Is Bread Really That Bad For You? Nutritionists Weigh In

Piece of whole wheat bread with smiley face
PhotoAlto/Laurence Mouton via Getty Images
Piece of whole wheat bread with smiley face

Bread. Probably one of the most controversial foods in the Western world. Is it a nutritional source of fibre, healthy lunchbox staple and an essential part of the food pyramid? Or is it a devil in disguise, tricking you into thinking it's good for you before taking up permanent residence on your hips?

Well, sandwich lovers can relax. It's not as bad as you might think.

"I think bread gets an unfair rap," Lyndi Polivnick, aka The Nude Nutritionist, told The Huffington Post Australia.

"It's much healthier than people make it out to be. It's often demonised as being a cause of weight gain but in truth, bread does not actually make us gain weight.

"In fact, it contains many nutrients that are really good for us -- including thymin, folate and fibre. When you start cutting out carbs or bread you actually miss out on some of those nutrients."

Simone Austin, Accredited Practising Dietitian and Spokesperson for the Dietitians Association of Australia, agrees.

"It’s not bad for you. Not bad at all. There are probably better choices among the varieties that are available, but as a whole, its [bad] reputation is unfounded," Austin told HuffPost Australia.

Looks like Josh Hutcherson could have had that bread, after all.

Of course, as Austin points out, not all breads are created equal.

""When you're choosing your breads, instead of looking for light and fluffy [varieties], look for heavy and dense. Look for grains and seeds and bread that is labelled as wholegrain," Austin told HuffPost Australia.

"This will fill you up more and help you control how much if it you’re eating, plus the fibre also provides other benefits, such as for your bowels. This helps in not only keeping you regular but also to feed that colony of bacteria you have in there, which is really good for general immune health."

"White bread -- the kind that dissolves really quickly if you put it in water -- is definitely not what you are looking for," Polivnick added.

"You want to make your calories count, and some breads are simply better for you than others."

But that's not to say you have to go to some fancy bakery and fork out $11 per loaf. Polivnick says there are plenty of good options you can pick up at your local supermarket.

"I am a big fan of Burgen bread, the whole range -- and I am not paid to say that. Not only are their breads nutrient dense and packed with seeds, they are also a slightly smaller serving size, so you are naturally eating a bit less," Polivnick said.

"There are plenty of savvy choices you can make when choosing your bread. Helga's 5 seeds is another good one. What you want to avoid is a stock-standard bread with a few measly little whole grains -- that's not really going to cut it."

Bread -- nothing to be scared of.

Of course, no matter how healthy your bread choice, it also depends what you're doing to it, and how much you're eating.

"Bread is a bit like potatoes," Austin told HuffPost Australia. "If you deep fry potatoes, they are not going to be a healthy option for you. But that's not the poor potatoes fault.

"Similarly, if you put lashings of butter and high fat or sugary spreads on bread, it's not such a great snack or meal. You need to take the bread and add to it wisely.

"With a sandwich, look at the filling. You'd want to be including lots of salad and a source of protein, so, tuna or some cheese or lean meat or some egg. Then it's a good, all-rounded meal."

Hurray for sandwiches!

In terms of that pesky weight-gain reputation, Polivnick says she actually advises clients to reintroduce bread into their diets as a method of losing weight.

"So in my practice, it's the opposite," Polivnick said. "I find when people cut out bread, they complain about not feeling satisfied after a meal.

"Because bread helps fill you up, you don't get as hungry, and because you are eating less, you lose weight."

For those who can't eat seeded bread -- say, perhaps, someone with dentures -- there are still plenty of viable options.

"I'd advise a bread made with wholemeal flour or a lot of rye flour," Austin said. "If you can’t have seeds for whatever reason, wholemeal and dense sorts of breads will do the trick."

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