Why is bread toast?

Judith Wills / 26 June 2017

Diet expert Judith Wills on why bread is a healthy food that should be part of your diet.

I’m going to go all retro now and say that I still eat bread.  Yes!  Shock, horror.  I still do.  More or less every day.  I know it is not the thing to do anymore.  I know almost everyone in the world but me is doing low-carb and that the very word bread is likely to fill you all with fear.

Judith Wills' diet blog: bread is on the menu

But I don’t care.  Somebody must stand up for the little loaves and rolls, flatbreads and buns as they retreat, walking backwards, into the far distance. 

Actually, I do exaggerate a trifle (and that’s on the no-go list, too of course) as it is reckoned about 20% of the UK population are trying to avoid carbs at the moment and of all the carbs (potatoes, rice, pasta etc) it is bread that seems to be getting the worst of it.

Informative, in-depth and in the know: get the latest health news and info with Saga Magazine. Find out more

Sales of one famous brand of sliced bread were down by a massive 12.2 per cent in the last available period, 2016, but the drops are affecting all manufacturers.

I’ve never been a huge fan of sliced white bread in packets, actually – finding them a bit sort of pappy, but I have always loved, and still love, a decent loaf with a robust filling and a good crust, be it white, wholemeal, multiseed, rye, soda, sourdough or whatever. 

Try our delicious bread recipes

I also quite like potatoes and the other white carbs, but bread is the best, so I feel sorry for it, being reviled by so many.

Even more so because the honest real actual truth, folks, is that giving up bread isn’t a guarantee that you will very soon become wow slim or super healthy.  No, much as the low-carb promoters would have you believe this, it isn’t true.  Here’s what is:

  • If you have been enjoying your carbs for ages and then more or less give them all up, you will lose quite a bit of weight quickly – let’s say, about 6-7 lbs in a week or so.  And this is because your body is shedding a great deal of stored water. This is because carbs tend to make you retain body fluid.  Once they stop, the fluid leaves too.
  • If you give up most of your carbs but don’t otherwise change your eating habits, you will lose some body fat because you are eating less. 
  • If you give up most of your carbs but replace them with extra fat and protein, you may not lose any weight at all. (The old thing about calories in/calories out being what counts in weight loss may be boring and old hat, but it is still true.) And you may not be healthier because the type of carbs you should be eating contain important nutrients and fibre.

So what you should do if you want to alter your carb intake, is cut out most of the ‘white carbs’ and if it were me I would choose to cut right back on pasta and white rice, cut back a bit on potatoes, but only just a very little bit on bread.  That’s partly because pasta and white rice don’t have much going for them nutritionally, and partly because I’m not bothered about them and can easily replace them with ‘good grains’ such as spelt, rye, quinoa and so on, in my diet. 

The truth about carbs

And that will leave bread more or less in place.  If you want to feel virtuous you can choose from the growing range of breads with added extras, such as nuts, seeds, extra fibre, and so on.  These types will be absorbed quite slowly into your bloodstream and keep you feeling full for longer, and will be rich in fibre and various plant nutrients for health.

How much fibre do we really need?

Even though some of them come sliced – the delicious Burgen bread comes to mind – most of them are very nice indeed!  And you can put slices of them (well wrapped in cling film then put in a strong plastic bag) in the freezer so you can get out a portion and no more, when you want. 

Some of my favourites include Hi-Lo Seeded Wholemeal - with soya and well as seeds, it is higher in protein than almost all other breads; the aforementioned Burgen, which just tastes delicious and contains omega-3 fats; and any dark rye bread, whether sliced, mass produced or artisan, is pretty much good for you and low on the glycaemic index, if you’re interested in that sort of thing.

Sourdough of all kinds is a great bread, white or wholemeal, because it helps your gut bacteria levels which have all kinds of benefits (I will come back to that another week) for health and weight control.

But if you fancy a sandwich made with white sliced thick cut, it’s not the end of the world, folks.  That bread is stuffed with healthy calcium, has quite a few B vitamins and some fibre.

Oh gosh, I don’t believe I’m going to mention this, but I’ve got to.  Back in WW2 and the few years after when food was scarce and rationing of many items was in force, bread was one of the few things reliably available.  People scoffed it because there wasn’t much else.

They weren’t fat.  They were thin.  They weren’t unhealthy – they were the healthiest people have been in 70 years.  Just saying.

Why it was easy to be slim in the Sixties

Ate for lunch: tomato and mozzarella bake

Tomato and mozzarella bake

I picked the first of our homegrown tomatoes this morning then found a ripe avo waiting to be eaten along with an only-just out-of-date buffalo mozzarella in the fridge, some basil pesto Husband made last week and some pine nuts.  I layered in all in ovenproof dishes and popped them under the grill for a couple of minutes until the cheese had melted and the tops were slightly brown.  (Tip – I put the avocado in first so, on the base of the dish it warmed through only a bit as I don’t really like it actually cooked, though some people do.)  And I served these tasty dishes with some quite delicious Waitrose olive ficelle – a crusty beautifully tasty French stick.  Great lunch.  Tons of nutrients.  No guilt.

Try 3 issues of Saga Magazine for just £3

Subscribe today for just £3 for 3 issues...

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.