White bread gets a bad rap, especially in the world of health and wellness. But is that daily sandwich or slice of toast really that bad for you?
If you’ve ever thought about giving up white bread, you might be wondering what actually makes a bread “white.” It’s actually less about the color and more about the ingredients.
White bread is made from flour that has been refined to remove the bran and germ (AKA the good-for-you parts). If white bread is refined and enrichedthen it has some essential B-vitamins, like thiamin, niacin, and riboflavin, added back to it after processing.
Read on for five surprising effects of giving up white bread, according to dietitians, and don’t miss The #1 Best Juice to Drink Every Day, Says Science.
Who doesn’t need a little mood boost these days? Kicking your white bread habit could help make your world seem a little brighter.
“By giving up white bread, you might notice a positive change in your overall mood. A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found a link between diets rich in high glycemic index foods, such as white bread, and depression in post-menopausal women,” says registered dietitian Elysia Cartlidge, MAN, RD†
The glycemic index helps to identify the potential of a food to raise your blood sugar by assigning a number value to food, with pure sugar being 100. White bread is a high glycemic food with a value of 71 (compared to a slice of 100% whole grain bread that has a glycemic index of 51).
Eliminating white bread and switching to foods that are lower on the glycemic index, you could see an improvement in mood swings and reduced symptoms of depression, explains Cartlidge.
If you’re aiming for weight loss, swapping out white bread for more nutrient-dense alternatives could help you reach your goal.
“Giving up white bread may help if you are trying to lose weight, as it’s really important to emphasize foods that are higher in fiber for weight loss to help you feel satisfied,” says registered dietitian Jinan Banna, PhD, RD†
Swap white bread for high-fiber, nutrient-dense carbs like whole grains, brown rice, quinoa, or sweet potatoes to feel more full and hit your weight loss goals.
Not sure which bread to grab? Try one of these healthiest store-bought breads.
White bread is digested quickly and can cause rapid spikes in blood sugar followed by swift crashes. “Giving up white bread allows room for higher fiber bread with a lower glycemic index. These include rye, whole wheat, or other whole-grain bread that provide satiety and better blood sugar control,” explains registered dietitian Lisa Andrews, MEd, RD, LD Owner of Sound Bites Nutrition.
Swapping your white bread for a more nutrient-dense and high-fiber variety helps your blood sugar in two ways. First, since fiber isn’t digestible, it lowers the net carbs of a food so that your blood sugar won’t be affected as much. High-fiber foods also help your blood sugar rise and fall more slowly as processing fiber slows down the digestion process.
If you’re searching for a place to sneak a nap an hour or two after eating your white bread sandwich, it could be time to switch things up.
Since white bread breaks down quickly, it gives you a boost of energy shortly after eating. “This could be a good thing before going for a run or exercising for example, because you want that energy to fuel you and because it is low in fiber, it won’t cause GI upset while working out,” says registered dietitian Christina Laboni, MHSc, RD†
But, if you’re struggling to keep your eyes open during your 2 pm meeting, swapping white bread for a different whole grain or high fiber choice could give you the energy you need to power through between meals. You’ll get a consistent supply of energy sent to your brain and the rest of your body thanks to the slower digestion of fiber.
If you’ve been cutting out fat to lower your cholesterol and triglyceride levels with little success, try giving up white bread instead.
While excess fat in the diet can be stored as cholesterol and triglycerides in the body, so can excess sugar from refined carbohydrates like white bread.
Swapping white bread for a bread with more fiber can actively help to lower LDL cholesterol and total cholesterol. A review in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that swapping refined foods for whole-grain foods could lower total cholesterol by 2% and LDL cholesterol by 5%.
While this may seem like a small improvement, reducing your LDL cholesterol by just one point can cut your risk of a heart attack or stroke by up to 23%.
Kelsey Lorencz, RDN
Kelsey Lorencz is a registered dietitian, freelance writer, nutrition consultant, and sustainable food blogger. Read more