Most of us have a love/ hate kind of relationship with bread. We know that it’s wrong to have an entire crusty bloomer to ourselves, but doesn’t it just look so appetising? And didn’t it smell amazing when it came out of the oven in the store?
Why shouldn’t we have that baguette if we really want it?
Whilst some may experience an uncomfortable bloating after consuming ‘more than just a little bit’ from the bakery department, most will have no adverse reaction to speak of, but will still feel guilty about their bread misdemeanour. Is it because we are all conditioned to believe that bread is bad and therefore its consumption is a vice?
It makes us feel good
Bread gives the body the carbohydrates it craves. These carbs supply energy for a whole range of functions (including exercise) and they also increase the brain’s levels of serotonin – the feel good hormone that acts as a mood stabiliser. So, as well as providing a quick fix when we are hungry, bread gives us an energy boost, makes us feel happy and can even help us get a good night’s sleep (thanks to the serotonin flood).
The devil is in the refinement
Most of the issues which we associate with bread are actually more to do with the refined carbohydrates which the highly processed (mostly white) variety contains. These cause blood-sugar levels to go on a rollercoaster ride, shooting sky high and then plummeting back to earth and this, in turn, activates addiction centres in the brain and causes cravings. All of us know that food cravings aren’t great if you are trying to eat healthily or control weight gain and what’s more, long term peaking and troughing in the blood sugar department makes us more susceptible to the onset of Type 2 Diabetes.
The truth is there are good bread choices
Not all bread has this effect though. Choosing a loaf that contains fibre-rich wholegrains is a great alternative as these clever little seeds keep blood-sugar levels steady and therefore don’t result in the same level of craving. In fact, compared with other types of grains, wholegrains are the best source of fibre and other vital nutrients such as Vitamin B, Iron, Folate Selenium, Potassium and Magnesium which means they are good for our bodies all round.
Over-processing leads to short-lived satisfaction
Generally speaking, the less processing a food product has undergone and the fewer additives it has had, the more ‘naturally good bits’ are left for our bodies to use as energy - and bread is no exception. Whilst the ‘calories per slice’ calculation may not differ significantly when you compare white bread with a wholegrain alternative, the way that your body will receive and use those calories is entirely different.
Standard white sliced will satisfy a short-term need for energy but will offer you very little else in the way of goodness. Even the energy boost is short lived, and the body will demand more calories very shortly afterwards. The input side of the calorie equation subsequently increases and if the output side (i.e. exercise) doesn’t increase proportionally, those calories are sticking around!
The truth is that, even when making a healthier choice, you needn’t deny yourself the occasional bread fix, you may just need to pay a little more attention to what the product contains and how it has been made. After all, the engine which is your body will perform at it’s very best with the highest quality fuel.