There is almost nothing better than a slice of buttery bread straight out of the oven. You are probably staring at one right now, feeling guilty about wanting it. Bread has gotten a bad rap in recent years, with most low-carb diets terming it the enemy of progress. Now you want to know – does bread make you fat?
No, bread is not responsible for round bellies that have people huffing and puffing on the treadmill. No food is single-handedly to blame for weight gain. Weight gain is caused by eating too much in general. When you eat more calories than your body uses, you accumulate a calorie surplus and gain pounds.
Why has bread gotten such a bad reputation? Is it a healthy food choice? Let us look at the arguments for and against bread consumption.
The Nutritional Value Of Different Types Of Bread
When people say bread is bad for you, they probably mean white bread. White bread is made from refined wheat flour. The refining process takes away the bran and germ, leaving only the starchy endosperm. It is why white bread has low nutritional value.
White bread has simple carbohydrates. These are quickly broken down to give energy. They can cause a sugar spike soon after digestion. Because white bread is digested fast, it is not filling. You might snack on it and end up overeating to feel full.
Healthy bread is made from whole or sprouted grains. It contains essential nutrients such as protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Examples of such bread are whole grain bread, Ezekiel bread, and rye bread.
Whole wheat bread’s nutritional value makes it a healthful choice. Because it contains the bran and germ, it is more healthful than the refined variety. The bran is the outer layer of wheat grains. It is packed with fiber, vitamins and minerals. The germ is the core of the grain. It is packed with vitamins, healthy fat, and phytochemicals.
How many calories are in white bread? Below is a comprehensive list of different bread types and their nutritional value per 100grams (4).
- White bread – 264 calories, 52g carbs, 8g protein, 4g fat.
- Whole wheat bread – 244 calories, 45g carbs, 10g protein, 4g fat.
- Sprouted grain (Ezekiel bread) -260 calories, 47g carbs, 9g protein, 4g fat.
- Sourdough – 274 calories, 51g carbs, 9g protein, 3g fat
- Rye bread – 258 calories, 49g carbs, 8g protein, 3g fat
- Multigrain bread – 251 calories, 46g carbs, 10g protein, 3.8g fat
- Pumpernickel bread – 250 calories, 47g carbs, 9g protein, 3g fat
- Bagel – 272 calories, 53g carbs, 11g protein, 2g fat
Does Bread Make You Fat? There Is More To It Than Extra Pounds
The calories in wheat bread alone do not make you fat. This may come as a surprise to you, but calories in any food can make you fat; not just those in bread. Overconsumption of food creates a calorie surplus that is responsible for weight gain. That said, there is more to the criticism against white bread than weight gain.
Those who are against eating weight bread take issue with its nutritional profile. While you should get a certain amount of carbs daily, there are better sources for it. Below are some of the reasons why white bread may not be good for you.
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Low Nutritional Value
That buttery slice of bread may be tasty, but is it nourishing? White bread made with refined flour fails to meet the most important goal of eating – to supply nutrients. When a grain is refined, it is stripped of fiber, protein, and vitamins (9). Starch is left; making white bread a poor source of nutrition.
Why do white bread manufacturers strip wheat grains of all nutrients? The bran is stripped because of its fibrous content. Without it, the bread is soft and easy to chew. The germ is stripped off because of its high-fat content that would reduce bread shelf life. Refining wheat creates a light, fluffy flour that bakes soft pastries. While it may be good for your taste buds, it’s certainly not good for your nutritional needs.
Blood Sugar Level Spikes
Because of the low fiber and protein content, white bread is broken down fast. It causes a spike in blood sugar. Soon after absorption, blood sugar then drops rapidly. Some people get moody due to erratic blood sugar levels (7). Others look for more carbs to energize them. If you tend to snack a lot after having a white bread sandwich for lunch, erratic blood sugar levels may be to blame.
Risk Of Type-2 Diabetes
Diets high in refined carbohydrates can lead to obesity, which is a risk factor (among others) for insulin resistance. When your cells become less sensitive to insulin over time, it becomes harder for your body to control blood sugar levels. According to research findings published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, people consuming whole grains were less at risk of type 2 Diabetes (8).
White bread cannot make you fat, but it can make you eat more than you should (1). The erratic blood sugar levels will make you hungry. Remember that white bread is digested almost immediately, meaning you won’t feel full for long. Soon after eating bread, you will crave something else. If you are not careful, you will end up eating more than you should. Increased daily caloric intake over a long period causes weight gain.
According to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, white bread may make you sad (6). The research identified a correlation between consumption of refined carbohydrates such as white bread and depression in postmenopausal women. Your happiness could very well depend on your food choices, especially when it comes to the type of bread you eat.
The Case For Bread: Whole Grains Are Beneficial
Are you a bread-lover reading this and thinking you have to bid your buttery slices goodbye? All hope is not lost. Bread is good for you, especially when it is made from whole grains. There are many benefits of eating whole grain bread.
