I love white bread. Why? Because it tastes good. Why does it taste good? Because it is loaded with sugar and unhealthy stuff. What does this mean? Well; like energy drink consumption, I need to make some life altering decisions. I’ve long clung to the belief in food consumption that you can eat all the calories you want, in whatever form you want, as long as you burn the amount consumed or more. Those of you who are health conscious see some obvious errors in that process of thought. This of course is just an excuse to eat junk food, go running, and not feel bad about filling my body with crap and neglecting the minerals and vitamins that lead to a healthy life style. Even in willful ignorance I can feel the difference diet has on everything from how hard I work in my job, what kind of energy I have, to my endurance when doing physically strenuous work. As I get older I become more aware of the negative effects of bad diet.
Why white bread sucks:
White bread in our day typically refers to bread made from wheat flour in which the bran and germ layers, the stuff with all the nutrients, have been removed from the wheatberry. The removed material will be set aside for other uses and the processed flour is now light colored flour. It is then bleached using chemical bleaching agents which contain chlorine and dried in kilns at high temperature to kill any remaining beneficial constituents. The refined white flour contains several unwholesome constituents and very little in the way of nutrients and dietary fibre, essential for a healthy digestive system and a stable metabolism.
For generations white bread was a status symbol being preferred by the rich leaving the poor to eat the dark whole grain breads. In the late 20th century the connotations reversed with wholegrain bread being preferred for its wholesome nutritional value, while white bread has become associated with lower class ignorance. I think it comes down to money; as health becomes a popular trend the makers of healthy bread are out for a buck. Nutrient heavy bread also has the downside in that it will typically have a much shorter shelf life than heavily processed white breads; making white bread a more financially reasonable decision for producers.
Another big change occurred in 1961 with the development of the Chorleywood Bread Process which uses the intense mechanical working of dough to dramatically reduce the fermentation period and the time taken to produce a loaf at the expense of taste and nutrition. The high energy mixing of the process allows for the use of inferior grain and is now widely used around the world in large factories; once again coming back to money. This insipid, bland, tasteless powder then has gluten added, which is a product that an increasing number of people are becoming allergic to, which helps to produce a more evenly risen and air filled loaf. A standard white loaf of bread also has sugar added to enable the baker’s yeast to prove the dough and make it rise. Salt is also added to check the progress of the yeast and prevent the loaf from rising too much, or over-proving. My mother talked about visiting a large national bakery in her youth and being astounded at the tiny little balls of dough that would become entire loafs of bread; she said there was zero substance to them at all.
More recently additional chemical additives have are being used to speed up the mixing time and reduce necessary fermentation time; a batch of bread can be mixed, made up, risen, and baked in fewer than three hours. The additive cutting down on fermentation time is called “quick bread” by commercial bakers; other common additives include reducing agents such as L-cysteine or sodium metabisulfite, and oxidants such as potassium bromate or ascorbic acid. Often these chemicals are added to dough in the form of a prepackaged base, which also contains most or all of the dough’s non-flour ingredients. Using such bases and sophisticated chemistry, it has been possible for commercial bakers to make imitations of artisan and sourdough breads, traditionally made by semi-skilled laborers working in smaller shops.
White bread contains a lot of sugar and it doesn’t have the ability to keep you satisfied, so within a few hours you are likely to find yourself feeling hungry and reaching for snacks. As a result of these factors, it is unsurprising that research on those who eat white bread shows a correlation between eating larger quantities of white bread and being more likely to gain unwanted weight over a period of 12 years. As it turns out, even breads that claim to be wheat could contain more sugar than grain and should often be avoided.
White bread contains a large proportion of high GI (glycemic index) carbohydrates. These carbohydrates cause sugars to be released quickly into the bloodstream. This causes a rapid rise in blood sugar levels which triggers a similarly rapid release of the body’s own sugar regulating hormone, insulin. This hormone is secreted in the pancreas and is responsible for regulating blood sugar levels. Insulin is what people suffering with type 1 diabetes have to inject to regulate their blood sugar levels because their body does not produce sufficient naturally. Type II diabetes is a rapidly spreading disease brought on by too frequent imbalances in blood sugar levels causing insulin production to become overworked, which eventually leads to the problem and all the negative health aspects associated with it.
