While one piece of white bread probably won't go straight to your hips, eating too much may lead to weight gain. What's more, research shows that choosing refined grains such as white bread, rice and pasta could make you more likely to pack on fat than eating whole grains such as whole-wheat bread or pasta or brown rice.
How Weight Gain Works
Whether you eat white bread or not, you only gain weight by consuming more calories than your body needs for energy. Faced with a calorie surplus, your body stores the excess as fat. The weight-gain process typically occurs gradually, as it takes a 3,500-calorie surplus to gain just 1 pound. The average slice of white bread contains just 75 calories, so you'd need to eat a lot of bread to cause rapid weight gain.
The Hunger Factor
While white bread may not be especially high in calories, it may contribute to weight gain by spurring cravings, causing you to consume more calories throughout the day. Refined grains are stripped of the fiber-rich bran and germ, leaving only the starchy endosperm. Your body absorbs starchy foods relatively quickly, leading to a rapid rise in blood sugar. Blood-sugar levels soon crash, causing cravings -- often for more refined carbohydrates, perpetuating the cycle. Fiber also slows food in the digestive tract, helping you feel fuller longer. Without the fiber, white bread is emptied quickly from your stomach, further increasing hunger.
Food may influence how your body distributes weight, and refined grains such as white bread could make you more likely to store fat in the abdominal region, expanding your waistline. In a study published in "The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition" in 2010, researchers examined 2834 participants and found that those who ate refined grains rather than whole grains tended to have more visceral fat deep in the abdomen, as well as more subcutaneous belly fat just beneath the skin. Visceral fat is particularly troublesome, as it's shown to increase your risk of diabetes, heart disease and other illnesses.
If you do choose to eat white bread, help ensure proper nutrition by consuming moderate portions as part of a balanced diet. Following the U.S. Department of Agriculture's MyPlate guidelines, a 2,000-calorie diet should include just 6 ounces of grains per day, with each slice of bread or half-cup of cooked rice or pasta counting as 1 ounce. At least half of those grains should come from whole-grain sources, leaving room for no more than 3 ounces per day of refined grains such as white bread. Non-grain food groups to fill out the rest of your diet include fruits, vegetables, dairy and protein-rich foods such as beans and fish.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Balancing Calories
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Bread, White
- Cabrillo College: Want More Energy and to Shed a Few Pounds? Go with the Whole Grain!
- ChooseMyPlate.gov: What's on Your Plate?
- International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders: IBS Diet: Dietary Fiber
- The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: Whole- and Refined-Grain Intakes are Differentially Associated with Abdominal Visceral and Subcutaneous Adiposity in Healthy Adults: The Framingham Heart Study
- Harvard Health Publications: Abdominal Fat and What to Do About It