The next time you are browsing through labels at the bread aisle, favor those marked “whole grain”. Be careful though because “whole grain” does not always mean healthy, especially when bread has too many additives (9). Essentially, choose the bread that is made of whole grains and has the least number of added ingredients.
Below are some benefits of consuming whole grain bread.
Reduced Risk Of Cardiovascular Disease
Replacing refined grains with whole grains can help lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Because of the fiber and protein content, digestion of whole-grain bread does not cause sugar spikes. According to the Harvard Nurse’s Health Study, women who ate whole-grain products daily were less at risk of heart attack and other cardiovascular diseases (9).
Reduces Risk Of Type-2 Diabetes
The nutrients in whole grains help improve insulin sensitivity. They slow down the digestion of food, effectively preventing blood sugar spikes. Research suggests that eating whole grains regularly lowers the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 30% (9). In postmenopausal women, the benefits of whole grains are more pronounced. Those who ate more whole grains were 43% less likely to develop type 2 diabetes (9).
Protects Against Cancer
The fiber content in whole grain bread can protect you against colorectal cancer. The research on the link between whole grain consumption and cancer prevention is not sufficient. However, several studies have proven that fiber has a protective effect against colorectal cancer.
Improves Digestive Health
Pastries made from refined flour can cause constipation. Without fiber to aid digestion, you may spend more time on the toilet than you should. Whole grains have high fiber content, making them crucial for your digestive health.
Aids Weight Loss
Whole grain bread is satiating. When paired with proteins and fats to form a balanced meal, it nourishes and keeps you full for long. You are less likely to snack after eating whole grain bread, as compared to white bread. So, including whole wheat bread in your diet can help you reduce your overall calorie intake and lose weight.
If Carbs In White Bread Do Not Make You Fat, What Does?
On the basic level, your weight depends on how many calories you consume, how many of those calories your body uses for energy, and how many are left for storage. One may say weight gain is simply a numbers game. However, there is more to it than choosing how much to eat.
Your calorie consumption and retention are determined by genetic and environmental factors. Here is how each of these factors can make you fat, according to science (11).
- Genes – some people are predisposed to obesity.
- Habit – kids who consume high calorie processed foods might continue with such feeding habits in adulthood.
- Sleep – getting less sleep puts you at higher risk of weight gain.
- Stress levels – high-stress levels increase the risk of weight gain.
- Less opportunity for physical exercise – mechanization of house chores and more hours spent behind the wheel means less opportunity for physical activity.
- TV and sedentary snacking – spending more time in front of screens encourage snacking while burning few calories than physical activity.
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How To Make Bread Part Of Your Healthy Diet?
Making healthy food choices is the fastest way to lose weight. You should know that a healthy diet focuses not only on the quality but also the quantity of food you eat. Below are some smart ways of making bread part of your healthy diet.
No matter how healthy whole grain bread is, eating an entire loaf every day will not do you any favors. Know the daily calorie intake that will help you achieve your weight goals. Take only as much bread as you need to meet your nutritional and energy needs. If you had bread for lunch, choose a different carbohydrate for dinner.
Pair Bread With Protein and Fat
Instead of snacking on plain bread, make it a whole meal. Pair it with a protein and some healthy fat. Doing so satiates you and keeps you energetic throughout the day.
Choose Bread, Alcohol, Or Dessert When Dining Out
On a night out you will have to choose your poison. You cannot have one hand in the breadbasket, another on the stem of your wine glass, and hope for dessert later on. A healthy diet requires you to make some tough choices. If you choose to have bread with your starter, skip the dessert. You can have low-calorie alcohol like gin and tonic, or skip it altogether. You can always make up for missing dessert the next time you dine out.
Never Accompany Bread With Another Starch
The next time you order a burger with fries, think about how much carbs you are consuming. The burger bun is a starch that should not be accompanied by more starch. As always, healthy diets are about making good choices. Have a burger today, save the fries for another day when your calorie intake will allow it.
Bake Healthy Breads At Home
When creating a calorie deficit for weight loss, it is always a good idea to cook at home. Homemade bread is healthier than store-bought. When you know each ingredient used, you can accurately keep track of your daily calorie intake. Here are a few tricks to use to bake healthy bread at home.
Use Gluten-Free Flour Instead Of Regular Flour
Gluten is a protein in the wheat seed. Unfortunately, some people are intolerant to it. Severe sensitivities cause stomach discomfort. There is no connection between gluten and weight loss. However, if you were avoiding bread because of sensitivity, gluten-free flour is worth experimenting with.
Substitute A Portion Of Flour With Oatmeal
When combined with wheat flour, oat flour is a great ingredient for healthy bread. Most recipes use a 1:1 ratio for substitution. Although this doesn’t eliminate wheat, it does reduce your consumption of it. Oatmeal is lower in carbs and high in fiber.
