The Hidden Dangers of Industrial White Bread and Healthier Alternatives

The Hidden Dangers of Industrial White Bread and Healthier Alternatives

Industrial white bread, one of the so-called “five white poisons” in modern diets (alongside white rice, cow’s milk, white flour, white sugar, and table salt), is often served as a starter in restaurants. This seemingly innocent, crispy, shiny-crusted bread with its fluffy crumb can be hard to resist. You might start with a small piece, but before you know it, you’ve devoured the whole basket before your main course arrives.

Restaurants know exactly what they’re doing. White bread satisfies and comforts but leaves you wanting more. It’s never quite enough, is it?

The Problem with Industrial White Bread

I wrote an article a while back about the major dietary issues we face today, including the degradation of oils, white bread, and sugar. Today, let’s delve deeper into the issues with white bread.

Understanding Carbohydrates: Glycaemic Index and Glycaemic Load

Grains, such as wheat, are rich in carbohydrates. Two important concepts related to carbohydrates are the glycaemic index (GI) and the glycaemic load (GL). The absorbable carbohydrates in foods raise blood glucose levels, prompting varying amounts of insulin release. To evaluate this, we use the GI and GL concepts.

  • Glycaemic Index (GI): This measures the relative ability of a food to increase blood glucose levels compared to a reference food (usually glucose or white bread). High GI foods can destabilize hormonal and inflammatory balance.
  • Factors Affecting GI: Processing level, ripeness, variety, starch structure, digestive capacity, and the combination with other foods (e.g., fat, fibre, protein, or acids like apple cider vinegar) can influence GI.
  • Glycaemic Load (GL): This considers the GI and the carbohydrate content of the food. Let’s examine the following table:
FoodGI (glucose=100)g CH/100gGL (per 100g)
White bread9552.650
Cornflakes (breakfast)9382.376.6
Boiled white rice8932.228.7
Boiled potato821714
Wholemeal bread7142.230
White sugar6810068
Boiled sweetcorn6022.113.3
Boiled white pasta5824.814.4
Boiled quinoa5316.48.7
Brown rice5021.410.7
Cooked chickpeas381.86.8
Cooked lentils2911.33.3

Note the following:

  • Some foods like pumpkin and watermelon have a high GI but a low GL.
  • Foods like brown rice and millet have a moderate GI but a higher GL, yet remain balanced.
  • Foods with both high GI and GL, such as white bread, are particularly problematic.

Health Implications of High Glycaemic Foods

Excessive blood glucose requires immediate neutralisation by pancreatic insulin. When there’s an actual excess, the liver converts glucose into fat (triglycerides) and stores it (adipose tissue). This process, known as “de novo lipogenesis,” occurs in liver cells and is triggered by elevated insulin levels.

The Issue with Industrial White Bread
  • Made from flours high in gluten (gliadin), which is larger and more allergenic than other grains.
  • Conventional flours contain agrochemicals, nitrogen fertilizers that increase gliadin content, and pesticides. Fungicides are added during storage.
  • Rapid fermentation using industrial yeasts and raising agents leads to incomplete fermentation. Enzymes are added to aid fermentation.
  • Bleaching agents destroy nutrients (e.g., chlorine oxide destroys vitamin E). Refining grains loses at least 75% of vitamins and minerals.

The bread most people consume today is vastly different from traditional bread. Industrialized white bread is ubiquitous, especially in restaurants.

The Healthier Alternative: Organic Wholemeal Sourdough Bread

I recommend avoiding industrial white bread. There are alternatives. Organic wholemeal sourdough bread is made with flour from organic crops, with all its germ and bran, unrefined sea salt, and non-chlorinated water. Ancient grains like small spelt (spelt, emmer, or einkorn), kamut, or rye, with less allergenic gluten, are even better. This bread undergoes slow natural fermentation, with sourdough allowing complete fermentation. Sourdough microorganisms improve starch digestion, produce lactic and acetic acid, and degrade phytic acid.

This type of bread is a nutritional treasure, rich in minerals, fibre, and B vitamins (essential for the nervous system). It has a much lower glycaemic load, aids better intestinal transit, protects the gut microbiota, and promotes the assimilation of micronutrients and proteins.

Whole grains are always better than any flour. Go for the grain!

Leave a comment