Let's face it: Bread is off limits for most dieters. After all, it's loaded with carbs and has little nutritional value. But not all bread is created equal. Some varieties are actually quite healthy and can make weight loss easier. Whole-grain bread, for example, provides steady energy and fills you up quickly.
Despite its high-carb content, whole-grain bread is healthier than cake, macaroons, muffins and other high-carb foods. Plus, it's an excellent source of fiber, vitamins and minerals. When consumed in moderation, it can facilitate weight loss and prevent weight gain.
The Truth About Bread
Most types of bread have the same ingredients: water, flour, yeast and a pinch of salt. However, several varieties exist, and each has a different composition. Whole-grain bread, Ezekiel bread and artisan bread, for example, are completely different than commercial white bread. The latter is high in simple carbs and boasts a high glycemic index, causing blood sugar spikes followed by crashes.
A quick comparison:
- White bread — 79.8 calories, 15.2 grams of carbs, 0.7 grams of fiber, 2.3 grams of protein and 1 gram of fat per slice
- Whole-wheat bread — 81.5 calories,
13.8 grams of carbs, 1.9 grams of fiber, 3.9 grams of protein and 1.1 grams of fat per slice
- Ezekiel sprouted bread — 80 calories, 15 grams of carbs, 3 grams of fiber, 4 grams of protein and 0.5 grams of fat per slice
- Rye bread — 82.6 calories, 15.5 grams of carbs, 1.9 grams of fiber, 2.7 grams of protein and 1.1 grams of fat per slice
- Mixed-grain bread — 65 calories, 12 grams of carbs, 1.7 grams of fiber, 2.6 grams of protein and 0.9 grams of fat per slice
As you see, whole-grain bread is higher in protein and has more than twice the fiber of white bread. Additionally, it provides more vitamins and minerals. Both varieties contain gluten, which can be problematic for those with celiac disease. However, the fiber in whole-wheat bread is slowly absorbed into the bloodstream and suppresses appetite.
Both white bread and whole-grain bread have a high glycemic index (75 vs. 74). According to a 2015 study published in the Archives of Endocrinology and Metabolism, low GI foods promote weight loss and increase fat oxidation, while high GI foods have the opposite effect. Whole-grain bread, though, isn't evil. In fact, it can be a good source of carbs for athletes and physically active individuals.
Whole-Grain Bread Nutrition Facts
Eating whole bread on a diet is a simple, convenient way to fill up on fiber and B vitamins. Whole grains, including wheat, are an excellent source of manganese, selenium, potassium and other micronutrients. These foods have been linked to lower rates of weight gain and abdominal obesity as well as a reduction in waist circumference. In addition to protein, carbs and fats, whole-wheat bread provides a number of vitamins and minerals in every slice:
- 18 percent of the DV (daily value) of selenium
- 31 percent of the DV of manganese
- 7 percent of the DV of magnesium
- 6 percent of the DV of iron
- 6 percent of the DV of phosphorus
- 7 percent of the DV of thiamin
- 7 percent of the DV of niacin
- 5 percent of the DV of folate
- 4 percent of the DV of vitamin K
- 4 percent of the DV of riboflavin
Manganese, one of its key nutrients, contributes to bone formation, hormone production, blood clotting, calcium absorption and other biological processes. It also supports brain function and regulates blood sugar levels. Selenium, another essential mineral in whole-wheat bread, stimulates the production of antioxidant enzymes and protects your tissues from heavy metal toxicity.
According to a 2016 study featured in The BMJ, whole grains may help prevent coronary heart disease, cancer and premature death. Researchers suggest that eating just two slices of whole-grain bread or pita and one bowl of unrefined grains daily may significantly lower the risk of cardiovascular problems and stroke. Furthermore, these foods may protect against colorectal cancer, diabetes and chronic inflammation due to their high nutritional value.
Whole Bread and Weight Loss
Whole-grain bread does more than just keep your heart healthy. When consumed in moderation, it can speed up weight loss and improve appetite control. A 2018 study published in the journal Plant Foods for Human Nutrition indicates a direct link between whole bread consumption and fat loss.
Subjects who included whole-wheat bread in their diet experienced a significant decrease in visceral fat and body mass index. Those consuming refined wheat bread showed no changes. Researchers state that a wheat bread diet may help prevent abdominal obesity, which is a contributing factor to insulin resistance, diabetes and heart disease.
In 2015, the British Journal of Nutrition published a review assessing the relationship between bread and obesity. Scientists have found that limiting white bread, not whole-grain bread, as part of a Mediterranean-style diet may help reduce belly fat and body weight.
Don't Skimp on Whole Bread
Surprisingly, skimping on bread could lead to weight gain, according to a 2014 study featured in Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism. A study conducted on 50,339 adults has found that a lower intake of any bread, especially whole-grain varieties, may increase the risk of abdominal obesity.
These findings were attributed to dietary fiber, one of the most abundant nutrients in whole grains.
Wholemeal Bread Benefits
Acceding to a 2017 report published by the World Cancer Research Fund, there is an inverse association between whole-grain consumption and colorectal cancer, the third most common type of cancer in men. This disease claims more than 694,000 lives each year.
The fiber in whole grains may help prevent cancer by regulating digestion and feeding the beneficial bacteria that live in your gut. Furthermore, it increases the frequency of bowel movements, reducing transit time and helping your body eliminate harmful chemicals.
Choose Your Bread Wisely
Make sure you're actually getting whole bread, not white bread with sugar and traces of whole-grain flour. Always check the labels for hidden sugars and chemicals.
Some manufacturers add sugar to make whole bread taste better and mask its bitter flavor. Others use high amounts of sodium and preservatives.
Ideally, choose an organic brand or one that mentions "100 percent wheat," "100 percent wholemeal flour" or "100 percent whole grain" on the label. A good example is the Gardenia wheat bread, which contains 100 percent wheat and wholemeal flour plus real honey.
- Harvard Health Publishing: Glycemic Index for 60+ Foods
- SELFNutritionData: White Bread
- USDA: Whole Wheat Bread
- SELFNutritionData: Ezekiel Sprouted Bread
- SELFNutritionData: Rye Bread
- Fat Secret: Mixed Grain Bread (Includes Whole Grain and 7 Grain)
- Today's Dietician: Fiber's Link With Satiety and Weight Control
- Scielo: Effect of Glycemic Index on Obesity Control
- Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology: Can Whole Grain Help in Weight Management?
- MedlinePlus: Selenium in Diet
- BMJ: Whole Grain Consumption and Risk of Cardiovascular Disease, Cancer, and All Cause and Cause Specific Mortality
- NCBI: Association Between Whole Grain Intake and Stroke Risk
- Springer Link: Effects of Whole Grain Wheat Bread on Visceral Fat Obesity in Japanese Subjects
- WebMD: The Risks of Belly Fat - and How to Beat Them
- Cambridge.org: Relationship Between Bread and Obesity
- Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism: Central Obesity Is Associated With Lower Intake of Whole-Grain Bread and Less Frequent Breakfast and Lunch
- World Cancer Research Fund: Diet, Nutrition, Physical Activity and Colorectal Cancer
- The Telegraph: How Much Sugar Is in Your 'Healthy' Brown and Wholemeal Bread?
- Gardenia: High Fiber Whole Wheat Bread
- Cancer Council: Wholegrain and Wholemeal Foods