In the last few years, bread (particularly white bread) has seemingly had nothing but bad press. we’ve been lead to believe that bread makes people get fat, and contains lots of gluten, which is supposedly very bad for all of us. To be clear from the start, neither of these ideas is true.
As we have established and re-iterated time and time again, the only thing that makes people get fat is a caloric surplus. The association between bread and being overweight comes from the fact that bread can be 1) very calorie dense and 2) consumed with other high-calorie ingredients such as peanut butter, butter, nutella, jam and cheese. If you are consuming a diet with lots of bread in it, it is very easy to put yourself into a caloric surplus, which then will cause you to gain weight. Eating a lot of bread can also mean consuming it at the expense of other, nutrient-dense foods such as whole grains, fruit and veggies - again this is not ideal for your health, but it is not the bread that is the issue so much as the complexion of the diet.
In recent times, being ‘gluten-free’ / avoiding any amount of gluten has become a popular dietary trend. Now, for some people this is completely necessary - if you suffer from celiac disease then you have no choice but to not eat gluten. I must also add that ‘non-celiac gluten sensitivity’ is a real condition, so some individuals may experience problems when consuming gluten (though these two conditions represent a very small percentage of people). If you think you could be either of the above, please go to your doctor and ask to be tested for these conditions.
However, most of us honestly have no reason whatsoever to avoid gluten - it isn’t going to harm us, make us fat or negatively impact our health in any way. Gluten, as it turns out, is not evil. By the same sentiment, neither is bread, whole-wheat or white. There is space for either in a well-balanced diet, and if that surprises you, then read on to find out why.
You often read or hear that ‘brown/whole-wheat bread is fine, just avoid white bread’, or something to that effect. The idea is that whole-wheat bread has a lower glycemic index (GI) and insulin index, so produces a lower insulin release. It also contains ‘more fibre and micronutrients’ so is a far healthier option, even if the calories are almost identical when compared to white bread. The problem with this argument is, on closer inspection, the difference between brown and white bread is negligible. The ‘increased’ amount of fibre in brown bread is minimal at best, and the nutrients lost from the ‘processing’ of white bread are often added back in!
The worst part in all of this is that we have known all of this for about 80 years, and yet the myth that whole-wheat or brown bread is healthier than white bread is still perpetuated by the media!
The bottom line is, there is nothing wrong with including some bread in your diet, or having it on occasion. We would not recommend basing your diet around bread as a primary carb source as there are more nutritious, satiating options out there, and the calorie density of bread can make it easy to overeat. Don’t be afraid of bread, just moderate your intake!