These days, media, nutritionists and almost every self proclaimed "health guru" is talking about whole wheat stuff and extra calories in the non diet drinks and still the sales of white bread and regular cokes have not dropped in the stores! As far as I am concerned its just the sheer taste of a freshly baked white (French) bread which keeps me going.
So what's really good for us and every time we put a morsel of white bread in our mouths or take a sip of the regular coke, do we really have to die of guilt? and secretly promise ourselves that the next time, "I will only eat whole grain and drink diet cola"! I will discuss diet v/s regular drinks next time but today lets only talk about the grains and breads. In my opinion whole grains have their benefits but ????
First lets understand what does "Whole Grain", "White or processed Grain", "wheat bread" and "white bread" really mean?
What are whole grains? A grain is "whole" when the entire grain seed is retained: the bran, germ and the endosperm. The bran and germ components are rich in fiber, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and healthy fats. These are the parts removed in the refining process, leaving behind the energy-dense "White" but nutrient-poor endosperm portion of the grain. Examples of whole grain foods include wild rice, popcorn, oatmeal, brown rice, barley, wheat berries and flours such as whole wheat.
Whole wheat bread: Bread made out of whole grain. The nutritional content of whole wheat breads also varies between brands. An average slice of whole wheat bread gets 69 percent of its calories from carbohydrates and 15 percent from fat because the wheat germ in the whole wheat flour is about 10 percent fat. That leaves 16 percent contributed by protein.
What are refined grains? The refining of grain, is the process that converts whole grains into white flour. Refined grains, often called milled grains, have both the bran and the germ removed from the grain kernel. The bran is the protective outer layer, when removed, refined white flour has only a fraction of its original nutrition. Enriched flour is made by adding back just a few synthetic nutrients to the white refined flour.
White bread: Bread made out of processed grain. One slice of enriched white bread gets 76 percent of its calories from carbohydrates (mostly complex) and only 11 percent from fat. The rest, 13 percent, is from protein. White bread has 0.5 gram of soluble fiber per slice, which contributes to daily fiber needs of 25 to 38 grams.
Health benefits of whole grains are as follows, stroke risk reduced 30-36%, type 2 diabetes risk reduced 21-30%, heart disease risk reduced 25-28%, better weight maintenance with three servings of whole wheat in a day. Some other but more recently studied benefits are reduced risk of asthma, healthier carotid arteries, reduction of inflammatory disease risk, lower risk of colorectal cancer, healthier blood pressure levels, less gum disease and tooth loss etc. Whole grain digests slowly in our body where as white grain converts to sugar quickly and can alter the insulin levels and can eventually cause diabetes.(Source: Wake University)
So clearly we see how whole grain is so beneficial to our health v/s the white grain so why are we still buying and eating the "white stuff"? I think this is where the corporate greed is 'killing us' and the gibberish on the food labels are so ambiguous that we really don't know what to buy anymore?
Processed grain is cheaper and mass production of white bread is so cost effective that the food giants will of course put that out on the shelves. Given the loose FDA food labeling guidelines, bluffing the consumer, yes bluffing even the most educated consumer becomes really easy. So its critical to read that darn label so carefully, or we will keep eating the white bread disguised as brown forever. When shopping for a whole grain bread, remember that not all brown breads are really whole wheat. A brown color may actually be caramel or other food coloring, which may be listed on the label somewhere. Its nutrient value is also so eerily similar to that of a white bread. During the peak of my personal, 7 days a week workouts and diets in 2008-2009, was the first time that even I compared the labels and realized this misrepresentation. At that time it hit me that "not all brown breads are made equal" So its even more critical to portion control and finally I developed my own personal strategy about this..."if I have to eat only one slice of bread in a day and the fine print is so ambiguous than I will rather go for the taste than the color" and also because I didn't want to fool myself.
My personal conclusion is that unless you are really sure that you are buying a loaf of an authentic brown bread then go for it otherwise, just go with the taste (white or brown) as long as you are consuming a controlled portion because there seems to be virtually no difference in the nutritional value of most of these commercial breads. I believe that this is true for even the other consumables like bagels etc and even the breakfast cereals.
Next I will try to tackle the diet coke controversy and in the final blog of these series I will go for the FDA and food labels before moving on to a new topic.
Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center, viaEurekAlert!, a service of AAAS.
images: toxobread.wordpress.com and joyricksen.wordpress.com