For generations, white bread was considered the preferred bread of the rich while the poor ate dark bread. However, in most western societies, the connotations reversed in the late 20th century with dark bread becoming preferred as having superior nutritional value while white bread became associated with lower-class ignorance of nutrition.
But in modern times, white bread is more like a bleached sponge than a fiber-filled food. There are HUGE differences in nutrition and weight-gain issues depending on the type of bread you consume. Millers and bakers of the early nineteen hundreds decided white was pure, so the whiter the bread the purer it was. Soon the people began to believe this too and wanted their bread as white as it could be. Bakers might have added ash or alum or even chalk to make the bread shiny-white. They added other ingredients to artificially preserve freshness and create the desired texture. This tainting of your bread with harmful, cancer causing chemicals such as potassium bromate, emulsifiers (both commonly used in bread production), and alum jeopardizes your health.
Grinding wheat is a time consuming process. In 1878 the first fast, all-roller mill was installed in Minneapolis. With this newly acquired speed, quantities of bread could be made and shipped, creating a need for additives and preservatives. During the 20th century, scientific and technical innovations have made it possible for large bread factories to control the complex physical, chemical, and biological changes inherent in bread making. High-speed machinery can now accomplish the kneading and ripening processes in a matter of seconds.
Bleached flour became popular in Western countries in the early 1900s because it rose more and with greater consistency. The most popular method of bleaching the flour was a process called the agene method, which used nitrogen trichloride gas to whiten the flour. In Britain and North America, this method eventually was used to treat roughly 80 percent of all flour. But by the 1940s, scientists had realized that the agene method produced a byproduct called methionine sulfoximine (MSO), a toxic neurochemical that could induce epilepsy in dogs. MSO stayed in the flour during baking, and was eventually eaten. By 1950, Britain and the United States had banned the agene method.
White bread is bread constructed from wheat flour from which the bran and germ have been removed, in contrast to whole wheat bread made from whole wheat flour, in which these parts are retained and contribute a brownish color. In addition, this white flour is generally bleached using potassium bromate or chlorine dioxide gas to remove any slight yellow color and make its baking properties more predictable.
Flour mills use different chemical bleaches, all of which are pretty bad. Here are a few of them: oxide of nitrogen, chlorine, chloride, nitrosyl and benzoyl peroxide mixed with various chemical salts.
Since white flour is stripped of natural ingredients of the wheat kernel, white bread has fewer nutritious properties and fiber than breads using whole wheat or mixed flour. A low fiber diet is linked in some instances to cases of both constipation and diarrhea. Many modern bakers make this bread with enriched white flour, which has synthetic vitamins and nutrients added to it.
So how do you know if bread is whole grain? According to the Food and Drug Administration, whole-grain products must contain a least 51 percent whole grains by weight. This means "whole grain" should be first on the ingredient list. So check the ingredient list. If it doesn't say "whole grain" first, it isn't whole-grain bread.
If the first ingredient in a loaf of whole wheat bread is unbleached enriched flour, then you’re not truly buying whole wheat bread at all, just white bread (loaded with chemicals) that is disguised as whole wheat bread. A lot of times what is sold as whole wheat bread in stores is actually white bread colored with caramel.
In the process of making flour white, half of the good unsaturated fatty acids, that are high in food value, are lost in the milling process alone, and virtually all the vitamin E is lost with the removal of wheat germ and bran. As a result, the remaining flour in the white bread you buy, contains only poor quality proteins and fattening starch.
But that is not the whole story as to the loss of nutrients. About 50% of all calcium, 70% of phosphorus, 80% iron, 98% magnesium, 75% manganese, 50% potassium, and 65% of copper is destroyed. If that is not bad enough, about 80% thiamin, 60% of riboflavin, 75% of niacin, 50% of pantothenic acid, and about 50% of Pyridoxine is also lost.
Whole wheat is much higher in fiber, vitamins B6 and E, magnesium, zinc, folic acid and chromium.
But of all these nutritional goodies, fiber is the star:
*In a 10-year Harvard study completed in 1994, men and women who ate high-fiber breads had fewer heart attacks and strokes than those whose tastes ran to bagels and baguettes.
*Simply switching from white to whole wheat bread can lower heart disease risk by 20 percent, according to research from the University of Washington reported in the April 2, 2003
issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association.
*Fiber has long been known to aid digestive health too.
*Fiber can help you lose or maintain weight because eating fiber-dense wheat bread helps you feel full.
Whole grains provide health benefits that other foods don’t. In a Harvard study of 75,000 nurses, those who ate at least three servings a day of whole grains cut their heart attack risk by 35 percent and were less likely to get into weight or bowel trouble. By contrast, those who ate more processed foods—such as white bread, white rice and sodas—were more than twice as likely to develop diabetes. “Science continues to support the key role of whole grains in reducing chronic illnesses,” says Len Marquart, professor of nutrition at the University of Minnesota and author of the first health claim for whole grains approved by the US Food and Drug Administration.
Diabetes, heart disease, elevated triglycerides, cholesterol and obesity.. are just a few of the health problems associated with our high intake of refined grain products. The conversion of the complex carbohydrates (naturally found in whole grains) to simple carbohydrates, lacking fiber, proper minerals and essential fatty acids has clearly disqualified white bread as a builder of strong healthy bodies. Your body needs the fiber, proper minerals and essential fatty acids for the body to metabolize these carbohydrates correctly. Breads made from stone-ground grains can provide that.
But perhaps white bread's biggest claim to “fame” is it's affect on our ever expanding waistline.
Research shows, that people who receive over 10 percent of their daily calories from white bread gain weight - while those who prefer baked products made with whole grains - maintain their weight and, in some cases, could even lose a few pounds.
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