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The Truth About Bread

Everything you need to know about the mother of all carbs.
By
WebMD Feature

Do you have a love/hate relationship with bread? It's a staple of many people's diets, and also a top source of calories.

So which is it: Is bread OK to eat, or is the idea that bread is good for us half-baked? Here's what you should know.

Bread and the Battle of the Bulge

Is bread to blame for your extra pounds? Maybe.

"We go overboard on bread and other highly refined grains," says Heather Bauer, RD, co-author of Bread is the Devil: Win the Weight Loss Battle by Taking Control of Your Diet Demons. "When you're hungry, tired, or stressed, you tend to reach for bread products, not carrot sticks. Problem is, the more you eat bread, the more you want."

Bauer is specifically referring to white bread, crackers, pretzels, and other highly refined grains that have come to symbolize the struggle with weight control.

Eating whole grains, on the other hand, is a sound weight loss strategy.

In one study, people on a lower-calorie diet that included whole grains, such as whole wheat bread, lost more belly fat than those who ate only refined grains, such as white bread and white rice.

Whole grains provide more vitamins, minerals, and fiber than refined. But overdoing whole wheat bread can add pounds, too. So account for it in your daily calorie budget.

Bread and Type 2 Diabetes

Research shows that eating fewer starchy foods like bread, and less red meat, processed food, and sugar-sweetened beverages -- along with an increased intake of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, and poultry -- decreases the risk of getting type 2 diabetes.

Eating any kind of carbohydrate raises blood sugar levels. But carbs aren't all the same. Sugars and refined grains raise blood sugar quicker than complex carbohydrates, found in foods including beans and other vegetables.

"Complex carbohydrates are digested more slowly, and their ability to cause blood glucose level spikes is limited," says Hillary Wright, RD, director of nutrition counseling at the Domar Center for Mind/Body Health.

That may be particularly important for people with type 2 diabetes. In type 2 diabetes, your body has problems controlling blood sugar.  

Cutting back on refined grains, such as white bread, and eating more whole grains in their place are good moves. "Whole-grain bread has more fiber than refined, and fiber helps slow the absorption of carbohydrates consumed at the same meal or snack," Wright says.

Bread and Gluten Intolerance

"Bread has been getting a bad rap for a long time," says Shelley Case, RD, nutrition consultant and author of Gluten-Free Diet: A Comprehensive Resource Guide. "It's worse now because there's so much negative press about gluten, the protein found in wheat, rye, and barley."

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