Almost every bread product you see today reads whole grain or whole wheat somewhere on the package. Buyer beware as this is a key marketing tool used by bread manufacturers. Look at the ingredients closely before purchasing a bread. In this article I will give some guidelines to consider before buying a bread.
In 1947 pioneering nutritionist Adelle Davis said it very well when she wrote “almost all commercial bread is made of highly refined flour loaded with chemical softeners, whiteners, agers, fresheners, preservers and mold- and fungus- growth presenters. Even breads labeled “whole wheat”, unless purchased from a health-food-store, often contain most of these same chemicals.” The good news these days is we can purchase some highly nutritious breads in our mainstream grocery stores. Some of these are 100 percent whole grains, with all the vitamins, minerals, fiber and phytochemcials intact. These are the ones that can enhance health. The rest of the breads are all or largely refined white flour- which has been stripped of most of its nutrients. It is a must that you look closely at the back of the package to get the full story concerning ingredients. That big whole wheat or whole grain word on the front is often mis-leading.
Refined white flour can be found in rye bread, pumpernickel, oatmeal, raisin, French, Italian, honey wheat, wheat, crushed or cracked wheat, multi grain, sunflower, olive you name it. Refined white flour is stripped of the most nutritious parts of the grain kernel. The fiber is lost, along with essential fatty acids and most of the vitamins and minerals. More than 30 nutrients are removed during milling. This refined flour is then required by law to be enriched meaning that some nutrients are added back (usually 5 nutrients). Paul Stitt (nutritional scientist and founder of Natural Ovens) says “white bread is slightly better than living on candy bars and soda pop.. It’s an absolute crime against humanity when you intentionally make food products that you know are going to make people sick, are going to make them operate inefficiently and feel lousy and create all kinds of health problems down the road”.
Why does whole grain matter? If a bread does not list whole wheat, oats, or some whole grain as the first ingredient, most of its vitamin-and-mineral rich germ and bran leave have been milled away, along with it’s fiber. Breads with “Stone Ground Wheat”, “Cracked Wheat”, “Crushed Wheat”, or “Wheat Berry”, in their names may or may not be whole grain. Check the ingredients. If you’re a fan of multi grain breads, look for whole wheat flour or some other whole grain as the first or second flour listed.
What are high fiber “light breads” ? They’re all or mostly refined white flour. The light makers have probably added highly processed cottonseed, oat, or soy fiber. That means the breads may prevent constipation, but they don’t supply the nutrients and phytochemicals (Phytochemicals are sometimes referred to as phytonutrients and these terms are often used interchangeably. Most broadly defined, they could be said to be any chemical or nutrient derived from a plant source) that come with the whole grain. Light breads usually contain fewer calories than regular breads, partly because they’re sliced thinner.
How do you know when you are getting whole wheat bread? Look at the ingredients for “Whole Wheat Flour”. This should be the only flour listed. Not “wheat flour”, “unbleached wheat flour”, or “unbleached enriched wheat flour”. Those are sneaky ways of saying ’refined white flour’. Any bread, roll, or bun with “whole wheat” as part of its name must be made with only whole wheat flour.
Check the serving size. What’s a serving of bread? For most people a serving of bread is two slices. Yet many labels list values for only one slice. Be sure to double the numbers before you make the sandwich.
Ingredients to avoid
Partially hydrogenated Oils: Most breads made in the USA today contain chemically altered oils that have been cited to cause numerous health problems (including high cholesterol levels, upsetting blood insulin, increasing risk of diabetes, altering cell structure, heart disease). The following is an excerpt from XDL DIET:
Hydrogenation This process involves bubbling liquid hydrogen into oils to change their composition from unsaturated to saturated. Once this is done the molecular structure is completely changed. This process has now created a substance that is toxic to the body. This process increases shelf life and makes the product have better spreadability (peanut butter, chocolate candies). This can result in trans- fatty acids. A trans-fatty acid is formed when a hydrogen atom moves from it’s natural position (cis configuration) to the opposite side of a double bond (trans position). Trans-fatty acids have been linked to numerous diseases
Caramel Coloring: Don’t be fooled into thinking brown-colored bread has more wheat in it. In fact, what passes as wheat bread may very well be a white bread in a caramel color disguise. Carmel color prepared by ammonia process has been associated with blood toxicity in rats. The Hyperactive Children Support Group warns against it. Today, caramel color is manufactured by heating corn syrup, usually under pressure, in large stainless steel reactors. Coloring is a tricky business since food color must be stable for up to a year, under very harsh conditions of acidity, salinity and carbonation. Artificial Coloring Research show that all artificial food coloring produce changes at the cellular level. Dr Andrew Weil’s books point to these artificial colors as an underlying cause of cancers.
