No Matter How You Slice It

February 4, 2014 in Foodland, Health Claims, Nutrition, Uncategorized, Weight Management, Whole Grains by Joyce Bunderson

My fourth hint for permanently improving your eating style is to switch to whole grains. (Hint 1: An Apple a Day; Hint 2: A Nutty Little Change; Hint 3: Whittling Away at Meat Consumption.) With a little information, this 4th one, like the other hints is do-able and not too tough. And like the other hints, it is a process that targets permanence. On again - off again dieting will not work in the long-term; and meanwhile your weight goes up and down like a yo-yo and your body is more alert to feeling ‘starved’.  My 4th hint is very simple:  Cut back on white bread and increase your intake – and enjoyment – of nutritious and tasty whole-grain bread.

Elaine Watson from Food has uncovered some interesting statistics published by Packaged Facts, a market research company. One bit of information from their survey is that 56% of US shoppers say they are cutting back on white bread. But what really makes it very interesting is that those surveyed say that it is not because of gluten or wheat. Of course, there were an additional 23% citing gluten as the reason for cutting back and 28% naming wheat as the problem, but a full 56% are cutting back on white bread for other reasons. Watson posted a very nice chart from Experian marketing Services showing the usage of nine leading types of breads. From my perspective the fact that whole wheat bread consumption continues to grow while white bread decreases is the silver lining under the white-bread processors cloudy sky, and probably a big part of the 56% who are cutting back on white bread. Whole grains have many benefits including: a slower rise of blood sugar, which is a benefit to both to those with and without diabetes. There is also a lower risk of heart disease; and the nutrients in whole grains support a healthy immune system. The fiber and germ in the whole grains also help you feel full longer and may help you control your weight. (Note: This doesn’t mean that you can eat all the whole-grain bread you want.)

Whole grain bread has plenty of calories, but it is packed with fiber, protein, complex carbs and a slew of nutrients. Because of the calories consumers may be eating bread less frequently and consuming less per meal. However much or little you consume, make the shift away from refined white-flour breads to whole grains.

The savvy consumer knows that brown bread may be brown from molasses or other colorings – not necessarily because they’re whole grain. Take a few seconds to see if the word “whole” is on the label before the grain. It should be first on the ingredient list.  Some of the terms that sound nourishing, but are usually not whole grain are:  multi-grain; seven-grain; cracked wheat; stone-ground; and 100% wheat.  I think that 100% wheat is the most devious because they’re using our past association of 100% whole wheat and we just automatically skip over the missed word ‘whole’.  The multi-grain idea is also deceptive because it is usually so hard to interpret the label.  The makers want to imply that the multiple grains is a great thing, but if they are all refined and the bran and germ and their nutrients are taken out, you are still missing out on the benefits of whole grain bread. Remember it is profitable for processors to take out fiber and germ.  They can sell it for other uses, and make more money while selling the white breads for less.

In today’s world, we can’t mention bread without mentioning gluten, which is found in wheat, barley and rye. It’s a protein that helps the bread stick together into solid loaves and slices, capturing CO2 bubbles to make it rise and form into loaves and pastries. It supplies calories and amino acids as well as chewiness, texture, and form.

In another article by Elaine Watson, The lowdown on celiac disease, gluten sensitivity and celebrity wheat-bashing: In conversation with Dr. Alessio Fasano a wealth of information about gluten is shared in a very concise report of a conversation. We’ll certainly want to follow his continuing elucidation of the growing epidemic in celiac disease. Read the full article; it’s worth the few minutes it will take. A couple of fascinating facts from the interview:

  • Only a fraction of those with mutations in the cellular receptors which detect human leukocyte antigen (HLA) develop celiac disease. In that fraction the immune system attacks the person’s own villi in the intestine when gluten is present. Even if we inherit the genes they do not always function in this manner, or may not even be expressed.  Fasano believes the immune response that creates celiac disease is related to the microbiome; that our individual microbes have been affected by many changes during the past 50 years, including “infections, traveling, antibiotics, pregnancy or whatever,” so that “ the composition of the gut can shift from a friendly balance that keeps the immune system in check to an unfriendly place that will put the immune system on high alert.”
  • You can get celiac at any age. You’re never “out of the woods.”
  • I agree with Fasano’s frustration with the celebrity gluten-bashing and the popular arguments that our bodies weren’t designed to cope with gluten. These arguments use unproven evolutionary concepts.  Human beings have eaten wheat, barley, and rye for thousands of years. The report concludes with him saying: “…. For the vast majority of us, there’s a controlled reaction, the enemies are defeated and nothing happens. Very few people eventually lose this battle and may develop celiac disease, gluten sensitivity or wheat allergy.”  He continues, “So if you argue on that basis that we should all go gluten free, it’s like saying that we should all get rid of germs or bacteria. That’s ridiculous. Our bodies deal with bacteria all the time. We’re awash with them.” He wants us to understand that it may be changes in a person’s microbiome, not a so-called gluten sensitivity, especially one that affects everyone.

So my hint for this week is to look for the word ‘whole’ on grain products. Certainly, if you have celiac you know which grains work for you. But you can still be sure to choose whole brown rice, for example. If you’re in the fortunate majority, keep discovering the true whole grain products. No matter how it’s sliced, you’ll have to read the ingredient list to know if your bread, crackers or pasta are made with true whole grains.