Use Ground Flaxseed Meal For Low Carb Bread
When it comes to baking, flaxseed is a powerhouse (3). It can substitute oil in a bread recipe using a 3:1 ratio. It can also substitute eggs. Although it has a lot of oil, flaxseed meal can be used to make bread batter. The result is healthy, low carb bread that is more filling.
Three Healthy Bread Recipes You Should Try Today
You can eat bread and stick to a healthy diet. Eating healthy bread in moderation does your body a lot of good (5). If you are willing to get a little creative, here are a few bread recipes worth trying at home.
Almond-Flour Zucchini Bread (170 calories per serving)
Almond flour is an excellent substitute for wheat. It gives this bread a much-needed protein boost. Zucchini bread is gluten-free which is great for people with sensitivities. Excess moisture from the zucchini should be squeezed out or else your bread will be soggy. If you want to indulge your sweet tooth, add dark chocolate chips to the mix.
- 3 large eggs
- ½ cup light brown sugar
- ¼ cup canola oil
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 ½ cups shredded zucchini
- 1 ¼ cups almond flour
- ¼ cup coconut flour
- 1 ½ tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp cinnamon powder
- ¼ tsp salt
- ½ cup dark chocolate chips
- Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Grease two 6 by 3-inch loaf pans.
- Wring excess moisture out of the shredded zucchini using a kitchen towel and set aside.
- Whisk eggs, brown sugar, vanilla, and oil.
- Stir the zucchini into the wet ingredients.
- Whisk almond flour, coconut flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon.
- Add wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and combine well.
- Stir in chocolate chips.
- Divide batter into 2 pans and bake for 40 minutes.
Banana Coconut Bread (150 calories per serving)
This combination is low in sugar. It makes use of overripe bananas and is easy to make.
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- ½ cup whole wheat flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- ½ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
- ¼ tsp baking soda
- ¼ tsp salt
- 1 cup mashed bananas (2 medium-sized)
- ½ cup packed brown sugar
- ⅓ cup unsweetened coconut milk
- 1 lightly beaten egg
- 2 tbs canola oil
- ¼ cup chopped sliced almonds
- ¼ cup shredded coconut
- Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Grease an 8 by 4 by 2-inch loaf pan.
- Mix the dry ingredients.
- Mix the mashed bananas, brown sugar, coconut milk, oil, and egg.
- Mix wet and dry ingredients to form a lumpy batter.
- Pour in pan, sprinkle with sliced almonds, and coconut.
- Bake for 50 minutes.
Pumpkin Spice Bread (161 calories per serving)
This bread has pumpkin puree and maple syrup which make it sweet and serve as an alternative to added sugar. The puree also makes the bread moist.
- 1 ¾ cups whole wheat flour
- 1 ½ tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp baking soda
- ¾ tsp salt
- ½ tsp ginger powder
- ¼ tsp nutmeg
- ¼ tsp allspice
- 1 cup pumpkin puree
- ½ cup maple syrup
- ¼ cup canola oil
- 2 large eggs
- Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Grease 9 by 5-inch loaf pan.
- Mix dry ingredients.
- Mix wet ingredients.
- Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients, pour in the wet mixture, and mix well.
- Pour batter into the pan and bake for 50 minutes.
The Bottom Line
Eating too much of any food will make you gain weight! Bread does not make you fat. Excess calorie intake does. However, some types of bread are healthier than others. White bread has low nutritional value, is less filling, and can put you at risk of type 2 diabetes. Whole grain bread, on the other hand, is packed with nutrients. Like with every other food, you should consume whole grain bread in moderation as part of a healthy diet.
If you want to do even more for your body, why don’t you supplement a healthy diet with some exercise? Check out this 20-min Full Body Workout at Home.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- Bread Calories, Nutrition Facts, and Health Benefits (2020, verywellfit.com)
- Bread On A Fat Loss Diet? Two Tasty, Healthy Recipes Can Make It Happen! (2019, bodybuilding.com)
- Cooking with Flax (n.d., flaxcouncil.ca)
- Food List And Calorie Counter (n.d., fatsecret.com)
- Healthy Bread Recipes (n.d., eatingwell.com)
- High glycemic index diet as a risk factor for depression: analyses from the Women’s Health Initiative (2015, oup.com)
- Is it ‘Hanger’ or Low Blood Sugar? (2015, everydayhealth.com)
- Whole- and refined-grain intakes are differentially associated with abdominal visceral and subcutaneous adiposity in healthy adults: the Framingham Heart Study (2010, oup.com)
- Whole Grains (n.d.,harvard.edu)
- Whole Grains, Refined Grains, and Dietary Fiber (2016,heart.org)
- Why People Become Overweight (2019, harvard.edu)