Caramel coloring is burnt sugar. Ask any biologist about burnt sugar, and he will tell you that it is a carcinogen. Additionally, scientists have used caramel coloring in lab experiments on mice to interfere with leukocyte action (white cells). In other words, caramel coloring is immunosuppressive. The FDA knows this and insures that anything containing caramel coloring must note this on the label. Just luckily, this immunosuppressive property of caramel coloring drops away when you quit ingesting it.
NutraSweet (Equal, Aspartame):
The FDA has received more complaints about this artificial sweetener than from any other food additive they have ever passed. Complaints range from headaches, to stomach cramps, to muscle fatigue, and NutraSweet has been linked to neurological disorders such as Fibromyalgia and Alzheimer’s Disease. At 85 degrees, all drinks containing NutraSweet undergo a transformation. The NutraSweet turns into formaldehyde. Now for the scary news. No medical journal has reported this, however, industry magazines, such as Flying Safety and Navy Physiology have: at high altitudes, because NutraSweet contains 10% methanol, oxygen deprivation soon follows consumption of diet sodas, leading to dizziness, loss of vision, sudden memory loss, and even epileptic fits. When the FDA passed NutraSweet, they banned a harmless sweetener, Stevia, which comes from a plant. It has been used for over 200 years with no side effects. Japan originally made their diet Coke with Stevia, until they decided to standardize with the rest of the world. Soon after the FDA banned Stevia, a grass roots effort started up demanding the FDA show proof that Stevia was harmful. Since the FDA had no research to prove it harmful, they dragged their feet a couple of years, and finally gave in before Congress began an investigation. You can now purchase Stevia in most health food stores.
High Fructose Corn Syrup: In recent years, sucrose has been replaced in many commercial products by corn syrup, which is obtained when the polysaccharides in cornstarch are broken down. Corn syrup is primarily glucose, which is only about 70% as sweet as sucrose. Fructose, however is about two and a half times as sweet as glucose. A commercial process has therefore been developed that uses an isomerase enzyme to convert about half of the glucose in corn syrup into fructose. This high-fructose corn sweetener is just as sweet as sucrose and has found extensive use in soft drinks, breads and various other commercial products. Numerous studies have indicated consumption of high- fructose corny syrup elevates blood lipid levels.
A good rule of thumb is that if the first item on the ingredient list of the bread package is enriched flour or if it contains partially hydrogenated oil of some kind or a number of additives that are foreign, your best bet is to skip this brand of bread and keep on looking. Ideally, if your not wheat or gluten sensitive, look for a whole wheat (or whole grain) bread not just wheat bread. The term whole wheat (or whole grain) means government regulations require that at least 51 percent of the grains in the bread product be whole grain. The best bread products will have four to five grams of fiber per slice. White bread has about a half a gram per slice.
In conclusion, when choosing a bread look at ingredients on the back. Do not be fooled into believing a bread is healthy just because is dark in color or has the words whole grain or whole wheat on the package.
Ephraim, R.,RD, CCN. White Bread…Right Bread? http://www.consciouschoice.com/2000/cc1311/healthconscious1311.html
Collins, G. Hurley, J. Flour Power- A Guide to Buying Bread
Rybett Controls (2000). The Color Caramel http://www.readingtarget.com/nosulfites/caramel.htm
Author, Jamie Hale www.maxcondition.com
Jamie Hale is the author of four books and a writer for numerous national and international fitness publications.