Should You Eat White Bread?

By Dr Harold Gunatillake - Health Writer

The whiter the bread, the quicker you're dead"- Old saying

White bread is made from refined white flour containing unwholesome constituents and with very little nutrients and fibre essential for a healthy digestive system and a stable metabolism.

Refined white flour is obtained from the whole wheat grain which is subjected to the refining process, removing all traces of husk or bran containing the nutrients, vitamins and dietary fibre. The flour is then bleached using chemical agents containing chlorine and then dried in kilns at high temperature to kill any remaining beneficial nutrients. Sugar and salt are added in the process for added taste.

White bread is high GI (glycaemic Index) and long term use may produce type 2 diabetes. The sugars in the white bread and the refined starch are absorbed rapidly in the bowels, causing spikes of glucose in the blood stream, an early stage of diabetes. White bread is absorbed fast and you may feel hungry within a few hours.

It is difficult to lose weight if you eat white bread daily. The sugars are converted to fat and stored in the fat cells as triglycerides. Your triglyceride level in the blood may rise and liable to get coronary heart disease.

Brown bread is healthier compared to white bread. Brown bread is wholemeal or whole grain bread. Unfortunately, in Sri Lanka brown bread being expensive people prefers to eat white bread, without knowing the hazards of eating white bread. Wholegrain bread 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 fibre 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 contains high levels of fibre, essential for the functioning of the colon and the complete digestion of food and waste elimination.

Heart attacks
In a 10-year Harvard study completed on 1994, men and women who ate high fibre bread had lower heart attacks and strokes than those who ate refined white bread.

*Simply switching from white to whole wheat bread can lower heart disease risk by 20 percent, according to research from the University of Washington reported in the April 2, 2003
When flour is refined, it loses the most nutritious parts of the grain the fibre, essential fatty acids and most of the vitamins and minerals.In fact, about 30 nutrients are removed, but by law only five must be added back (though others often are): iron, niacin, thiamine, riboflavin and folic acid.

There is so little fibre left after processing that you would have to eat eight pieces of white bread to get the fibre in just one piece of whole wheat bread.

Sri Lankan situation
Majority of the people these days purchase white bread from the bakeries, as brown bread being more expensive, and white bread is tastier to the taste buds to eat the curries that go with it. Most people eat a slice or two of white bread with lentil curry for breakfast.

People have no time for cooking rice and curry at homes anymore, much quicker to buy a loaf of bread on the way home after work.

Though carbohydrates form the bulk of the staple foods in Sri Lanka, and cheaper, too, the incident of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke are similar to the western affluent country figures. So really, we do not know whether refined white bread is as bad from the statistics shown by studies in more affluent countries

In Australia, people pay as much as $ 4-5 for a loaf of wholemeal bread, amounting to rupees 550 in terms of Sri Lankan rupee. A loaf of bakery white bread in Sri Lanka is about Rs. 60 and difference in prices is so wide. Brown bread in Sri Lanka is about Rs. 80.

Analysis of bran in wheat flour
Payen Millon Kuhn Grandeau Warington Wolff
Water 13.90 13.90 13.40 12.80 14.0 13.6
Nitrogenous matter 18.77 14.90 14.00 13.82 14.2 13.6
Fatty matter 4 00 3.60 3.80 3.59 4.2 3.4
Carbohydrates 48.26 51.00 45.00 55.91 50.4 54.9
Cellulose 78 10.49 18.30 8.65 11.1 8.9
Salts 6.29 5.70 6.19 5.23 6.1 5.6

The above results are analyses produced by different authorities. They show certain variations in the levels of nitrogenous matter, cellulose, and carbohydrates. However they all agree closely enough to show that chemically speaking, bran contains all the requisites for nutrition.

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