Just walk down the bread aisle of your local supermarket and you will be bombarded with health claims -- some of which are true and some are misleading. It can be difficult to muddle through all of the jargon on food labels, especially if you are a diabetic. One of the most confusing topics may be the difference between whole grain and whole wheat, especially when it comes to bread. But, with a little knowledge, you can identify the best bread choices for you.
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The Food and Drug Administration describes a whole grain food as one that contains grain that is whole, ground or flaked, but still contains the main anatomy of the endosperm, germ and bran. By this definition, whole wheat bread can also be considered a whole grain food. However, for it to qualify, whole wheat bread must be made with a whole wheat flour that is made from whole grains.
A Carbohydrate is a Carbohydrate?
To understand how carbohydrates affect your body, look at how your body digests them. Any carbohydrate you eat is broken down into its smallest possible molecules by your body. Most of this is glucose, which is why carbohydrates directly affect your blood glucose. However, the makeup of a carbohydrate, including how it is processed and what it is eaten with, can also affect your blood glucose. While both whole wheat and whole grain breads are less processed than their white bread counterparts, a whole grain bread may be the best for you. This is where the glycemic index comes into play.
The Glycemic Index and Diabetes
The glycemic index rates the effect a food -- more specifically, a carbohydrate within a food -- has on your blood glucose. This system takes into consideration the processing of the food as well as the other nutrients that accompany it. For example, a less-processed grain will be more complex and contain more fiber. Fiber slows down digestion and absorption and a whole grain takes more time for your body to break down, meaning this food will result in a slow and sustained rise in blood glucose because the digestion and absorption is also slow and sustained. The index rates foods on a scale from zero to 100 and categorizes them as low, moderate or high. The higher the score, the larger and more rapid the increase in blood glucose.
Comparison of Breads
Whole grain and whole wheat breads rank very differently according to the glycemic index. A whole grain bread scores a 51 on the index, making it a moderate glycemic food. However, whole wheat bread scores a 71 on the index, categorizing it as a high glycemic food. A diabetic will do better choosing the whole grain bread over the whole wheat one.
When choosing a bread, take your time and read the labels. Look for a bread that has the words "whole grain" listed in the ingredients. You should also take a look at the nutrition label. The higher the amount of fiber a food has as its carbohydrates, the more slowly it will digest. Your bread should contain at least 2 g of fiber per serving.