Dave Mercer Personal Trainer Liverpool

The Big Bad Bread debate

Confession: I really love bread! And for a really long period of time I have been in the ‘BREAD IS BAD’ camp.

Bread is one of the most restricted foods in the dieting world and one which is cut out of nearly every low calorie diet. But why has one of the most widely eaten foods been demonised and why do we think this is one of the major reasons we are not losing weight?

The question we need to ask is, is it actually bread which is stopping our weight loss? Or could it be the amount we eat or that we have it with high calorie fillings and toppings?

Common things I hear when people talk about eating bread:

“Bread makes me all farty and bloated”

“Bread makes me feel sluggish”

“It’s the wheat in bread that I’m intolerant to”

“It’s bread that is causing me to put on weight”

The above are all very common misconceptions unless you are part of the 0.003% of the population who are coeliac or wheat intolerant (if you are, I apologise and please ignore my rant). In my experience, most people who suggest they are gluten or wheat intolerant are self diagnosed and the irritation in the gastric/digestive tract is caused by something other than bread.

I often hear people say they cut out bread from their diet and lost weight as a direct result. So bread gets demonised. But here’s an idea, it might not be just the bread causing your weight gain, but the fact you overeat it, putting you in a calorie surplus!

Why do you feel bloated when you eat bread? It might be because you are eating too much of it in one sitting. Bread is highly fibrous and filling and eaten in large quantities it will bloat you, but who feels bloated after one slice of toast? One reason why it is easy to overeat bread is due to what we put on it. Common favourites include butter, nutella, nut butters, bacon, cheese, crisps, fish fingers – all of which are not only calorie dense but have the ability to alter your brain chemistry into eating MORE. They taste so good that your brain begins to ignore your body’s signals of being full, making it easy to binge on delicious food. Before you know it, the whole baguette and block of camembert has disappeared!

So what’s GOOD about bread?

Bread has been eaten for over 30,000 years and has been an integral part of the human diet. It comes in a number of different forms, flavours, colours and types, all which are highly palatable and is sometimes served as an accompaniment or as the main form of carbohydrate in a meal. There are not many people who don’t enjoy this tasty form of food and we all have our favourite loaf or type!

Benefits

  • Great for digestive health
  • High fibre content
  • Breaking bread is a social activity
  • A good source of micro nutrients in the form of whole grains
  • A widely consumable form of carbohydrate

Scientific evidence

A study that evaluated the usefulness of a low-calorie diet with or without bread in the treatment of overweight/obesity had some interesting results. 122 women were split into two groups and were placed on a low-calorie diet, which were matched (with or without bread). All the women were given nutrition education and physical activity guidelines, and were monitored for 16 weeks.

Both groups lost the same amount of weight, however the BREAD group significantly increased total cereal consumption and managed to stick to the diet better, whereas the NO BREAD group had considerable more people dropping out and not completing the study as they could not comply to not eating bread.

So in conclusion, eating bread in a low-calorie diet designed for weight loss had a more favourable outcome in terms of sticking to the food plan and losing weight. And this proves that you can eat bread and still lose weight!

Bottom line

I believe very strongly we should avoid negative connotations about certain food of food groups. The key is to eat for energy balance – there is no one food that will make you lose or gain weight all on its own. If the subtraction of something like bread allows you to eat less calories and lose weight  in a sustainable way, that’s great. However, realise it’s not the lack of bread but rather, the reduced calories, that is responsible for your weight loss. Bread is quite calorie dense and if eaten in moderation alongside other whole foods, we will still be able to lose weight and hit our fitness goals, then why not eat it?

Reference

Evaluation of the usefulness of a low-calorie diet with or without bread in the treatment of overweight/obesity.

Clin Nutr. 2012 Aug;31(4):455-61. doi: 10.1016/j.clnu.2011.12.002. Epub 2011 Dec 30.

Loria-Kohen V1, Gómez-Candela C, Fernández-Fernández C, Pérez-Torres A, García-Puig J, Bermejo LM.

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