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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.
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.