White bread vs. wheat bread: A carbohydrate comparison

White bread vs. wheat bread: A carbohydrate comparison
Photo by Sonja Hults

Carbohydrates are classified as either simple or complex. This has to do with their chemical structure. Here’s the science: for a simple carb, there are one or two sugar subunits and complex carbs have thousands of subunits.

Complex carbohydrates contain complex chains of the simple sugars linked together. They break down much more slowly in order to be able to release their stored energy.

The body uses both simple and complex carbs by converting them to glucose and which then becomes a primary energy source for us. Glucose has an affect on our blood. Carbohydrates are also categorized according to the glycemic index.

The lower on the glycemic index, the less effects it has on the blood or insulin levels.

Bread wins the popularity contest of most eaten carbohydrate. We love our sandwiches. Nostalgia sets in thinking of that peanut butter and jelly lunchtime delight as a kid. When it comes to bread, it is the type of flour that dictates the type of carbohydrate.

It is important to note that both  white and wheat types do have vitamins and minerals. However, the combination of carbohydrates in the bread types do affect your health. To get really technical, flour is made from wheat kernels or berries.

The kernels have three parts which include the bran, embryo, and endosperm. Wheat bread is made up of all three parts of kernel. That is where the term “whole grain” comes in.

White bread only has the endosperm, which means it lacks the nutrients provided from bran and embryo. Adding to this, wheat bread has more fiber, vitamin B6 and E, as well as more zinc, magnesium, folic acid, and chromium. Fiber is the key. It is a digestive aid that can also lower the risk of heart disease.

What this means for bread consumers: Look for packages that read “whole grain” or “whole wheat”. It used to be easy and color indicated white or wheat (white bread is white because it is bleached), but that is now misleading.

Counting calories doesn’t always equate to nutritional value. Side by side, most times white bread only has 5 more calories per servings; but look a little lower on that label and then the answer to which is the better choice becomes evident.

The Lifestyle of the FIT and Healthy opts for protein style (without the bun), limits themselves to only having rolls and bagels every now and then, and chooses “whole wheat” products.

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