Is Whole Wheat Bread Really Better Than White Bread?


Bread is an important part of the daily diet of most people and therefore the bread we choose to eat as part of our diet is of great importance for our health and well being.

We all hear from different sources that whole wheat bread is healthier than white bread. But why? and how much healthier is it really? To know and understand this we need to take a closer look of the flours used.

Whole wheat flour in comparison to white flour has a higher fiber and mineral content by 15%.

I know these numbers sound very specific so let me break it down for you as there are many aspects of flour we need to go over.

Whole wheat bread (depending on how much whole wheat flour is used ) is better for you for the simple fact that it contains fiber and minerals. But as far as consuming starches which in turn convert into sugar in your body it is about the same.

So… is it really that much better?

In this post, I will review the positive and the negative in each type of bread so that you can make a conscious decision about what is best for you. We will also review some other alternatives so you can make a better choice for yourself and your family.

First thing first let’s look at the differences in the bread

Whole Wheat bread

Whole wheat bread is made of whole wheat flour.
“Whole” meaning using the full wheat kernel. The wheat kernel consists of 3 main components: endosperm, which is about 83% of the nucleus, bran, which is about 15% of the nucleus and germ which is about 2% of the nucleus. Whole wheat flour is defined in most countries of the world as flour containing all the components of the nucleus in their original ratio.

Whole Wheat Bread

The most important parts of the grain are the germ and the bran.
The essence of the grain sits within the germ as it contains plenty of vitamins. In the bran, you will find the dietary fibers and minerals such as magnesium, iron. The endosperm contains the starches and the proteins.

Most whole wheat bread recipes will contain flour, water, salt and yeast.

White Bread

White Bread

White bread consists mainly of white flour. During the milling of the wheat grain, the bark ( containing the bran ) is removed, along with the vitamins and minerals it consists of. What’s left is the endosperm containing the proteins ( which includes the gluten ) and starch. The starch is high in calories and used as readily available energy that breaks down quickly in the body turning into sugars and fat.

Also, note that many white bread recipes will also include fats such as oil or shortening.

Glycemic Index

Here are some definitions before we get into this explanation

Carbohydrates:

sugars, starches, and fibers found in fruits, grains, vegetables, and milk.

Starch:

Starch is composed mainly of glucose particle or as we more commonly know it sugar.

Now to the Glycemic Index

When we consume carbohydrates and starches, the digestive system breaks it down into smaller particles, part of which is glucose, which enters the bloodstream at different rates from food to food.

The speed in which your body consumes these sugars into your body and raising your blood sugar level is the Glycemic Indes. Source

They glycemic index in bread is measured by the increase of sugar (glucose) in the blood two hours after eating a portion of bread containing 50 grams of the carbohydrates in relation to the increase in sugar levels after eating 50 grams of sugar or glucose. Source

High glycemic index food contains sugars that break down quickly during digestion. After we eat them, our body experiences a quick rise in our sugar and insulin levels. This is a negative effect on our body, which likes stability rather than ups and downs.

Surprisingly, when whole-wheat bread is compared to white flour according to the glycemic index, you find that there is not a big difference between them.

you don’t believe me? See the actual glycemic index here.

This contradicts the general belief that the sugars in whole wheat flour break down slower than white flour.

What Is Really The Benefit Of Whole Wheat Flour vs White Flour?

Take for example 2 loaves of bread white and whole wheat and let’s say they are both made of only flour, water, salt, and yeast. Say you use 500 grams of white flour for the white bread and 500 grams of whole wheat flour for the whole wheat bread.

This means that your whole wheat bread will be 100% whole wheat. 15% of that whole wheat flour will contain the fibers and minerals that you are missing in the white bread. If you want to look it in in terms of grams it will turn out to be 75 grams of bran and 425 grams of the endosperm and germ for the whole wheat flour that the white flour is missing.

Another important thing to consider is that the whole wheat bread will also contain more water as the bran/fiber in the whole wheat flour requires a higher hydration level.

So… whole wheat bread will not only contain 15% fewer carbs but will also contain more water which has no nutritional value and that means that you will eat fewer carbs and starches.

Big win for whole wheat bread!

I hope that makes sense.

Nutritional Fiber And Health Effects

Whole wheat grain bread is rich in fiber and fiber consumption is crucial to our health.
Fiber consumption is crucial to your digestive system. Among its many benefits, it significantly helps to reduce the chances of colon cancer and leads to a reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome.

