We’ve all been advised that a healthy diet includes lots of fruits and vegetables, healthy sources of protein such as fish and whole grains. Whole grains are essentially the seeds of the plants on which they grow. Like other seeds, such as sunflower and chia and flax seeds, whole grain seeds can be packed with nutrients. They offer healthy fatty acids, proteins, minerals and they are a good source of fiber. A diet rich in raw, natural seeds is recommended for the health benefits of reducing the risk of diabetes, heart disease and more.
You got the message about whole grains, and apparently so did the bread manufacturers. The word “grains” is plastered all over the outside of bread packaging with some products cleverly disguised as providing “whole” grains. One obvious sign to look for is the word “multi-grain”. Just because more than one grain was used in the process of making the bread, does not mean that any whole grains are included. That bread may include seven different varieties of refined starches. Don’t be fooled by the word “natural” either. There is no standard defining what “natural” means and refined starch is also a natural product with much of the valuable nutrients and fiber stripped away from it.
If you insist on buying bread as a source of whole grains, plan on spending some time studying the labels before you settle on an acceptable product. If the first ingredient is wheat flour of any sort, then you are not getting whole grains. Don’t limit your inspections to wheat bread alone. You might find that your favorite rye bread also lists wheat flour as the first ingredient.
If the ingredients list 100% whole wheat as the first item, then you are close to finding a bread source for whole-grain wheat. Don’t stop with the ingredients list. Look at the levels of sodium for bread that offer less than 200 mg of sodium per slice. One sandwich adds 400 mg or more to your daily allowance, which can challenge your diet plan.
However, whole wheat bread may offer some nutrient benefits at a huge dietary cost. Whole wheat bread has a glycemic index of 72, a whopping 13 points higher than raw table sugar. That’s right, you’d be better off eating a tablespoon of sugar than eating two slices of whole wheat bread! Both will spike your insulin, but the bread will do it faster and your waistline will continue to grow while you kid yourself that you are getting all of the goodness of the whole grains into your body.
Still hooked? Okay, so you say you’re eating “light” bread. You may still be getting as much as fifteen grams of high glycemic, insulin-spiking, carbohydrates with each slice. If the label does not list 100% whole grains as the first ingredient, less than 4 grams of fiber and less than 200 mg of sodium per slice, leave the loaf on the shelf where you found it.
For a better idea, find a simple recipe for raw whole seed crackers and switch your bread habit to that instead. Raw seeds offer all of the nutrient benefits without any of the glycemic issues of wheat and bread products. Oh, while you’re at it, scrap the idea of eating sugar by the spoonful… it’s not a good choice.