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Choosing whole grain bread in place of refined white bread is often one of the first steps on the journey to healthier eating. But if you think this simple swap might not yield tangible results, you’re in for a surprise.

“There IS a measurable difference between whole wheat and white flour products, in every category one wishes to consider,” explains WGC Scientific Advisor Dr. Gary Fulcher. Refining whole wheat flour to make white flour greatly decreases a wide range of nutrients, including fiber, protein, vitamin E, vitamin B6, potassium and magnesium. Below is a closer look at how whole wheat flour differs from refined or enriched wheat flour.

graph comparing nutrients in whole wheat flour vs white flour

Data from USDA Food Composition Database, SR 28 (2017)

Rabble-rousing headlines claiming that studies find “no differences” between whole grain breads and white breads have been widely critiqued in the academic community, and are at sharp odds with the consensus of scientific research.  Breads do tend to have a higher Glycemic Index (GI) than intact whole grains, but, whole grain breads (GI of 69), on average, typically have a more gentle impact on your blood sugar than white breads (GI of 75). Plus, of course, the whole grain breads include all those extra nutrients.

Studies continuously support the health benefits of choosing whole grain foods over refined grain foods. For example, scientists in California found that people burned 50 percent more calories digesting a sandwich on whole grain bread with real cheese compared to a sandwich on white bread with a processed cheese product, even though both sandwiches had the same amount of calories and the same ratio of bread to cheese. Similarly, in a randomized clinical trial of 81 adults, the group eating whole grains had significantly higher concentrations of “good” gut microbes and significantly improved their metabolisms over the six-week study, compared with the group eating refined grains (keeping all other foods the same between the two groups).

Observational studies point to similar findings, linking higher whole grain consumption with a lower risk of being overweight or obese. And where are people getting those whole grains? US national survey data find that whole grain breads are the biggest source of whole grains for children and adults alike.

For more insight on the health differences between whole grain and white bread, see our May 2017 blog on US News & World Report. For more topics in this series, see our “MYTHS BUSTED” page. (Kelly)


Thank you so much for reassuring me that I am making a difference in the health of my family. For the past year, I started making all of my own bread products at home, everything from sandwich bread, dinner rolls, and garlic loaves to tortillas and pasta. I gradually worked from white flour to whole wheat flour so that my kids could adjust to the change. We now use 100% whole wheat flour for all of our bread products. I cannot tell you how many people have told me that it didn't make a difference what kind of flour I used. I researched it for myself, and surprisingly, a lot of different sources seemed to support those claims. But it still just didn't sound right to me. Surely, whole grain products must be better for you, it just seems to make sense. Thankfully, I came across this article, and I can see the numbers for myself. Now I no longer question whether or not the changes I have made are healthier for me and my family. Thank you :)
Hi Angie – What a wonderful story about your family’s journey from white flour to 100% whole wheat. We frequently recommend making the switch in much the way your family did, gradually substituting in more and more whole grains. I’m glad we could provide some of the scientific data you needed to back up what you already suspected was true about the whole grain flour you were using. Happy baking!
I dont wanna pu...
what does WGC stand for? i know its not world golf championships but thats the only acronym that i know for tose letters
WGC is short for the Whole Grains Council, which is one of the programs run by Oldways, our nonprofit nutrition education organization. For more information about our programs you can visit and
This is a misleading article. The lack of discernible difference is white and wholemeal not whole grain.
Hi Bazza – I think I understand your confusion. The term “wholemeal” actually means “whole grain.” In the United States, we tend to call flour made from whole grains “whole grain flour," but in many other countries (including Australia and the UK) whole grain flour is more commonly referred to as “wholemeal.” I hope that helps!

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