Other beneficial effects of fiber in using whole grain flour are preventing constipation, helping to maintain proper levels of cholesterol, fats, and sugar in the blood. Basically, it just makes things flow right through you 🙂

For people who want to lose weight whole grain bread is a necessary part of the daily diet: fibers contribute to creating a sense of satiety over time and maintain healthy body weight. Furthermore, the number of calories you burn when you eat white bread is less than the number of calories you burn when you eat whole-wheat bread.
Sources: The American Heart Association.
JN The Journal Of Nutrition.

Vitamins and Minerals

White bread contains mainly the endosperm which is made up mostly of carbohydrates that contain only starch and protein, its nutritional value in terms of vitamins, minerals, and fiber is the lowest of all bread.

Most times you will find that white flout is artificially enriched with vitamins, but it does not really restore its nutritional value as opposed to having the bran in it. Of the 25 nutrients that are lost during the removal of bran from the wheat kernel, only five are returned to the flour artificially, which is simply not enough. In contrast, whole wheat bread contains vitamins and minerals that are missing from white flour such as iron and magnesium, niacin, folic acid, and others.
Source: My Food Data, Nutrition facts Comparison of White Bread

What is The Difference Between Whole Wheat, Whole Grain, and Multigrain Bread

Let’s take a look at some confusing terminologies out there and straighten out this whole mess.

Whole wheat bread:
Means that all parts of the wheat kernel – the bran, germ, and endosperm – are used. This is the healthiest choice since all the nutritional benefits of wheat are preserved in the flour and you get that extra fiber.

Fyi: Whole wheat bread doesn’t necessarily mean that the bread is made up of 100% whole wheat. Every country has their own regulations as to what percentage of the bread hast to be whole wheat grain to be considered “whole wheat bread”.

Whole Grain Bread :
The name may be confusing – whole grain bread usually means that the bread is made up of either multiple varieties or one type of whole grains such as rye, barley or corn. It is usually not made of wheat( or else it would be called whole wheat bread ) but can contain whole wheat in it as well.

Multigrain Bread: made of more than one type of grain such as cornmeal, barley, wheat, millet, and others but the grains are not necessarily whole (contain the bran).

Make sure to read your bread labels to understand which flours your bread is made up of or ask at your local bakery.

Different Types Of Bread: Their Benefits And Shortcomings

After we learned a little about the different types of bread and understood the nutritional and health effects of the types of flour, it is time to decide: Which bread is the healthiest?

There are quite a few types of bread in the market that meet the different needs and preferences of the consumers. But what about the health aspect?
Here’s what you need to know other than all written above.

Different countries have different standards for what is called whole wheat bread,. spelt bread or rye bread. Not necessarily a bread that is called in a certain name consists of one hundred percent of the same grain.
In order to choose a healthy bread, it is recommended to read the list of ingredients on the package. The ingredient that appears first is the one found in the largest amount in the product you are about to buy and eat.
As you have already understood, it is recommended to choose whole wheat as the first ingredienton the list, and note what else they added to the bread and make sure that the whole flour is in high percentage.

Rye bread

You can find large quantities of manganese and fiber in rye bread. Rye flour is rich in magnesium, manganese and iron minerals. It also contains plenty of lignans, substances that help maintain normal blood pressure and a normal level of cholesterol in the blood. It contains a large amount of dietary fiber, about twice as much as whole wheat flour.

Rye Bread

Thanks to what I just mention rye bread is considered to have a low glycemic index. This means that after eating, the blood sugar level increases more slowly, so it is recommended for diabetics.

It is also rich in the amino acid tryptophan that makes the brain serotonin, a chemical that is important for good mood, calmness, and satiety. calories vise its contains about 80 calories per slice ( depending on the size) source .

If you are diabetic, it is possible that a bread made of whole rye bread containing more than 80% rye flour will be better for you than other whole wheat bread that is 100% whole wheat.

Spelt bread

Spelt flour contains up to 60% more zinc, iron, magnesium and phosphorus than wheat flour. It has a different composition of the protein subunits from which the gluten is made, so it is recommended for those who suffer from inflammatory bowel disease, and irritable bowel syndrome.

If you are celiac, it’s forbidden to eat bread with Spelt flour because after all Spelt flour contains gluten after all.

