Let’s talk bread!

Wherever you are in the world I am sure you have heard about the decision taken in this country, the UK, to leave the European Union and if you are reading this in the UK my guess is that politics might be at the forefront of your mind, not health and fitness. But it’s for that reason I want to change the subject. The decision has been made and now the dust will settle. But our lives go on, we continue to train and the factors affecting our success remain the same. 

So what was the least political topic I could think of discussing? Bread! Once upon a time there was a simple decision: in or out? I mean, white or brown? Those days are gone now and there almost as many types of bread to choose from as there are political parties! (Okay, I promise that was the last referendum-related joke.)

The public perception of bread is fairly simple. The majority of people see brown bread as being the healthy option. Why? Because brown bread uses the whole grain and white bread is made from refined carbohydrates. What that means is that eating white bread can cause our insulin levels to spike as our bodies attempt to control our blood sugar levels.

Whole grain bread, in comparison, is far more nutrient-rich and contains relatively high levels of both vitamins A and E. You can also expect to find three times as much zinc, and around 40% more iron. You are also going to be saving on calories too, with a lot of whole grain breads containing somewhere around 50 calories less that its white counterpart.

Fibre is probably the unsung hero of the whole grain though. Fibre is removed in the refining process that gives us white bread but no such removal takes place with whole grain! Direct effects of fibre include amazing support for our digestive system and it has also been linked to preventing some diseases and illnesses in the long-term too. Bad cholesterol is also thought to be reduced after eating fibre more regularly and if that wasn’t enough it has absolutely zero calories too.

Of course the bread market has grown and diversified. Our supermarkets now contain most of the breads that you can think of. Can I go through every single one? Of course not. But if you want to experiment with the bread that you eat, compare them like-for-like on those nutrients that are most important to you. Needless to say fibre is an important one but look at the calories each loaf provides too as well as the vitamins and minerals that you are getting!

Gluten free is another big one at the moment and it is something I have been openly skeptical about. As far as the science goes, it seems that gluten free products mostly benefit those people with an allergy to gluten. Beyond that I have struggled to find any evidence that suggests it is more desirable for those of us without the allergy to avoid its consumption nonetheless. But if you feel like it is helping you then don’t let me stop you.

Ollie Lawrence