I ate white bread

white bread… and I liked it!

Mmmm, a crusty baguette made with white flour, baked in a very hot oven on a baking stone — nothing like it.  Or a crusty sourdough loaf, made with white flour.  Mmmmm, I’d eat those all day long.

People assume a lot of things about what dietitians must eat.  Whole grains is one of those assumptions.  So this may come as a shock, but I like white bread, as long as it’s quality artisanal style bread.  I’m a big fan of artisanal breads, with or without whole grains.  I’m not a fan of commercial sliced loaves, regardless of whole grain content, that are manufactured to have the texture of a damp paper napkin.  For me it’s all about the quality of the bread.  Whole grains aren’t essential for that, sorry Food Nannies.

The official mantra of U.S. government and all well-known health organizations is to eat more whole grains.  Consider the ChooseMyPlate web page on grains.  The photo is all about whole grain breads.  They look lovely.  But that’s not what you see at the average grocery store.  Instead, there are shelves of sliced packaged loaf breads, some with (some) whole wheat flour or other whole grain content, some with none although they’re labeled “wheat” bread.  Just not “whole wheat” bread.  Apparently lots of people are fooled by that label, assuming it means whole wheat.

Food marketers never pass up a marketing opportunity handed to them by official government edicts.  They’ve capitalized on the whole grain recommendations, adding a token sprinkling of whole grains to breads, cereals, crackers, pasta and snack bars so they can slap a “Contains Whole Grains!” label on the front.  While technically true, the actual amounts make the claims essentially meaningless.  You can look for the Whole Grains Council’s stamp of approval for minimal whole grain content, keeping in mind that companies have to pay to play, so many products with credible whole grain content won’t have those labels.

A true story, related to the Eat More Whole Grains thing

An acquaintance was having severe and unpredictable digestive issues.  This went on for months.  After every test known to medicine, including celiac, there were no answers.  Avoiding wheat seemed to help though, so she came to the conclusion that she must be one of those gluten sensitive people.  Until, by accident, after eating refined wheat products, she realized it was not gluten.  It was whole wheat.  She’d been trying to follow the recommendations to eat more whole wheat.  For some reason it wasn’t agreeing with her.  White flour products — no problem.  I suspect there are other people out there who have similar issues.

Good quality whole grain breads will not be cheap.  They also may not stay fresh very long.  They may dry out faster, and the oils in whole grains can go rancid.  If you like whole grain bread but won’t eat a whole loaf in a couple of days, keep it in the freezer (assuming it’s sliced).  Slices will thaw quickly on a plate, or in the toaster.

There’s no arguing with the fact that real whole wheat/whole grain breads will have more nutrients, in particular fiber, a variety of minerals and B-vitamins.  In the US, refined white flour is fortified with iron and some B vitamins.  I hate this one-size-fits-all nutrient fortification system, designed decades ago when our food supply was very different.  But it’s not going to dissuade me from eating white bread.  And liking it.

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