For bread lovers everywhere (us included), that’s a painful headline to read. And the sad answer is, yes, eating the mother of all carbs can be counterproductive when we’re trying to shed extra pounds. While you’ve likely heard that white bread and refined grains aren’t particularly nutritious (or worth their weight in calories), you might not know that most multi-grain and “whole-grain” breads aren’t much better.
“Whole grain” labels on bread packaging and in restaurants (Subway, for example) are often deliberately misleading because in reality, 50% or more of the ingredients consist of refined flour. And even 100% whole grain bread, while higher in fiber, still has a high glycemic index. (Eating actual whole grains–quinoa, millet, brown rice–is always a better bet.) We digest flour of all kinds rapidly, which can spike blood sugar and insulin levels and create a blood sugar “roller coaster” and potential for overeating. Some breads can send blood sugar soaring faster than many candy bars. (This goes for so-called “whole-grain” and “multi-grain” crackers, snacks and tortillas as well.)
Most bread is also high in phytic acid, a compound found in grains, nuts and beans that binds to minerals and inhibits absorption. Soaking grains before turning them into flour can help reduce physic acid levels, which is why sprouted whole-grain bread (Ezekiel for example) is a healthier choice. And, be sure to always check labels carefully since even bread that sounds healthy could have added sugar or high fructose corn syrup.
As for bread substitutes, there are many great ones. The Yes Health coaches are avid fans of the lettuce (or other leafy green, like kale, swiss chard and collard green) wrap for sandwiches and cauliflower crust for pizzas. Packing easy, no-bread lunches including hard boiled eggs with fruit and veggies on the side, sliced deli turkey or chicken with some avocado slices and chopped vegetables or healthy leftovers from the night before is also an option. And for the times you’re really (really!) craving bread, try making your sandwich open faced. A single slice can be surprisingly satisfying.
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