In theory, bread should be a healthy, whole-grain food. But the process that transforms healthy whole grains into the white bread found on most grocery store shelves destroys their nutrients and adds a variety of dangerous chemicals.
Most breads are produced from flour; they are not natural forms of whole-grain wheat. They require yeast cells to expand them with gas, gluten to bind them together, and preservatives to slow the inevitable growth of mold. Most common brands also add high fructose corn syrup, molasses, and dextrose to enhance flavor.
Wheat is a seed like any other. It consists of an outer covering (the bran), an embryo (the germ), and a fuel supply (the endosperm). In the case of white bread, the bran and germ are removed and only the soft endosperm is milled into flour. As the initial food supply for the growing seed, the endosperm contains mostly simple carbohydrates. These simple carbohydrates break down into single units of sugar almost immediately, causing hazardous spikes and crashes in blood sugar levels.
Wheat’s vitamins, minerals, fiber, tocopherols, antioxidants, and proteins are found predominantly in the germ or bran. The removal of these nutrients is the reason why white breads and pastas must be “enriched” after processing. Unfortunately, these added vitamins typically constitute an extremely small percentage of the recommended daily values.
The flour that is made into white bread is bleached with benzoyl peroxide. The bleaching process does nothing to clean the flour. It has no purpose other than to make the product more visually appealing, so that consumers will be more likely to purchase it. This agent oxidizes the yellow flour to make it appear whiter. In the process, benzoyl peroxide creates free radicals and benzoic acid. Free radical species are well known to contribute to DNA damage and aging, and benzoic acid can cause contact irritation, discomfort, weakness, and malaise. When ingested, the agent can cause headache, nervousness, nausea, and vomiting.
In addition to the health effects mentioned above, benzoic acid also contributes to the destruction of beneficial intestinal bacteria. In fact, this antibiotic action is what makes benzoic acid useful as a preservative. Any disturbance to the body’s natural balance of intestinal flora can lead to an overgrowth of parasites or pathogenic bacteria.
Further hazards can occur if any of the benzoyl peroxide makes it into the final product. Exposure to this agent has been found to cause a significant decrease in the liver’s production of superoxide dismutase (SOD). This enzyme is one of the body’s most powerful antioxidants and its destruction can lead to rapid aging and DNA damage.
White Flour Products Contribute to High Levels of Blood Sugar
The glycemic index (GI) for white bread is 70.3. Technically, this means that it raises blood sugar 70.3 percent as much as pure glucose sugar, which is extremely high. To compare this to a few nutritious foods, the GI for broccoli is about 10; cherries, 22; and tomatoes, 38. Even extremely low-quality foods such as milk chocolate and potato chips only reach a GI of about 43. This makes white bread very dangerous, especially to diabetics. It is also a poor source of energy, as the high level of blood sugar that it causes will plummet nearly as quickly as that caused by a soft drink or candy bar.
If You Eat Bread
Pumpernickel, whole rye, and whole wheat breads are much healthier alternatives to white. But you still need to be careful. Bread manufacturers use a variety of tricks to make their products appear to be healthy. For example, a bread can be called “whole wheat” even if it only contains a small fraction of whole-wheat flour. Make sure that the label instead reads “100 percent whole wheat.” If the word “enriched” is anywhere in the list of ingredients, the product is not 100 percent whole wheat.
Stay away from high-fructose corn syrup, dextrose, maltose, molasses, other refined sugars, and preservatives such as benzoate. It’s also a good idea to become familiar with the potential dangers of gluten. The best bread to eat is known as Ezekiel or Genesis bread. These breads are made from sprouted grains and usually do not contain milled flour or preservatives.
Remember: Always ignore the promises on bread labels and instead read the list of ingredients to know what you’re putting in your body.
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