Is bread bad for your health? Absolutely NOT. So why is there so much negativity and fear around bread in recent years? Let’s figure it out.
Does bread make you fat?
Some followers of diets without bread do not know why they actually avoid bread. Many people believe that flour makes you gain weight. This is definitely not the case. Being overweight is the result of consuming too many calories, more than one needs, and not of consuming a specific product or a category of foods.
Bakery products fit well into a healthy diet. Those who want to lose weight can eat bread. However, it is better to give preference to bread with a high amount of fibre (wholegrain bread typically contains a lot of fibre) as it is healthier and saturates better then breads made with white refined flour. On average, one slice of bread (30 g) contains about 80 calories, which is less than, say, a banana.
What about gluten?
Some opponents of bread claim that bread is bad because it contains gluten. The term gluten unites a group of proteins of some cereals (wheat, rye, oats, barley). Gluten is of great importance in the bakery industry. It is the gluten content that determines the elasticity and resilience of the dough. Some people have an inborne intolerance (celiac disease) to gluten. There are also people with non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS).
Not everyone should be on a gluten-free diet. A gluten-free diet is vital for those suffering from celiac disease, which is one percent of the world’s population. It is not clear how many people suffer from non-celiac gluten sensitivity. Despite the efforts that have been made, this condition remains ill defined. It is still a matter of debate whether NCGS is caused by gluten or other components of wheat. For most people, a gluten-free diet is not beneficial but poses a risk of deficiency of essential nutrients such as fibre, iron, B vitamins, and Iodine. Also, be aware that gluten-free substitutes often contain significantly more fat and sugar then the original foods they mimic.
Which bread is the healthiest?
According to national guidelines on healthy eating (Dutch, American, British, etc.) bread is an important part of a healthy diet. The guidelines either mention bread specifically or make it a part of a whole-grains recommendation.
Wholegrain bread is the best option.
Wholegrain bread is a good source of fibre, B vitamins, Iron and Iodine.
Eating whole grains reduces the risk of heart diseases and diabetes type 2.
Sometimes bread is darkened with malt extract or caramelized sugar. These give bread a dark colour and a specific taste but offer no additional nutrition benefits. So, the “rule” the darker the bread, the healthier it is, does not actually apply. The colour of the bread says nothing about the nutrients in it, only the ingredients do. If you really want to know what your bread is made of, ask your baker, or look at the ingredients on the label.
Some interesting facts
The Dutch eat an average of 3.5 slices of bread per day. Adult women eat an average of 105 grams of bread per day and men 151 grams. That equates to about 3 (for women) to just over 4 (for men) slices per day . It is still lower than the recommended average intake (4-5 slices for women, 6-8 slices for men).
Still, the Dutch with their average intake of 62 kg bread per capita per year are only the 5th on the list of the countries with the highest bread consumption. They are preceded by Turkey (104 kg per capita per year), Bulgaria (95 kg), Ukraine (89 kg) and Greece (68 kg).
In the Mediterranean region where there are many centenarians (people who live longer than 100 years), bread is consumed in large quantities. For instance, in the Italian island of Sardinia, there are about 600 known varieties of bread.
A sandwich for lunch is not by definition worse than a warm meal for lunch. It all depends on the total composition. A wholegrain sandwich with some veggies and a protein source (cheese, tofu, eggs, beans) is an easy and nutritious meal.
Is bread bad for your health? No, especially if it is wholegrain. Feel free to enjoy your daily sandwich, consume it with pleasure and without guilt!