Is it True that Whole Wheat Bread is Healthier?

There is no unanimous opinion about healthy food, and furthermore, opinions differ from time to time. Science is continually advancing, and nutritionists, in particular, try to highlight the best options for one’s diet. We are now going to examine some myths about our diet.

At one time, it was said that sugar and certain types of fat were harmful to our bodies, and that we should avoid consuming them. Moreover, in many cases, to have more protein, meant to eat more meat. Evidently, these things are not a hundred percent correct, and to have a variety of food is actually far more important. Perhaps, there is no completely right or wrong food, and this division is conditional. This concerns breads, as well.

Isn’t whole wheat bread better than white?

The former chief technology officer at Microsoft, Nathan Myhrvold, has been studying food science and cooking for quite a long time. He and his visionary team of scientists are interested in “Modernist Cuisine,” and write books on the topic. One of them is entitled “Modernist Bread”.

Having analysed research over the last fifty years, they have come to the conclusion, that any bread colour has practically the same effect on the human body. Moreover, as Nathan states, there is no scientific data proving that whole wheat bread is more useful than white in particular aspects.

Whole wheat and white bread: what’s the difference?

Wheat grain consists of the endosperm (the large centre of the grain made from protein and starch that makes up about 83% of the total grain weight); the bran layer; and the germ (embryo).

In order to make white bread, the germ and the bran are removed, and only the centre part of the grain is milled. Conversely, when whole wheat bread is baked, as its name suggests, all three parts of the grain structure are used; so unlike it’s white bread counterpart, the outer bran layer and the germ are also included.

It was long considered that the grain’s bran layer is beneficial for health, as it is richer in fiber, vitamins and minerals. This suggestion did not however, have any scientific grounds to it. As Nathan Myhrvold remarks: one should not compare the advantages of white and whole wheat bread by the amount of its nutrients. What is more, some substances will prevail in white bread. These are Magnesium, Phosphorus, and Selenium. Yet, the thing is that, according to Dr. Myhrvold, people usually don’t have an urgent need for these nutrients.

Humans can’t assimilate the whole grain

The opinion that whole wheat bread is better, belongs to Dr. Denis Parsons Burkitt, and was declared in his bestseller “Don’t Forget Fibre in Your Diet”. To his mind, fiber from the bran layers of grains may prevent some cancer types.

In late 1980s, it was announced that fiber had a number of unbeatable health benefits. However, other research later proved the opposite to Dr. Burkitt’s theory. This included the Nurses’ Health Study, which involved observing 88,000 females over a span of 16 years.

It was later proved (using fecal and urine tests), that humans can’t digest whole wheat grain properly, and as a result, can’t assimilate the vitamins and minerals which the bread’s bran layer contains. The fact of the matter is that our body can’t split the outer part of grain. For this reason, we simply don’t assimilate most of its nutrients, including Iron, Zinc and Calcium.

In addition to this, the grain’s outer layer also contains phytates – chemical substances which block the body from absorbing certain minerals. This phenomenon is known as an anti-nutrient effect.

Dr. Whitney English, states that: compared to sugar, our body digests starch over a longer period of time. Thus, when eating something containing starch and sugar, glucose is absorbed into the blood less quickly, which avoids high blood sugar spikes.

However, there is not a unanimous opinion regarding the glycemic index. What is more, according to Dr Myhrvold, the fiber part in whole wheat bread makes up only 11%, so this would have a minimal effect on the body’s blood glucose level.

The other thing is that nowadays, as there are so many varying components in different types of bread, it is difficult to estimate their effect. Bread may contain honey, syrup, seeds, and so on. And it is these elements that will generate truly significant results on the ingredients’ action, as opposed to whether or not the bread has been processed with its outer wheat layers.