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Why Is Bread Bad For You? The Shocking Truth

May 29, 2015 4 min read

It likely isn't news to anyone here that white bread and refined grains are not the most nutritious things we could be eating. Dietitians started recommending whole grains instead but now many health care professionals are saying that bread and other sources of gluten grains are unnecessary and perhaps even harmful. Here's what you need to know.

Bread Is High in Carbs and Can Spike Blood Sugar Levels

Guess what? Even whole grain bread isn't made from 'whole' grains. The grains get ground into a fine flour which, although leaving the nutrients intact, causes it to be digested more quickly. The starches are absorbed into the blood stream as glucose which causes a spike in blood sugar and insulin. When blood sugar goes up rapidly, it tends to come down rapidly and when it does so, we are left feeling hungry. This up and down is a familiar one to people who are eating high carb diets. Shortly after eating, you become hungry again which requires another high carb snack for satiation. And around we go again. Elevated blood sugars may cause glycation at the cellular level the blood sugar reacts with the proteins in the body which is a component of aging. Studies of carb restricted diets, ones that eliminate/reduce starches and sugars, suggest that diabetics or people that need to lose weight should avoid grains completely. Bottom line: Most breads are made up of pulverized wheat. Breads are easily digested by the body and cause a rapid spike in blood sugar and insulin levels which can lead to overeating.

Bread Contains a Lot of Gluten

Wheat contains a large amount of the protein gluten. It has glue-like properties that are responsible for the viscoelastic properties in the dough. When we eat bread containing gluten, our immune system in our digestive tract attacks the gluten proteins. Controlled trials in people without celiac disease found that gluten damages the wall of the digestive tract, causes pain, bloating, stool inconsistency and tiredness. Gluten has also been associated with certain brain diseases like schizophrenia. Gluten is probably harmful for most people and not just those with gluten sensitivities or celiac disease. The only way to really know if you have a sensitivity is to remove gluten from your diet for 30 days and then reintroduce it and see if it affects you. Bottom line: Most breads are made of gluten grains. Gluten causes an immune response in the digestive tract that can cause digestive issues, pain, bloating, tiredness and other symptoms. Most commercial types of bread contain sugar or high levels of high fructose corn syrup just like processed foods. Sugar has adverse effects and eating processed foods that contain is likely to have a negative impact on your health. Most grains also contain the 'anti nutrient' phytic acid. This is a molecule that strongly binds essential minerals like calcium, iron and zinc, preventing them from being absorbed. Soaking grains before baking with them can remove some of the phytic acid and improve mineral availability. Bottom line: Most breads contain sugar, which is extremely bad for you. They also contain “anti nutrients” that block the absorption of minerals like calcium, iron and zinc.

Bread is Low in Essential Nutrients

There are no nutrients in bread that you cannot get from another food source in greater amounts. Even whole wheat bread isn't all that nutritious. Not only is it comparatively low in nutrients, it actually reduces the absorption of nutrients from other foods.
  • Calorie for calorie, whole grain breads contain a low amount of nutrients compared to real foods like vegetables.
  • The phytic acid blocks absorption of minerals like iron, zinc and calcium.
  • By damaging the intestinal lining, gluten decreases the absorption of all nutrients.
  • Grains do not contain all the essential amino acids and are therefore poor sources of protein for humans.
  • Wheat fiber may cause your body to burn through its Vitamin D stores much faster and contribute to vitamin d deficiency, which is associated with cancer, diabetes and death.
Bottom line: Most breads aren't nutritious and the protein contained in them isn't much use. Damage to the intestinal lining and phytic acid reduces the availability of nutrients. Wheat can exacerbate vitamin D deficiency.

Whole Wheat Raises The Bad Cholesterol

One study saw 36 men randomized into two groups. They ate either whole oat cereal or whole wheat cereal. After 12 weeks, the blood lipid levels of both groups were tested. The oat cereal reduced LDL cholesterol and small, dense LDL, showing a significantly improved blood lipid profile. Whole wheat cereal increased LDL by 8% and small, dense LDL by 60%. Small, dense LDL is a type of cholesterol strongly associated with heart disease. Bottom line: Eating whole wheat may raise your small, dense LDL by 60% and increase your risk for heart disease.

 Whole Wheat is Just “Less Bad” Than Refined Wheat

It is true that whole grain breads contain more nutrients and fiber than those with refined grains but that doesn't mean they are good for you. If you MUST include bread in your life, there are some healthier options. Breads with soaked or sprouted grains may be slightly better due to the reduction in phytic acid and gluten free breads may be better than those made with gluten grains. Bottom line: Whole grain bread is slightly better than bread made from refined grains. The best option is to eliminate bread completely. Basically, anyone who wants to lose weight or has digestive issues should eliminate bread and other sources of gluten grains. Your body will thank you if you do!

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