Consuming large quantities white bread and other food stuff made from this refined flour and baking process have other negative health aspects coming in the form of raised levels of bad LDL cholesterol in your bloodstream. This can lead to problems such as heart disease related to the narrowing of the arteries. When levels of LDL cholesterol become too high artery walls thicken and blockages can occur, leading to thrombosis (blood clots) as well as high blood pressure.
You will also see your metabolism slowing down dramatically. This is retarded causing reduced efficiency in digestion and greater fat storage, which is more often than not accumulated around the belly. In fact, this is one of the main reasons why weight loss is so difficult for people who continue to eat white bread. Not only that, but it makes you feel more sluggish and less inclined to want to exercise. The lack of dietary fiber is a big problem for your digestible tract especially the intestines that finish the job and allow waste to leave the body.
When there is little or no dietary fiber present in your diet, your colon will suffer and be unable to effectively remove all waste products from the body. This leads to such diseases as Crohn’s, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and can lead to cancer of the colon.
So what are the alternatives?
You don’t have to give up bread from your diet, just white bread. Ideally, you should replace your white bread with whole grain or whole wheat bread whenever possible, as whole wheat bread is positively good for your health. For example, it is a source of gamma-oryzanol, which lowers cholesterol levels if consumed on a regular basis. This is produced from wholemeal flour which is not refined in the same way as white flour. Wholemeal flour retains the husk of the wheat, or bran which is where all the nutrients and dietary fiber exist. There is no bleaching either and gluten levels are generally lower than in white bread, although you should always check the label for this information first.
Wholemeal flour contains much lower levels of high GI carbohydrates than white flour and also higher levels of low GI carbohydrates, which work in the opposite way to high GI carbohydrates, as the low GI carbohydrates contained in wholemeal bread produce the slow release of sugars into the bloodstream. The upshot of this is that insulin is only slowly released into the bloodstream and in far lower amounts. The metabolism is stimulated rather than inhibited, meaning that your digestive system gets a boost in efficiency and less fat gets stored. This is good news for people shooting for increased slimmness and anyone concerned about their weight.
Wholemeal flour products like brown bread contain high levels of dietary fiber. This is essential for the functioning of the colon and the complete digestion of food and waste elimination. They also contain lower levels of bad LDL cholesterol with higher levels of good HDL cholesterol. This means healthy arteries and a better normalized blood pressure, bringing with it better health and less concern over the negative effects of white bread.
In addition, don’t forget that you can also substitute white bread on your sandwiches with lettuce leaves or whole grain tortillas.
What about Gluten?
More and more groceries and health food stores stock gluten-free products. That’s good news for people with celiac disease, who for health reasons should not eat wheat with gluten. Celiac disease is a digestive disease that damages the small intestine and interferes with absorption of nutrients from food. People who have celiac disease cannot tolerate gluten, a protein in wheat, rye, and barley. Gluten is found mainly in foods but may also be found in everyday products such as medicines, vitamins, and lip balms. Celiac disease affects people in all parts of the world. Originally thought to be a rare childhood syndrome, celiac disease is now known to be a common genetic disorder.
Yet paradoxically, most of the people who reach for gluten-free products don’t have celiac disease and or even a sensitivity to wheat, Peter H.R. Green, MD, director of the Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University, told WebMD. “The market for gluten-free products is exploding. Why exactly we don’t know. Many people may just perceive that a gluten-free diet is healthier.”
In fact, it isn’t. For people with celiac disease, a gluten-free diet is essential. But for others, “unless people are very careful, a gluten-free diet can lack vitamins, minerals, and fiber,” says Green. More than 2 million people in the United States have the disease, or about 1 in 133 people. Among people who have a first-degree relative—a parent, sibling, or child—diagnosed with celiac disease, as many as 1 in 22 people may have the disease. What does that mean? If no one has the disease in you close or distant family you probably don’t either; and you irritable bowels have more to do with poor diet.