Bread often gets a bad rap as a food to be avoided at all costs. Is that justified?
Most of us would consume bread on more days than not, but just how healthy is it? Should we be avoiding bread altogether?
The bread we buy in most supermarkets and many bakeries is a processed food that is high in carbohydrates and low in essential nutrients. Because it’s so highly refined and therefore digested quickly, when we consume bread our blood sugar level is rapidly elevated, and then drops just as fast not long afterwards. This means we do not feel full and will easily over-eat, often craving more bread.
A lot of breads, particularly the pre-packaged varieties, are also high in sugar, contain preservatives and other additives (e.g. high fructose corn syrup) – none of them healthy ingredients.
A high intake of these types of breads can cause weight gain, leading to obesity, as well as an increased risk of chronic lifestyle diseases, including diabetes and heart disease.
Bread also traditionally contains gluten – a protein that’s found in wheat, rye and barley. For those with coeliac disease, consuming gluten can damage the gastrointestinal tract. For the increasing number of people with sensitivity to gluten, eating bread can cause symptoms including bloating, stomach upset and tiredness.
Despite all the above, bread does not need to be avoided altogether by the majority of us (unless you have coeliac disease or a serious intolerance). There’s no doubt that bread is a tasty, easy, staple food, so how can you consume it in a healthy way?
Start by choosing ‘wholegrain’ bread, as it is less refined than its white counterparts, and contains more nutrients and fibre. Don’t be fooled into thinking that ‘multigrain’, ‘wholemeal, or ‘wheat germ’ labels are wholegrain breads – make sure the first word on the ingredients list is ‘whole’ (i.e. before the types of grains identified).
Of course, there are many specialist bakeries that offer nutritious breads that bear little resemblance to off-the-shelf varieties. And you can make your own with some recipes, such as this Life-Changing Loaf, containing a wealth of grains and requiring none of the kneading associated with traditional loaves.
According to Nutrition Australia, adults should consume between three to six serves of ‘grains’ (cereals) each day. depending on their age and sex. But, bear in mind, the recommended daily intake for this food group also includes cereals, rice, pasta, noodles and other grain-based foods. Consuming bread in moderation can definitely be healthy, as carbohydrates are a good source of energy for the body. Just pay attention to how much and what type of bread you’re eating!
Do you eat bread most days? Have you ever cut it out of your diet? Have you tried making your own bread?
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