Wholemeal bread is made from flour that has been derived entirely or mostly from whole wheat grains. Unlike white flour which has been refined, wholemeal bread still contains the nutrient-rich bran, germ and endosperm. The bran is an excellent source of fibre; the germ is a source of protein, vitamins and minerals; and the endosperm supplies most of the carbohydrates, mainly in the form of starch.
Benefits of eating wholemeal bread
1. It gives you extra fibre in your diet.
Wheat is naturally rich in dietary fibre, though much of this is often removed in refined flour. By consuming wholemeal bread, you can significantly increase the fibre in your diet. The benefits of fibre are
- reduced constipation
- better absorption of the nutrients from the food
- better blood sugar control
- lower body fats
It is generally recommended that adults eat about 18g of fibre a day. A slice of wholemeal bread provides about 15% of an adult's recommended daily intake. Wholemeal bread contains three times as much fibre as white bread.
2. It provides vitamins.
Wheat contains a lot of Vitamin B (in different forms), which help in the breakdown of carbohydrates, fats and proteins and also help keep your skin, eyes and nervous system healthy.
3. It provides minerals.
Wholemeal bread contains iron, magnesium and zinc.
- Iron helps to promote healthy blood and muscles. It also plays an essential role in the production of the body's white blood cells and in the activities of the immune system. A lack of iron causes anaemia and symptoms such as tiredness and irritablilty. Women usually lose iron when they menstruate.
- Magnesium helps to regulate potassium and sodium levels within the body, which are involved in the control of blood pressure. It is also used in the release of energy, for building strong bones, teeth and muscles, and regulating body temperature. It also helps the body to absorb and break down various other vitamins and minerals such as calcium and vitamin C.
- Zinc is an antioxidant and important for the maintenance of a healthy immune system. A lack of zinc is usually associated with skin problems, slow healing of wounds and low sexual libido.
4. There are fewer chemicals used in the production of wholemeal bread.
Refined flour is not naturally white, but rather chemically bleached to appear so. It is then dried in kilns at high temperature to kill any remaining beneficial constituents. After that, it has gluten added, which is a product that an increasing number of people are becoming allergic to, to help produce a more evenly risen and air-filled loaf. White bread has sugar added to enable the baker’s yeast to make the dough rise. Salt is also added to prevent the loaf from rising too much.
5. Wholemeal bread contains much lower levels of high GI carbohydrates (and higher levels of low GI carbohydrates) than white bread.
Llow GI carbohydrates contained in wholemeal bread produce the slow release of sugars into the bloodstream. This means that the insulin is only slowly released into the bloodstream and in far lower amounts. Our body's metabolism is thus stimulated rather than inhibited, meaning that our digestive system becomes more efficient and that less fats are stored.
Recent scientific evidence have also shown that individuals who followed a low-GI diet over many years were at a significantly lower risk for developing both Type 2 diabetes and coronary diseases.
6. Wholemeal bread contain lower levels of bad LDL cholesterol with higher levels of good HDL cholesterol.
When too much LDL (bad) cholesterol circulates in the blood, they can gradually build up in the inner walls of the arteries that feed the heart and brain. After some time, together with other substances, they can form plaque, which is a thick, hard deposit that can narrow the arteries . This condition is known as atherosclerosis. If left untreated, a blood clot can form and blocks a narrowed artery, resulting in a heart attack or stroke.
On the other hand, high levels of HDL (good) cholesterol seem to lower the risk of a heart attack. Medical experts think that HDL tends to carry cholesterol away from the arteries and back to the liver, where it is then passed out from the body. Some experts also believe that HDL removes excess cholesterol from arterial plaque.
Given the above, if you are interested in leading a healthier lifestyle or losing some weight, one simple tip is to switch to wholemeal bread in your daily diet. Not only does wholemeal bread contain less calories than white bread, it keeps you feeling full for a longer time (due to its high fibre content).
Wholemeal bread also lowers blood glucose levels and has a protective effect against diabetes. Consuming three or more servings of whole grains each day reduces the risk of developing diabetes by 20-30% over consumption of just one serving per week.
How can you tell if the bread is wholemeal or not? Look for the labels. Look for "Whole Grain", "Whole Wheat" or "Wholemeal". If bread is merely labeled “Wheat Bread”, it does not necessarily mean that it is a wholemeal bread, as bread can be made with a combination of white and whole-wheat flour.
In 2006, in order to help consumers identify whole grain foods, the Whole Grains Council launched the Whole Grain Stamps, which is a stylized sheaf of grain on a golden-yellow background with a bold black border. There are basically two types of stamps - the Basic Stamp and the 100% Stamp - which will tell you how many grams of whole grain ingredients in a serving of the product.
If a product bears the 100% Stamp, then all its grain ingredients are whole grains. Products using the 100% Stamp must fulfill the minimum requirement of 16g of whole grain per labeled serving.
If a product bears the Basic Stamp, it contains at least 8g (or a half serving) of whole grains, but it may also contain some refined grain.
Hopefully, consumers will be able to use this system to buy foods for a healthier diet.