Will eating bread make you fat?
I'm going to go out on a limb here and declare my love for bread. No doubt the low-carbers and carbophobes will want my head. So, let me explain.
Bread has been around for centuries. In fact, it dates back to biblical times. The Romans and Israelites lived on a diet rich in bread and by all reports they lived relatively healthy lives. So, I'm a little puzzled why people seem to be so confused about whether or not to eat it. As a dietitian, I am a fervent believer that it can form part of a healthy diet.
Good quality bread is so much more than just a source of carbs
Bread is packed full of vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, complex carbohydrates and fibre. Two slices of grainy bread provide about 30g of long sustaining carbohydrates, 4g of fibre and a good whack of vitamins and minerals such as thiamine, riboflavin, folate, iodine, vitamin E and potassium. And you get all that for about 600Kj, depending on the size of the slices.
It can be said that eating top-quality grains can be compared to putting premium fuel into a high-performance race car. The evidence shows that eating high-quality carbohydrate grains, like those found in bread will help to improve your mood and physical and mental performance.
Which bread is best?
Wholegrain bread is the pick of the bunch thanks to its high fibre content and low GI carbs. Generally speaking the darker and grainier the better. Choosing a wholegrain option will stabilise your blood sugars and help keep you fuller for longer.
Plus, the fibre will help fuel the good bacteria in your digestive system. This is not only good for your gut, it's great for your digestive system, too. Other good options include: sourdough, spelt and rye breads.
Will eating bread make you fat?
Long-term observational reports show that people who eat whole grain foods, like bread, are less prone to weight gain over time. In fact, two large recent review papers concluded that higher intakes of whole grains are associated with lower BMI and smaller waistlines.
Also, eating at least three serves of whole grain foods (equivalent of three slices of wholegrain bread) each day is linked to lower incidences of heart disease, diabetes and stroke.
Should you go for gluten-free?
For some time, scientists have been investigating the vexing question of whether gluten is a nutritional villain. It is true that those with coeliac disease, an auto-immune disease in which the ingestion of gluten elicits a harmful immune response, must follow a strict gluten-free diet. However, current epidemiological studies report that coeliac disease afflicts only one and a half per cent of the population. So, what about the rest of us, the other 98.5 per cent? There is no advice in the scientific literature that gluten be excluded by anyone other than those with coeliac disease. Despite this advice, a large number of Australians have been unnecessarily ditching gluten in an attempt to lose weight, boost energy, supposedly feel healthier, and even to try to treat autism. However, this is based on little or no evidence.
How should you eat it?
I am a big fan of the humble sandwich - the old Aussie lunchtime staple. Load it up with lean meat, fish, cheese and plenty of salad veggies. You can also enjoy a slice or two of crunchy grainy toast with eggs and avocado on a Sunday morning. And nothing beats baked beans on toast for a quick and easy meal. Just dough it!
Joel Feren is an Accredited Practising Dietitian who aims to apply the art and science of nutrition to help you better understand the relationship between health and food. For more, follow him here.