host of tips!