Bread. Oh beloved bread. So fluffy and wheat-y. There’s almost nothing its grainy, hearty taste can’t be paired perfectly with. Without bread, there would be no such thing as sandwiches. There would be no slices of buttered toast to be savored with a breakfast omelet at brunch, no dough topped with oil, cheese, and sauce to be called pizza.
Yet no matter how it is so dearly adored, bread is still constantly demonized by so many. Some who dismiss it’s carb-y goodness, argue against eating grains. (Which, there is a small amount of evidence that shows they might possibly be harmful to the health of humans.) Others, mainly those promoting weight-loss diets, are just afraid of carbohydrates, which is silly because they are a main source of fuel for our bodies. Yes, eating too many– especially refined- carbs can cause weight gain, but eating, portion-controlled, complex carbs in congruence with a balance of protein and healthy fats is perfectly fine for most.
The reason I’m choosing to write about the controversial conundrum of bread, is because of a recent comment I received in response to my Top 3 Tips for Healthier Food Shopping video on Youtube.
In the video I talk a little bit about a loaf of bread that I purchased at my local grocery store. I point out several things that I typically consider (such as the type of flour used and added ingredients) when selecting store-bought breads. I posted this video over the summer, but two or three days ago, a Youtube user left a comment which said the following:
Bread in itself is NOT healthy! When you eat bread, simply slap it on your waste and unless you are constantly working out… especially women… you will GAIN weight from bread. Besides almost all bread is contaminated now days with the killer chemicals!
I’ll start by saying that I don’t completely disagree with everything that was said here. The sad truth is, most packaged bread products contain unhealthy additives and preservatives that no one should consume on a regular basis. If you follow me on Instagram or Twitter, you know that I talk a lot about “clean eating.” Angela Hattaway at Fit Day has very concisely defined what eating clean should consist of:
When someone makes the choice to eat “clean” they are choosing to eliminate all processed foods and extra additives from their diet. Basically, you are choosing to eat whole, unrefined foods.
The basics of eating clean include – eating lots of fruits and vegetables. These are straight from nature – the idea is to stay away from anything that may have been altered in any way.
Include meats, however; “whole” meats that you have chosen straight from the butcher or prepared yourself. You would be very surprised to find out what is actually in ground turkey.
Enjoy whole grains – these are grains that are still complete and haven’t been broken down in any form. Examples include: brown rice, whole wheat and other whole grains. You will have to get used to reading over food labels. Just because a product says its “whole grain” does not mean it is. It also does not mean they have not added a bunch of other ingredients as well.
Eat fewer ingredients – try not to purchase items with more than 4-6 ingredients in the ingredient list. Also, be sure you recognize every ingredient. If you can’t pronounce it, you probably shouldn’t put it in your body.
Eating “cleanly” is the number one way to improve your diet, no matter what you goals are. However, it’s extremely hard to find bread products that meet clean eating standards, which is why I rarely purchase store-bought bread anymore. If I do want bread, I’d rather make my own.
Whole wheat and whole grain products are considered healthier than refined “white” grains because whole grains are not processed (the protein- and fiber-rich bran and germ are not separated from the kernel), and therefore contain more vitamins, minerals, and nutrients. But the problem is that many brands falsely tout the whole grain/whole wheat stamp on their labels because the FDA does not enforce a legal definition of how much whole grain or whole wheat a product needs to contain in order to use the words on its packaging. Basically, many products can feature the words on their labels without repercussion, even if the food item barely contains any whole wheat or whole grain ingredients.
All of that being said, what I want to use this post to emphasize most, is that everyone is different. The thing about that Youtube comment that really struck me was the part that says “When you eat bread, simply slap it on your waste…” This is such a generalized, blanket statement, but unfortunately, it has the power to scare some people, “especially women,” into never touching any piece of bread ever again. (Which is just nonsense if you ask me.)
We all have different needs, different body types, different metabolic rates, and most importantly, different goals. Our body types and genetics play a huge role in the way that our bodies absorb and distribute the calories and nutrients from the foods that we consume. Because of this, the way that your diet is constructed should be based upon two important factors:
1.) What works best for you.
2.) Your goals.
For example, if your goal is to lose 10 pounds in 10 weeks (that’s one pound per week), you might try reducing your caloric intake by about 500 calories per day. However what types of calories you decide to cut out should be based on your body and how it reacts to certain foods. What works for one person, i.e. avoiding bread products, removing grains from your diet, may not have the same effect for another. (Of course exercise is also needed for weight loss, but for all intents and purposes here, I’m simply referring to diet.)
And remember, not every single person ever is trying to lose weight.
However, for those who are, they all too often jump right into following the regimented plans of the low-carb or grain-free diet because they promise quick weight loss. However, for most people who would like to lose weight by implementing healthier eating habits, immediately restricting all bread and grains from their diet is an unrealistic approach.
That’s not to say that the guidelines for following the Paleo or any other diet should be completely dismissed. (Outlaw Fitness HQ has a great article comparing the pros and cons of The Paleo Diet that I highly recommend reading.) It means that you should conduct your own research because you need to find out what is going to work for you. Read everything you can. Make an informed decision for yourself and then try it out. The best way to learn is through trial and error. Change needs to be implemented slowly. One new step at a time.
As for carbohydrates, our bodies need them. They are an important source of fuel. Of course, contrarty to what some might believe, bread, grains, and pasta are not the sole source of carbohydrates in this world. If you want to try eliminating bread and grains from your diet, the following foods are good sources of complex carbs:
- Beans and a legumes
- Milk (Next in this series: Is it really healthy? Dairy)
- Root Vegetables (sweet potatoes, potatoes, yams, carrots, raddish)
Personally, my body feels and performs best when I limit my bread and grain intake to just one or two servings per day. (Usually 1/2 cup of oatmeal with breakfast in the morning one serving of either brown rice, quinoa, or whole wheat pasta in the afternoon or evening. I strive for one completely grain-free, mostly vegetable-based meal per day.) I don’t purchase loaves of bread, wraps, or pita pockets quite as often as I used to because (through much trial and error) I’ve come to find that I feel much better when I eat a truly clean diet, which does not include consistently consuming store-purchased bread products.
However, that’s not to say that I absolutely never eat any of it. When I want one, I enjoy a slice of pizza. (Or make my own homemade pie.) If I feel like having a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, I eat one. I don’t believe in ever completely restricting yourself from any one type of food.
Life is too short to never eat a garlic knot. (Unless you really don’t like garlic knots.) And what’s the point in going to brunch if you can’t enjoy some pancakes or French toast every once in a while? If you do the work to discover the rules that work for you and your lifestyle and consistently follow them 80-90% of the time, there’s no reason you can’t enjoy whatever treats you want when your heart so desires. And there’s certainly no reason why you can’t eat bread if you want to.