Wednesday 21 March 2018

10 bread myths busted

Bread is making an overdue return.
Bread is making an overdue return.
Vicki Notaro

Vicki Notaro

It may have fallen out of favour recently, but as well as being absolutely delicious, bread can be part of a healthy lifestyle and is long overdue a revival.

1 Bread is not 'bad' for you…

There are many common misconceptions about bread nowadays, thanks in part to the popularity of low-carbohydrate diets over the past decade.

The likes of The Zone, Atkins and the Paleo diet advocate cutting out grains to speed up weight loss - when the body is low on carbs, it burns fat instead - but balanced diets don't advise cutting any food group out, unless you're allergic or intolerant.

2… unless you have a genuine intolerance

Of course, there are people out there who suffer from coeliac disease (unable to digest gluten) and milder wheat intolerances.

However, according to Dr Nicholas Kennedy, president of the Coeliac Society of Ireland, an increasing number of people are self-diagnosing wheat or gluten sensitivities "and this can lead to very specific challenges further down the line when it comes to being tested for coeliac disease".

"Eliminating gluten from your diet before testing may result in a false-negative result. It is important to be on a gluten-containing diet before testing in order to ensure the most accurate result," he explained at a recent conference on the subject in Dublin.

Throughout the last decade, gluten-free products have risen in popularity by up to 20pc every year. Some people might just like the taste, or others might believe that these products are better for them. However, their popularity is great news for those who have been diagnosed coeliac or wheat intolerant.

"A friend of mine is coeliac," says celebrity chef Rachel Allen. "Thankfully for her, the gluten-free breads available now are a far cry from the dry unappetising options that she had when we were growing up!"

3 It's also not 'fattening'

"There is very little fat in bread. A slice of bread has the same calories as a large apple," says Dr Mary McCreery. "White and wholemeal bread have a relatively high glycaemic index, which means they release glucose more quickly in to the blood stream than other foods. However, most of the time, bread is combined with protein and fat - when it is eaten with a meal or as a sandwich, for example.

"This combination means that the carbohydrate is digested more slowly and glucose enters the bloodstream at a slower rate."

4 Bread is very nutritious

"Contrary to popular belief, bread is good for us, providing protein, folic acid and many nutrients, such as dietary fibre, vitamins and minerals in our diet," says Dr McCreery. "Research undertaken by the Irish Universities Nutrition Alliance (IUNA) found that bread provides as much as 10pc of Irish people's daily intake of protein and folic acid. Although brown bread contains more fibre than white bread, because of its popularity, white bread provides 9pc of our daily fibre intake. Perhaps, surprisingly, it is also the second main contributor to both the iron and calcium intake of the Irish diet."

5… and you can eat it every day as part of a balanced diet

Healthy diets, like that of the Mediterranean, often cited as ideal, don't shy away from bread. "We need between six and 12 portions of carbohydrate foods per day for a balanced diet" says Dr McCreery. "Variety is the key to getting a nutritious diet. Bread can, and should, be included at least once a day."

There's a reason gluten-free breads are so popular: as a nation, we seem loathe to cut it out of our diets, so it's a good job we don't have to!

6 Cutting out bread won't ensure sustained weight loss

When embarking on a diet, the first thing many of us do is ditch the complex carbs like white bread, potatoes and pasta. While this will cut carb intake and also slash the calorie count, it doesn't mean you'll automatically shed pounds - or keep them off in the long run.

"There is absolutely no need to cut out bread if trying to lose weight," says Dr McCreery. "In fact, I would discourage it completely. You would be cutting out a range of essential nutrients and essential fibre. You could also be hungry and low on energy - not a good idea for sustained weight loss."

7 Grains and wheat products aren't responsible for the obesity crisis

Amazingly, bread only accounts for 1pc of the fat content in Irish diets.

"The myth that wheat consumption causes obesity has been dispelled by a study recently published in the Journal of Cereal Science," explains Dr McCreery. "A team from Maastricht University in the Netherlands, and Rothamsted Research UK, conducted an extensive review; importantly, the researchers argued that the cause of obesity cannot be specific to one type of food, while ignoring overconsumption and inactive lifestyles. They stated that: 'Hard data about adverse effects of wheat, consumed in baked, extruded, and other processed foods, are not available, and there are no grounds to advise the general public not to consume this common dietary staple.'"

8 Bread can be brain food

"The brain's preferred fuel is glucose," explains Dr McCreery. "This comes from the metabolism of carbohydrates in the diet. Bread is a brain food, as not only does it provide carbohydrate, but also a range of B vitamins, which are believed to play a crucial role in a healthy functioning brain. The best fuel for your muscles is carbohydrates, and that is also true for your brain."

9 Bread doesn't necessarily cause bloating

This is one of the most common misconceptions out there, and while it may be true for those who have an intolerance (or those who overdo it!), it's no bigger culprit than any other type of food.

"A review of the topic by the British Nutrition Foundation concluded that there is no scientific evidence that regular consumption of bread causes bloating or digestive problems," says Dr McCreery. "Furthermore, whether the bread is produced by traditional methods or by modern bread-making processes makes no difference. There was still no bloating, unless there was a sudden increase in fibre intake."

10 It's the best of the cereal foods

"According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), the raised bread loaf is the best of the cereal foods and provides more nourishment for humans than any other food source," says Dr McCreery. "The FAO also states that a predominately wheat-based diet is higher in fibre than a meat-based diet."

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