For more than 100 years we have known that diets high in starch can cause excess body fat. Yet there isn’t a traditional diet that doesn’t use some form of starch. Starches, including refined breads, are either metabolised by the body for energy or transferred into body fat. The latter is the reason that bread has come under intense scrutiny – but it’s about time that bread was given a fair trial.
Kris Gunnars in his article, Why Bread is Bad For You, The Shocking Truth, writes in his opening sentence that “…white bread and refined grains aren’t particularly nutritious” meaning that from a vitamin and mineral perspective, bread is somewhat lacking. This may very well be true, however, let’s take a look at fibre. Fibre has no calories and therefore offers no energy. It has no nutritional value and can’t be absorbed by the body and yet nobody argues the benefit of fibre in the diet. Bread, on the other hand, does contain calories, provides energy and has sustained generations for at least two thousand years. Our obesity epidemic started about 50 years ago, so why are medical advisers like Dr. William Davis, author of Wheat Belly, pointing the finger at bread as the culprit?
The truth is that bread will spike your blood sugar faster than the same amount of refined sugar because sugar has half the glucose. However, the other half of the sugar, fructose, is delivered directly to the liver to be turned into body fat. This can increase a person’s risk of Type II Diabetes and Heart Disease. For this reason, refined sugar is more detrimental to the body than refined bread.
Another common argument against bread is that it contains gluten. According to Alessio Fasano, the Medical Director for The University of Maryland’s Center for Celiac Research, no one can properly digest gluten. Perhaps it is for this reason that our ancestors refined their wheat when making their traditional breads. If our ancestors had allergies to gluten, their inclination would have been to stop eating breads made of wheat, barley and rye. French baguettes, Italian foccacia and Indian naan are excellent examples of traditional breads that are still eaten today. These simple breads have always been used to complement the meal, not to be the meal. It is the meal that is meant to provide the nutrients necessary for the health and wellness of the body. Our attempt to enrich a food that provides energy rather than nutrients has confused the purpose of bread.
Nutritional advice suggests we eat a variety of fruits and vegetables to ensure a healthy intake of vitamins and minerals. Proteins and fats contain all those micronutrients as well. Grain, on the other hand, provides us with energy, some fibre and the enjoyment of breaking bread together. When are we going to stop blaming refined breads for our obesity epidemic? We don’t expect oranges to give us iron, or vitamin C to be in water – so why do we expect nutrients to be in bread? Bread is an important part of the Western Diet and knowing that it is meant only to complement our meals reminds us that it must be eaten in moderation. Recognize bread for what it is and not for what the food producers are trying to make it into. Bread, we find you, NOT GUILTY!