Calories wise Spelt bread contains about 100 calories per slice, source.
An interesting fact about Spelt is that the grain can grow in harsh weather conditions and with fewer pesticides. In recent years it has gained popularity since it is easy to grow and in most cases organic which is less harmful to the environment.

What can I say? 2 birds with one stone…

Light bread

Light bread is a general name for calorie-reduced bread that people tend to consume while on a diet. The meaning is clear: fewer calories per slice (around 48).
There are many types of light bread on the shelf. Some are made of white flour and some are whole wheat. What they all have in common is that they are airier, that’s because they are made with less flour and higher fiber content , which affects both the number of calories in it and the nutritional benefits of bread.

As mentioned earlier in this post higher fibers content also means higher hydration (water) content and therefore you consume fewer carbohydrates thus giving your a lower calorie bread.

Sourdough bread

Sourdough bread (my personal preference in taste) can be a healthier choice than white bread for sure but can also be better than most other types of bread. It all comes down to the types of flours used.

Sourdough bread, for the most part, is made up of flour, water, salt, and sourdough starter.

Sourdough Bread

Sourdough bread is made with wild yeast ( the sourdough starter ) and these bread have a longer fermentation process. This means these bread rise more slowly than bread using dry or natural yeast and is better for your digestive system because they will not release as many gasses after consumption.

Leavened bread or Sourdough bread is recommended for those suffering from digestive problems such as flatulence and abdominal pain (but not celiac disease, since the bread contains gluten) source.

If you want to learn how to make sourdough starter yourself, click here for a step by step guide.

Brown “rustic” bread

Often times than not these bread present itself in disguise: it gives the impression of a healthy bread when in fact it is a much inferior product.

These bread, usually round, rustic looking, filled with nuts, fruits, olives and such, look just like a healthy bread but are usually made of white flour (which you already know by now is not very nutritious) that have simply been dyed to brown by using caramel, malt or even plain food coloring.

In these cases, I recommend taking a good hard look at the ingredient table (if the bread is packed). If the amount of fiber is low, it is likely an “impostor” bread made from white flour.

Multigrain bread

Cereal bread is usually wholemeal bread, combined with wheat flour from other types of cereals, such as barley, rye, raw oatmeal, and others. The different seeds that are usually part of the bread also add a high nutritional content that increases the nutritional value of the bread and adds omega-3 and iron too it.

Multigrain Bread

Sprouted Wheat Bread

In sprouted wheat bread, the wheat grains undergo a process that brings them to the beginning of germination stage by soaking them in water. They are rich in vitamin B minerals, folic acid, fiber, and antioxidants. Studies show that the flour obtained in this process has a higher nutritional value than the flour produced in regular milling. Since the flour is produced from ultra-soft grains. These types of bread have a lower gluten value which makes the bread crumbles easily and does not maintain a solid texture as normal bread. It is generally better for your digestive system. Source

Sprouted Wheat

All in all these bread are quite healthy due to the added nutrients in the sprouted grains but are not very common and are hard to find. You will most likely find these in supermarkets rather than your local bakery.

I will only suggest buying these types of bread if you can find them fresh from a local bakery as massed produced bread even sprouted flour bread usually have additives and baking improvers/enhancer to give them a longer shelf life and make the mass production easier.

So while sounding healthy make sure to read the labels here so see that these only use natural ingredients and that they are not just a marketing ploy.

Sweetbread

This category of bread includes white bread ( which sometimes contains sugar) Chala bread ( a traditional Jewish bread eaten on Fridays and holidays) Brioche ( the most fattening and sweet of all bread) and many more breads that you can find that contain sugars in them.

Brioche

These bread are the worst health wise but we just can’t live without them. How else will you make french toast? 🙂

Do not eat these bread on a regular basis but I can’t say that I’m an angel and don’t indulge in them from time to time.

Remember: sweet bread is basically a cake dressed as bread!

Final Thoughts

While there are many choices on the market I would have to recommend the Rye sourdough bread or just Rye bread to be your daily bread. This bread is high in fiber low on the Glycemic index and is most likely your best choice. As for taste, it is my favorite. Goes great with cheeses and deli meats.

If you have never experienced rye bread try it out. It might be your favorite as well.


Amit

Hi, my name is Amit. I started baking at a young age at my father's bakery. I hope I can answer some of your questions and hopefully you will find some hidden gems to help you out with your home baking skills.

Recent Content