All bread recipes use the same basic ingredients which are flour, water, yeast and some salt. But what is being added to our supermarket loaves? And how does this differ between brown and white bread?
Read on for your starchy summation.
Firstly, why are they different colours?
White bread is lightly coloured because of the way its flour is milled and the bleaching that happens to it afterwards. Essentially, the bran and wheat germ are removed from the wheat flour when producing white bread. This is then followed by bleaching the flour with chemicals like potassium bromate and chlorine dioxide to get rid of any yellow spots and to reduce the risk of rancidity.
Brown bread, on the other hand, is made from the whole wheat – bran and wheat germ included. The brown colour comes from cerealine, the grain found in whole wheat which is removed in white bread manufacturing.
Which has the most fibre?
According to the NHS, 1 slice of brown bread has around 2.5g fibre while white bread has just 0.9g per slice. This is because of the fine milling process which takes place in white bread production, where the wheat germ (the layer on the outside of the bran which holds a wealth of fibre) is removed. As a result, white bread induces the ‘sugar high/crash’ cycle more readily than brown bread. This is because white bread is converted into glucose upon consumption more quickly, causing a speedy spike in blood sugar.
If you can’t give up white bread just yet though, there are ways to maintain your blood sugar levels. For instance, you could add another high fibre element to slow the absorption of sugar in the bloodstream. Crunchy peanut butter with seeds sprinkled on top is a healthier way to enjoy a white bread breakfast, or add sweetcorn to your tuna mayonnaise sandwich for a fibre-filled lunch.
Which is most calorific?
While brown bread has more fibre, it does not have more calories. In fact, brown bread has around 76 calories vs white bread’s 77. On the other hand, brown bread has 1/3 more fat than white bread (0.9g vs 0.6g).
While this might have been evidence enough to trade in brown for white in the past, we now know that fat is not bad. In brown bread’s case, the fat comes from the healthy wheat germ which is kept intact. There is also the consideration that the blood sugar highs of white bread are more likely to cause over-eating, thereby increasing the amount of total unhealthy fat chowed down per meal.
Which is most nutrient-rich?
Since WW2, breads have been fortified with folic acid and calcium to create a more ‘all-rounded’ food staple. Possibly due to the ‘extras’ involved in making white bread and the removal of fibre, it is often fortified with more calcium than brown bread. However, brown bread naturally includes more magnesium, copper, zinc, manganese and vitamins B6 and E.
Choosing a healthy loaf
If you are hoping to increase your good gut bacteria, opt for brown bread. The high fibre contents act as a prebiotic in the gut, making it essential for good digestive health.
If the idea is to reduce that uncomfortable bloating feeling, on the other hand, it’s all down to portion size. Bread is a starchy food due to the high amounts of flour involved, meaning over-consumption can cause inflammation in the gut – and this is true for both brown and white bread.
To be kind to your stomach, treat bread like you might biscuits: one tastes good, two taste better, but stop after three before you end up mindlessly reaching out for your next glucose fix.