Is bread bad for you?

Bread often gets a bad rap as a food to be avoided at all costs. Is that justified?

Is bread bad for you?

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?



    To make a comment, please register or login
    17th Aug 2018
    bread is one of the first things to go when I diet
    17th Aug 2018
    Well I love bread. I eat a lot of it, and I'm going to go right on eating it.
    23rd Jan 2019
    Good on you! My sentiments are the same! Love Bread!

    17th Aug 2018
    The sandwich is a great conscience food. It’s fillings can make up the nutrition and all birds love bread too.
    17th Aug 2018
    High fructose corn syrup is not found in Australian bread, in fact it is not imported or manufactured in Australia at all except for a few rare examples of processed foods imported from the US.
    17th Aug 2018
    This is really good news, however I am always a bit sceptical about such categorical statements unless they are supported. Are you/ were you a baker, dietician or whatever and when did you last have real experience in this area.

    I am often tempted to be a bit dogmatic about things I once at first hand knowledge about and have to remind myself that my professional life ended quite a while back!
    17th Aug 2018
    No high fructose corn syrup in Australian foods, because we use cane sugar too much of which is probably not good. However, I do love my morning toast!
    Not a Bludger
    17th Aug 2018
    Oh my giddy aunt - where do these food police spring from?
    From time immemorial, humankind has been sustained by two foods - bread and beer.
    Meddle with nature at your peril.
    18th Aug 2018
    Unfortunately NaB the bread and beer produced in times past (or for time immemorial) in a kitchen and baked in a wood fuelled oven or brewed in a wooden bucket probably bears little resemblance to bread and beer manufactured in todays industrial food plants. At times I have been able to access home baked bread and/or homebrew, so totally different from supermarket products. I personally only purchase bread from a bakery chain as it is so much more tasty than the bland industrialised breads from the supermarket..
    23rd Jan 2019
    Well said 'Not a Bludger'!
    23rd Dec 2018
    A big fallacy is that our bread is made from wheat, it is not. So called wheat in Australia is a hybrid of wheat and barley to make it more drought tolerant, if you doubt this compare pictures of so called Australian wheat and European wheat, the local wheat has whiskers just like barley, European wheat has none. This changes the eating and digestive qualities of wheat products. Interestingly more Australians appear to be gluten intolerant than many other nations. Add to this that some local flours are stripped out and reconstituted to obtain a standardised product then look closely at the label to see what they add to the original flour, yeast, salt and water in most supermarket breads and it perhaps explains why so many people are finding bread makes them sick.

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