Contrary to popular belief, bread is not the enemy—that is, if you’re choosing the right kind of bread— plenty of loaves lining grocery aisles are packed with sugar, unhealthy fats and dangerous additives. When the carbs in bread are “highly processed—think white bread—they lack nutrients, such as fiber, vitamins, and minerals,” says Mary Stewart, RD, LD, Founder of Cultivate Nutrition. If you choose a healthier, whole grain bread that’s minimally processed, you end up getting a great source of fiber, complex carbs (the good kind), and essential nutrients—all of which benefit your health.
Choosing wisely means checking the ingredient list when shopping for a loaf.
“Look for bread that is organic, made with whole grains or sprouted grains and contains at least 3 grams of fiber per slice,” says Stewart, who recommends “sprouted bread such as Ezekiel and bread made with whole grains and seeds.”
Read on for the secret side effects of eating bread. Then, be sure to check out our list of The 7 Healthiest Foods to Eat Right Now.
Our bodies need carbs.
“Simply put, carbohydrates supply the body with energy,” says Kate Turner, MA, RD, founder of Live Well with Kate.
As a “primary source of fuel, your body breaks down simple and complex carbs into glucose to be used by cells throughout your body or to be stored in muscle or the liver for future use,” says Stewart.
If you want that boost of energy to last, opt for whole-grain bread. Stewart explains that white bread will give you some immediate energy, but because it has a minimal amount of fiber and lacks vitamins and minerals compared to whole grain bread you’ll likely feel hungry sooner.
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When you’re eating refined carbs that are “typically void of the vitamins and minerals needed, your body must pull from its own vitamin and mineral stores. This can leave you feeling tired and depleted,” says Turner.
That’s why it’s important to buy whole-grain bread, which “offers all the nutritional benefits of the entire grain (bran, endosperm, and germ), including B vitamins, protein, healthy fat, and fiber, says Stewart. “According to the Whole Grains Council, without the bran and germ (like in white bread), about 25% of a grain’s protein is lost, and it’s greatly reduced in at least 17 key nutrients.”
“Carbohydrates that are rich in fiber, like some whole grains, can help keep you fuller for longer by slowing down your digestion, and improving your overall gut health,” says Turner.
However, it’s likely you’re not getting enough fiber.
“Only 5% of Americans consume the recommended amount of daily dietary fiber (roughly 24 grams for women and 38 grams for men),” says Stewart. “The benefits of eating fiber range from healthy, regular bowel movements (preventing constipation) to feeding your good gut flora, which leads to a healthy gut microbiome— impacting digestive health, mood, weight, and immune system—and supporting the elimination of toxins.”
So adding whole-grain bread to your routine not only helps you reach your fiber quota, but also supports healthy digestion and a slew of other health benefits.
Speaking of the gut. here are 20 Foods That Relieve Your Gut Problems, Say Dietitians.
If you’re chowing down on white bread, you may feel more depleted than energized. This is because “carbs eaten alone (without protein, fats, or fiber) cause your blood sugar to spike and then crash,” says Turner.
Does that hangry fatigued feeling ring a bell? That blood sugar roller coaster isn’t good in the long run.
“The sharp increase in blood glucose levels [from highly processed bread] along with frequent consumption may increase your risk for Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and obesity,” says Stewart.
Once again, if you’re opting for bread that’s full of refined carbs, it’s likely you may feel bloated after. Eating too many processed carbs can leave you with uncomfortable bloating in the abdomen because your body takes on water when trying to store energy.
Although, even if you’re eating whole-grain bread you could still feel a little bloated due to its high fiber content. Turner recommends drinking enough water to help it pass.
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