Whole Wheat HoaxBy Jim
Healthy on 07/22/2011
wheat bread more healthful than white bread?
majority of shoppers — including those with a high “health IQ”
— think so.
And that’s just what food marketers want you to believe. But the truth
may knock you for a loop.
You see, many
“whole wheat” products are just as bad as white bread — and some are
and I’ll blow away the smoke that may be clouding your eyes so you can
“hokum-proof” your whole grain purchases and bring home the real McCoy.
grains are better for you
grain foods and products are bursting with nutty, chewy flavor and
loaded with health-protective fiber. They’re so much better for you than
the familiar white bread and white flour baked goods most of us grew up
realize that munching white bread and foods baked from it have the same
effect on your blood sugar as eating table sugar straight from the sugar
bowl? Both break down into glucose as soon as they are digested, which
requires extra insulin to get them out of your bloodstream.
bread, on the other hand, digests far more slowly because its natural
fiber slows the conversion of carbohydrates into glucose, so your blood
sugar remains stable and receives a steady energy release instead of a
In a study
published in Diabetes Care, Italian researchers noted that diets high in
refined carbs throw blood sugar and metabolism into chaos.
problem is resolved when refined carb foods are swapped out for whole
blood sugar by 600%
at the Creighton Diabetes Center in Nebraska found that when people ate
a breakfast cereal made from fiber-rich barley, their blood sugar
remained 600% lower than when they ate oatmeal — which is thought to be
one of the best “slow carbs” you can eat. Reason? Barley is high in a
particular type of fiber called beta-glucan that’s super-effective at
slowing the conversion of carbs to glucose.
many refined carbohydrates is the number one cause of weight gain and
Type 2 diabetes. And with a whopping 30% of the US population predicted
to develop diabetes very soon, everyone should take steps to protect
whole grain foods and products can really help. In fact, you can reduce
your diabetes risk by 40% just by replacing some of the fast carbs in
your diet with whole grains, a recent Harvard study showed. And if
you’re already experiencing blood sugar problems, whole grain foods are
some of the best medicine in Nature’s pantry.
But how can
you make sure the “whole grain” products you’re buying are the genuine
article? It isn’t always easy. Let me illustrate…
Can you ace
shoppers walk into a grocery store looking for the most healthful bread.
One sees a
loaf labeled “Whole Wheat Bread” and drops it in her cart.
shopper spots a loaf of “Multigrain Bread” and heads to the checkout
shopper picks a loaf of bread that’s “Made with whole grains”
she’s made a smart choice.
shopper left the store with the truly healthy loaf?
None of the above.
This isn’t a
trick question. Rather, it illustrates the trickiness of food marketers
who intentionally create confusion about what’s healthful in your
Take it with
“a grain of truth”
You see, food
manufacturers are well aware you want to make healthier choices when
shopping. They also know that white bread is falling out of favor with
economics of the supermarket haven’t changed. It’s still very expensive
to put a true whole-grain loaf of bread on the shelf. Why? It spoils
much faster than baked goods made with white flour. Here’s why…
products use the whole grain, including the germ, bran, and the oil.
These elements are where the vitamins, minerals, and life-sustaining
nutrition reside — and also what attract insects during transport and
storage. By spoiling so quickly on the shelf, whole-grain baked goods
require frequent replacement.
This was a
big problem for millers and bakers in the old days until they came up a
solution: Refine away these “problem” aspects and: “Voila!”
The flour and
bread resisted spoiling. Insects and weevils didn’t bother with them.
Even mice weren’t interested because they couldn’t live on them.
effect was demonstrated by Dr. Roger J. Williams, the noted biochemist
who discovered pantothenic acid (vitamin B5). In late 1960s, Dr.
Williams fed white flour to one group of rats and whole-grain flour to
another. The white flour rats became malnourished, sickly, and
two-thirds of them died, while the whole-grain rats flourished.
profits; bad for health
whole grains into white flour removes 80% of their 20 known nutrients.
And while baked goods made from white flour won’t sustain health or
life, they do stick around on grocery shelves longer. This makes them
great for profits, but a poor source of nutrition.
Williams’ rat experiment made headlines, consumers began to shun white
bread in favor of loaves made from whole grains. Food manufacturers
sniffed the trend and responded by adding brown coloring and a little
bran to white flour and labeling the resulting bread “whole wheat.”
To this day,
many consumers remain confused. But commercial bakers couldn’t fool Dr.
Williams’ rats. In a follow-up experiment, he fed 33 different brands of
refined-flour bread — including rye, pumpernickel, and ersatz “whole
wheat” — to another group of rats. They didn’t fare any better than the
white bread group.
for the “health food hype”
marketers seek to profit from health trends by making a quick buck from
confused consumers. So here’s how to crack the “code words”
they use on
the labels of bread and baked goods. When they say their bread is…
bread.” Translation: This bread’s flour may or may not be made from
whole grain wheat. Don’t rely on the product name. Look at the
ingredients list. If the first ingredient is whole wheat flour, that
means the flour is legally required to be ground from whole grains of
wheat. It’s not refined or enriched. It’s the good stuff.
ingredient is listed simply as wheat flour or flour, then it’s refined
flour, according to the standard of identity for flour — and refined
flour has been denuded of its nutritional benefits. Refined white flour
may have brown food coloring and a bit of bran added to make it appear
ingredient is listed as enriched flour, the bran and germ have been
removed and other nutrients have been added, but it’s not anywhere near
as healthful as true whole wheat flour.
Translation: This means there’s more than one type of grain in the
product, but this is no guarantee that any of those grains are in fact
whole grain.” Translation: There’s an insignificant amount of whole
grains in the product, but they want you to believe it’s enough to be an
actual health benefit. It usually isn’t.
Here are some
helpful tips when shopping for whole grain products…
and other products labeled “whole grain.” Even better: Look for products
labeled “100% whole grain.” We love Ezekiel bread products made by Food
for Life. You’ll often find them in the freezer section because they are
indeed a “whole” food.
packaging for the “100% Whole Grain” stamp from the Whole Grains
careful: Products emblazoned with the Whole Grain Council’s “basic”
stamp only provide half a serving of whole grains, so pass them by.
Why not go
tracking down the superior health benefits of whole grains in the bread
aisle, why not go “whole grain” throughout the entire store?
easily incorporate whole grains at any (or every) meal to improve your
blood sugar … control your weight … and improve your cardiovascular
favorites such as oats, barley, and brown rice often — and don’t
hesitate to experiment with adventurous “new” whole-grain foods.
is a complete protein.
gluten-free, and high in fiber.
is high in iron.
has twice the fiber and protein of whole wheat.
is high in manganese, magnesium and phosphorus.
They all cook
up in water just like oatmeal, and each one offers unique nutritional
benefits. The variety of whole grains is so great that you may need a
lifetime to get to know them all. But my guess is that you’ll love them
at first bite.
convenience, cook up a large batch of whole grains and freeze portions
individually for later use.
truth — and nothing but
One thing you
can count on: As soon as American consumers change their illin’ ways and
decide to eat more healthfully, some huckster will always figure out a
way to make a buck off shoppers’ best intentions.
remembering the key concepts explained above, you can outsmart these
marketeers and bring home whole grain goodness time and again.
shopping — and eating!