There's little doubt that a classic American diet staple is bread. Whether you're a fan of classic white bread that was so popular in childhood, or have moved onto whole wheat or fancier sprouted breads, majority of the population keeps their breadbox stocked.
However, over the past 5 years or so many Americans have begun to question whether we, as humans, should be eating wheat. This includes many different foods, including vast majority of bread you'll buy at a bakery or find on store shelves. The main idea behind this no-bread trend is the gluten-free movement.
What is a Gluten-Free Diet & Why Does it Matter?
Chances are you're familiar with the gluten-free diet to some extent. You've heard people talking about it, you've seen it mentioned in shows and magazines, and you may have even spotted gluten-free marked dishes on restaurant menus. Unfortunately many people choose to go gluten-free for no other reason than that it's supposed to be healthier.
Excluding grains as a whole is a common practice in paleo-esque diets, but excluding wheat is becoming more common. Essentially a gluten-free diet excludes wheat, not all grains. Gluten itself is basically the glue that holds foods together, though gluten itself is technically a protein.
Gluten is found in wheat, rye, barley and triticale. Oats are another grain often lumped into the gluten category but oats alone don't contain gluten. However, oats grown by wheat and other gluten grains aren't considered gluten-free.
The gluten-free diet is primarily prescribed for those with celiac's disease and gluten sensitivities. Somehow along the way people without this disease or sensitivities decided it would be an ideal diet for better health and weight loss, the logic being that if someone with a disease can achieve a healing effect by avoiding gluten then someone who is already healthy should see positive results in their own health.
Ironically the opposite may actually be true. Though not yet a widely research subject, some nutrition scientists have delved into how a gluten-free diet affects someone without gluten intolerance. In a study published in British Medical Journal found that a lack of gluten may actually contribute to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. It seems as though going gluten-free for no reason may actually have adverse effects or at the least provide no benefit.
Rather than avoiding bread, focusing on a balanced diet based on clean eating and whole food is the key to better health. So if you've been shying away from bread because of "scary" gluten, you've been avoiding a potentially healthy source of nutrition.
Is All Bread Created Equal?
For the average person there is really no issue with eating bread, at least from the standpoint of gluten being the concern. That being said not all breads are the same. Basic whitebread is still one of the most popular types of bread because it's inexpensive, is versatile, and has a fairly plain taste. Chances are many people loved their peanut butter and jelly on white bread as children.
Whole wheat bread is also a popular choice and it seems as the marketing efforts of the USDA has paid off since many people now look towards whole wheat as a healthier option. However, science may prove that the white vs wheat debate isn't as clear cut as you'd think. Research featured in Cell Metabolism journal compared effects of wheat vs white on different participants and discovered that the type of bread didn't have significant effect on the blood glucose level, liver enzymes and other tested parameters. However wheat bread still trumps white bread over fiber content. It can help you reach your required daily fiber intake.
Essentially if you're torn between white or wheat, it has more to do with how your body reacts to it. If you feel fine eating both you can opt for whichever one tastes better for you. Some people do experience a near sugar-rush feeling after eating white bread, and if you fall into this category then you may do better with wheat.
With that being said, there are some better types of bread to consider, such as:
If you're a fan of wheat bread then you should be looking for whole wheat bread. Don't just grab a loaf of brown wheat bread, as you'll likely find that it has enriched flour as an ingredient. True whole wheat bread will state this clearly, but you should double-check the nutritional facts and ingredients list anyways.
Whole wheat and other whole grain breads a great alternative to plain enriched wheat or white. Again, double-check the ingredients to ensure your bread is actually whole grain.
Though there isn't a lot of research to back it, some dieticians believe that sprouted grain bread is a better option than whole grain alone. As you'd assume, sprouted grain breads are whole grains that have germinated. These breads are often more expensive and more difficult to find, but by comparing nutritional labels you may find some brands to be healthier than the regular whole grain you usually buy.
Either you love sourdough or hate it, but it is a great white bread alternative for those that don't want to eat plain white bread. Sourdough bread has gone through a fermentation process which offers the excellent benefit of being great for those that are mildly gluten-sensitive as it is much easier to digest.
If you're trying out a paleo diet or for whatever reason wish to not consume traditional bread you should try grain-free breads. Again, it comes down to personal health and diet, but some grain-free breads can be a tasty choice for alternative nutrition as long as you're getting your grains elsewhere.
Overall there really is no solid reason why the average person shouldn't consume bread. There is no scientific data that backs the idea that bread is bad, especially from the gluten standpoint. Basically if you are a healthier individual that eat fairly well and is in good shape, bread can remain a staple of your diet. Health and diet is a very individual thing after all. If you prefer to not eat bread because you believe you feel better without it, you can go that route. Just be sure to do your research, talk with your doctor and make an informed decision together before you decide to cut bread or grains.
Zoey is a part-time blogger and a full-time nurse. She is the founder and editor of leanrecipes.com an avenue for sharing her passion about juicing, plant-based diet and living a healthier lifestyle.
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