Even when I was younger, I knew brown bread was a better choice than white. I knew wholemeal (whole grain) foods had more fibre, but this was as far as my knowledge went.
I’ve recently been looking into the difference a lot more.
Luckily, I actually like the taste of wholemeal foods. I prefer wholemeal rice, pasta and bread, so I always eat these at home.
What started to baffle me is why you can’t buy more wholemeal based items in stores and restaurants. I’ve not yet come across a wholemeal rice option in a restaurant and only once a pasta.
I’ve never seen a wholemeal based readymade pizza in a supermarket.
Now I know more about the actual difference between white and wholemeal, I wonder why white is so popular. The benefits of eating wholemeal foods far outweigh choosing the refined white versions!
Wholemeal bread benefits
So what is the difference between white grains and whole grains?
All grains are originally whole grains. A long time ago I thought they grew two different grains!
So, white grains are in fact created from whole grains.
They are ‘refined’ and changed from their natural state by having the bran and germ removed.
This makes them quicker and easier to cook, as well as extends their shelf life, which is why they are more widely available.
Many people also prefer the taste.
Like anything, you just need to adjust your palette. One of my friends always bought white bread for her family of six. She decided to change to wholemeal and at first it was a battle, but after a while the kids just adapted and she even says they prefer wholemeal now!
Even if you still prefer the taste of white bread, I think the nutrient content should always be a factor when making your choice. Food isn’t just to provide us with sustenance, it’s there to provide us with nutrition and keep us healthy!
Unfortunately, removing the bran and germ to create white grains also removes most of the nutrients.
The bran contains fibre, minerals and B vitamins.
The germ contains antioxidants, B vitamins, vitamin E and healthy fats.
This means white foods no longer contain all this goodness as its been removed!
Some white foods, especially breakfast cereals, are then fortified with vitamins and minerals as they no longer naturally contain them. They are usually fortified with inorganic vitamins and minerals, basically made in a lab and not from a natural plant based source.
I find this a strange process as surely it makes more sense to eat the whole grain version in the first place and save so much time and faff?!
It’s often about money though. Wholemeal grains have a much shorter shelf life so companies cannot store them for as long and make as much money from them.
So, what do white grains contain?
What’s left after the removal of the bran and germ is the endosperm layer.
It contains carbohydrates and a small amount of protein.
Without the fibre from the bran layer, the sugar from the carbohydrate enters the bloodstream far too quickly causing our blood sugar level to spike. Spiking our blood sugar levels can eventually lead to insulin resistance & diabetes.
Consumption of lots of white grains is also linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
White foods makes us feel good and energised quickly, but this effect is only short lived and no good for our bodies.
We are actually hungry again much quicker as there is no long lasting satisfaction. Eating white foods has been linked to weight gain because of this.
This all explains why when I eat white food I usually feel bloated, tired and sluggish!
Wholemeal grains are much better for you
Wholemeal foods, however, release their sugars slowly so the liver can cope better and our blood sugar levels are not spiked.
This means energy levels remain steady for longer.
We also feel fuller and more satisfied for longer whilst benefiting from far more nutrients.
Risks of cardiovascular disease and diabetes are reduced.
Plus, we get the fibre, antioxidants and vitamins!
What is ‘brown’ bread?
The terms brown bread and wholemeal bread are often interchanged, but they are usually two different things.
Brown bread is usually made up of a mixture of white grains and wholemeal grains.
Whilst it’s going to be better than purely white grained bread, it is still not as good as choosing 100% wholemeal bread.
Knowing all this information should definitely make choosing wholemeal far easier for you!
I definitely feel far more satisfied and wholesome when eating wholemeal foods.