How many of us eat a double or triple portion of bread at lunchtime? Do you simply eat because there is nothing else? Perhaps your colleague buys a loaf of bread, two containers of milk and a pack of crisps to take to work. Maybe you have a second breakfast.
Could bread be slowing your metabolism, or adversely impacting your health? It’s well-established that eating refined carbs such as refined white flour, and with it dietary fiber, can result in a crash in blood sugar levels, especially when compared to consuming starchy carbs in their whole-grain form.
But there are alternatives to the bread currently on our shelves. The bakery aisle, and in particular the ever-expanding range of “wheat-free” bread, may suggest that this form of bread provides the same levels of nutrients as their wheat-containing counterparts.
However, grain-free “wheat-free” breads are neither gluten-free nor 100% grain-free. This means, depending on the bread, there is still a small amount of gluten present in the dough, and so may contain lectins, enzymes and a protein called asimines that in some people, could make you feel bloated.
Dietary fiber is a nutrient that has significant benefits to our health. It promotes weight loss, increases satiety and has a strong anti-inflammatory effect on the body. In short, it is a superfood. However, bread is not a high-fiber food and can be relatively low in fiber (around 1.2g per 100g) when compared with whole meal bread (about 3g per 100g).
Similarly, the shape and texture of bread affects the absorption of fiber. A high-protein and carbohydrate bread may have a high fiber content, compared with a low-protein and carbohydrate bread.
Bread can play a role in the maintenance of a healthy and balanced diet. Most nutrition research has found that less than one to two portions of bread are generally sufficient for a healthy intake of carbohydrate and fiber. This is consistent with the Australian Dietary Guidelines of a daily carbohydrate intake of less than 55g, which corresponds with five small slices of bread.
If your daily carbohydrate intake is between 55-95g, and no bread is available, you can safely consume a mixture of grain-based carbohydrates, such as whole-grain bread, rice and pasta. However, if you don’t consume enough carbohydrate in your diet, you may wish to consider consuming bread in moderation. Bread is often perceived as an empty, or unhelpful, carbohydrate substitute, but a significant amount of research suggests it could be just as useful as carbohydrate-containing foods in satisfying energy needs and improving health.
Here are 9 vegetables and fruits that can replace bread, in your diet:
They’re not only more nutritious than bread, they’re much easier to eat. You just peel them, remove the pulp, peel the skin off your avocado, and you’re good to go.
They’re low in calories and high in fiber. They’re pretty filling, too.
These guys pack a powerful punch of flavor, and they’re super low in calories. Put them on a salad or tomato sandwich, or add them to tuna fish salad.
Have you ever noticed that after eating potato chips, or fries, you usually don’t crave more potato chips or fries? That’s because sweet potatoes pack a nutritional punch, too. Not only are they a great source of carbohydrates and vitamin A, they’re also loaded with vitamin C. They’re also a great source of fiber.
Yes, it’s a fall staple, but it’s also a great staple. This beauty is a great source of fiber and protein. In addition, it’s loaded with vitamin A and E, which are two very important nutrients that we just don’t get enough of today.
Everyone knows the phrase “a quarter of a cup of sugar is a tablespoon” right? Well, a butternut squash contains more than a quarter of a cup of sugar! Just one of these bad boys contains more sugar than a cup of chocolate chip cookies. Not only that, it contains loads of vitamin A, potassium, magnesium, vitamin C, and vitamin K. This squash also has very little calories, so you’ll eat less.
You already know about carrot’s potassium, calcium, and vitamin A, but did you know they also contain the minerals manganese, copper, and zinc? With all the ailments people get today, such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer, an increase in the mineral content of your diet could very well lower your risks for all these health problems.
For a snack, try zucchini bread or zucchini chips. These low calorie, nutrient dense vegetables are bursting with flavor and provide an excellent source of vegetable protein.
Pumpkin pie is probably one of the most popular holiday desserts, but it also happens to be a healthy one.
To get around the fact that bread is generally not an essential carbohydrate, or a complete food, manufacturers often market wheat-free bread as a “healthy” alternative to whole grain-containing breads, and often use health-focused marketing strategies.
These alternatives typically contain between two-thirds and one-half the daily carbohydrate allowance in one portion of bread. This means they are high in carbs (often high in sugar), as well as protein and fiber.
Research into wheat-free breads has shown some potential benefits, including promoting weight loss, a reduction in cholesterol and an increased glycaemic load – that is, a higher glycaemic load of blood glucose. However, these claims have not been substantiated in research studies.
High glycaemic index (GI)
Furthermore, a substantial proportion of wheat-free breads also have a high glycaemic index (GI) and contain sugar alcohols. While some wheat-free breads do have a low GI, these products are still more likely to cause blood glucose increases than whole grain-containing breads.
However, few wheat-free breads have been associated with gastrointestinal discomfort or adverse effects on blood glucose, and research on low GI foods is much needed. The GI value reflects the average rate at which a particular food absorbs and uses energy, and often has implications for GI effects.
The good news is that wheat is a functional food (that is, a substance that is edible and has important functions in the body). In fact, wheat provides both essential nutrients (for example, fibre and vitamins and minerals) and also supports an appropriate intake of essential carbohydrates.
Importantly, whole grain-containing breads, such as those that contain two or three grains (such as wheat, barley, oats or rye), contain higher levels of carbohydrates than refined white breads, and in some cases, there is a significantly greater effect on blood glucose levels with a gram of whole grain.
The truth about wheat
It’s difficult to judge how healthy bread is from research alone. For example, one study that found that eating wheat-based foods resulted in a 14% reduction in the incidence of type 2 diabetes when compared to those who ate no wheat (but whose diet was otherwise unbalanced).
However, this study also found the risk for the disease to be 3.7 times higher in those who consumed the highest amount of whole grain. So the increased risk for type 2 diabetes associated with consuming whole grain is smaller than previously thought.
When it comes to gluten, it is worth noting that the only dietary proven harmful is gluten intolerance or coeliac disease. These occur when your body is unable to tolerate gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye, barley and other grains.
Effects of Gluten
Coeliac disease affects up to 1% of the population worldwide, and is one of the leading causes of death due to an infectious disease. In the United States, it affects over 3.5% of the population and there are over 200,000 new cases of coeliac disease diagnosed annually.
Gluten intolerance has also been recognized as a problem in people with wheat sensitivity. These people may react with symptoms such as bloating, diarrhea and nausea when consuming foods that contain gluten.
There is, however, a significant discrepancy in research around gluten intake, with many studies showing either no effect or a benefit, but many of them were carried out in people with coeliac disease who have strict gluten restrictions.
The most definitive study on the effects of gluten intake is the Panels’ Nutrition Questionnaire, which has been shown to accurately measure how gluten affects individuals.
The fact that gluten-free breads generally contain lower amounts of essential nutrients and potentially more harmful substances than wheat-containing breads should give us pause for thought when selecting these products, even if they have significantly lower GI values.
Instead of assuming that wheat-free products are healthy, we should be considering the quality of the whole grain-containing breads as part of a broader well-balanced diet.