“White, brown or whole wheat – choose wisely!”
Over the years in my life, I have come to the realization that i love weddings — I love the food, the clothes, the tete-a-tete and even the jostling and shoving. But there comes a moment in every wedding that is dreaded by the most ardent wedding-lovers of all time — the moment we come across the fitness freak cousin who will harangue you for hours over the benefits of brown rice, the ill-effects of processed fruit juice and so on.
Last week, at a cousin’s wedding, as I was merrily shifting through the array of food that was laid out, I was cornered by a middle-aged uncle, who, after being diagnosed with blood sugar, has undertaken the noble task of educating everyone about proper diet and eating habits. As the uncle embarked on his lengthy discourse, one thing that he mentioned really struck me – Wikipedia enlists about 176 varieties of bread across the world, which differs from each other in shape, size, taste, ingredients and technique of baking. This made me plunge into research.
The popular white bread
The most common variety of bread consumed in India is the ‘white bread’. The flour used to make white bread is more processed than that in other types of bread, and in this processing, the germ and bran of the wheat grain are removed, and only the white, starchy endosperm is left, which is the least nutritious. The bran, or outer layer of the seed, is rich in vitamins and fiber. The germ contains vitamin E, protein and fat. The endosperm, or kernel, contains most of the wheat’s protein and carbohydrate content. White bread also contains added sugars, including high fructose corn syrup. Consuming excessive amount of all this is known to lead to weight gain problems resulting into various degenerative diseases including diabetes and cardiovascular problems. One slice of white bread has approximately 66 Kcal.
Brown bread is an option
One of the other alternatives is brown bread. This is a mixture of refined flour (maida) and whole wheat flour. During processing, the bran and germ layers are removed to a certain extent, so the ingredients in brown bread are stripped of many nutrients. Brown bread contains less fiber and fewer vitamins as compared to whole wheat bread, but is a healthier alternative to white bread. One slice of brown bread has approximately 75 Kcal.
The healthier alternative
Another type of bread that is gaining popularity in India is the whole wheat bread or whole meal bread. This type of bread is made from 100% whole-wheat flour, and contains all the parts of wheat grain, including the bran, germ and endosperm. The whole wheat flour bread provides fibre, protein, vitamin E and B, magnesium, manganese, iron, phosphorous, potassium and zinc. Whole wheat also contains a phytonutrient called plant lignans that has been found to have a protective effect against breast cancer and heart disease. One slice of whole wheat bread has approximately 66 Kcal.
Checks before buying bread
Whole wheat bread has a “nutritional advantage” over white bread. However, wanting to eat healthful food, you may grab a loaf of brown bread labelled “wheat” at the grocery store. Unfortunately, you may be giving yourself the equivalent of white bread with caramel colouring added to make it look brown and healthy. Ensure you check the following before buying the ‘healthier bread’:
- Check label to see that the first ingredient listed is either whole wheat (atta) or whole meal flour.
- Do not buy if only wheat flour or refined wheat flour is mentioned and whole wheat flour is mentioned as the fourth or fifth ingredient.
- If the label reads ‘enriched’, the flour is same as that for white bread.
- The presence of caramel as an ingredient on the label often indicates bread colouring to darken white bread to brown.
- To ensure maximum nutrition and minimal additives, look for the bread product that contains the fewest number of ingredients. This, together with the presence of whole wheat or whole meal flour, is a sign that you are buying the healthiest bread available.
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