The Truth About Bread
Is bread one of your diet wreckers? Here's how to fix that.
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."
Some people cannot tolerate gluten because they have celiac disease. In celiac disease, the immune system mistakenly identifies gluten as dangerous, triggering a reaction that causes an attack on the body's own tissues. That damages tiny finger-like structures called villi in the intestines, making it hard to absorb nutrients from food. For people with celiac disease, avoiding any source of gluten -- found in many products besides bread -- is an absolute must.
Celiac disease is getting diagnosed more often these days. But many more people link their health problems, including stomach upset and fatigue, to gluten. A sensitivity to gluten, also known as gluten intolerance, may involve bloating, abdominal pain, and fatigue. But there aren't reliable medical tests for it.
It may be tempting to stop eating bread and other gluten-containing foods if you suspect they're bothering you. But it's important to first find out if you have celiac disease, and going gluten-free makes it harder to diagnose celiac disease, Case advises. If you're having symptoms that make you suspect that you can't tolerate gluten, tell your health care provider, and if you are considering going gluten-free, a registered dietitian can help you make sure you don't miss out on nutrients.
How Much Bread Is Too Much?
Bauer says it's possible to eat a healthy diet without bread, as long as you substitute foods such as beans, brown rice and other whole grains, fruit, and vegetables for the nutrients bread provides.
If there's no reason why you should go without bread, you should know how it fits into a balanced diet.
People on a 2,000-calorie eating plan need six servings a day (about 6 ounces) from the grain group, which includes all grains, including those used to make bread, plain rolls, pasta, oatmeal, breakfast cereals, tortillas, and grits. At least half of your grains should be whole grains, according to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
Keep portions in mind. For instance, a single bagel can pack 3-5 ounces of grains. That takes up much of your grain budget for the day, and if it wasn't a whole-grain bagel, it may be hard for you to meet healthy grain goals.
Nutrition experts agree: When you're eating bread, it's best to make it whole-grain bread, and to limit the amount. For example, "having bread in a sandwich is a good way to control your intake," as opposed to lingering over the bread basket at dinner, Bauer says.