16 May Brown vs. White: The Case of the Breads
Clients always ask me if wheat bread is a healthier choice over white. It’s true that wheat bread has more beneficial nutrients when compared to white bread, but there’s a catch: it has to be “100% whole wheat”. Knowing exactly what to look for can help prevent you from falling victim to clever product marketing.
The Physical Difference
All bread is made from wheat flour. Each grain of wheat flour is made of 3 sections: the endosperm, germ, and bran. The endosperm is the large center of the grain which contains starch and protein. At one end of the endosperm is the germ—this is the area that sprouts when it’s germinated. It contains many vitamins, minerals and some oil. Both the endosperm and germ are covered by the bran, which contains the fiber and other nutrients.
The flour in white bread is more highly processed than that in whole wheat bread. During processing, the germ and bran of the wheat grain are removed, leaving only the white, starchy endosperm. Although the endosperm is the largest part of the grain, it contains the least nutrients. Whole wheat flour still has the germ and bran intact and therefore contains more nutrients (including fiber) than white flour.
The Nutritional Difference
The bran in whole wheat flour provides fiber and the germ provides protein and Vitamin E. They also provide B-vitamins, magnesium, manganese, iron, phosphorous, potassium, and zinc. Whole wheat also contains a phytonutrient called plant lignans. Lignans have been found to have a protective effect against breast cancer and heart disease.
Oftentimes, white flour is “enriched”. This means that vitamins and minerals which were removed during processing are added back in synthetically. Thiamin, niacin, folate, and iron lost in the processing of white bread are required by the FDA to be added back to help avoid nutrient deficiencies.
Check out the difference:
*Note: percentage is based on the daily recommendation for each nutrient
Whole Wheat Bread (1 slice)
Fiber: 3 grams
Protein: 4 grams
White Bread (1 slice, enriched)
Fiber: 1 gram
Protein: 2 grams
Read the label! Look at the ingredient list and make sure the first ingredient is “whole wheat flour”. Many bread products have a mix of white and wheat flour, so avoid those that list “enriched wheat flour” and “wheat flour” in the ingredients. Don’t be fooled by packaging that says “multi-grain”, “wheat”, “stone ground wheat”, or “12-grain”. These terms don’t mean that the whole wheat grain was left intact.
LET’S DISCUSS: Have you made the switch to whole wheat bread? Which is your favorite brand of whole wheat bread?
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