There are quite a few hyped-up fad diets around that promote no- or low-carb intake, such as Atkins, Paleolithic and ketogenic diets that claim carbohydrates are the devil and you should primarily eat fatty food if you want to lose weight. While we aren’t quite sold, they are absolutely correct about one thing: refined grain products, and white bread, in particular, do a lot more harm to your body than they do any good. Here’s why:
1. Refined grains have nearly zero nutritional value
Refining grains typically means removing their bran (tough, fiber-rich outer layer) and their germ (the seed’s embryo and source for many nutrients), leaving only the endosperm, a starchy middle-layer. This is done for several reasons: the most practical reason is that the oils in the germ make the grain go bad quicker. Other reasons boil down to taste; whole grains are tougher, tend to be rather dry (because the germ and bran absorb a lot of water) and have a rather distinct taste that can range from bitter to nutty.
2. White bread causes sugar crashes
The high carbohydrate content of white bread causes a rise in blood-sugar levels. If the energy stored in the sugar isn’t exerted in exercise, the body will produce insulin to process the sugars and store them away, leading to a quick drop in the blood-sugar levels. The effect is a sudden loss of energy characterized by headaches, confusion, tiredness, dizziness, and possibly even depression.
3. It can induce type 2 diabetes
As mentioned before, the body produces insulin to reduce blood-sugar levels. Insulin achieves this by absorbing the sugar into cells in the body for later use. Regular high sugar intake can cause cells to develop immunity to insulin, hampering the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar levels, causing what is known as diabetes type 2. There is no cure for diabetes, and the complications that can result from it are numerous, including heart disease.
4. It is a major contributor to weight gain
When you eat food that is rich in carbohydrates, like bread, the body breaks it down to readily usable energy for the body’s many functions. Excess energy that isn’t used (through strenuous physical activity) is converted and stored in the body as fatty tissue. Energy is rather easy to burn, but fat is substantially harder to lose.
5. Carbohydrates and water weight
This is not the only reason for weight gain associated with high carbohydrate intake. Before the energy is converted to fat, the excess energy is stored for later use as glycogen molecules. Each of those comes with a substantial amount of water attached (around 3-4 grams of water for every gram of glycogen).
6. It is quite literally addictive
When blood-sugar levels drop, one of the most common reactions by the body is to seek immediate relief by… consuming more sugar. Sugar cravings are a vicious self-perpetuating cycle that are very hard to escape, as quitting sugar predictably results in moodiness and the body struggling to accommodate the dietary change.
7. It increases the risk of heart complications
Research published in 2010 in JAMA Internal Medicine Journal demonstrated that women whose diet consists of a lot of high carbohydrate food like white bread are twice as likely to develop heart disease as those who don’t eat such food as often.
8. It has no fiber
Fiber is what makes up a lot of the brain, skin or shell of the plant and is removed during the refining process white flour undergoes. Like starch and glycogen, fiber is a complex sugar-molecule. Such molecules require special enzymes to break down, but whereas our bodies secrete the enzymes needed to break down starch and glycogen, only a select few animals (such as insects and true herbivores) can process fiber, meaning that our body doesn’t digest it. This may sound like a bad thing, but it is actually very beneficial to our digestive system. The fiber waste that our bodies does not digest moves through our digestive tract without undergoing any changes, which in turn helps expedite bowl movement, while also giving bulk to the stool and taking up water, preventing diarrhea.
9. Bread is a lazy man’s food
In all honesty, one of the biggest selling points of bread is just how gosh-darn convenient it is. You want a quick meal? Just take a slice of bread, slap some cheese or jelly on it and voilà! You’ve got dinner. A sedentary lifestyle begins in the smallest routines in our lives and trying to find shortcuts to prepare ourselves a proper meal is definitely a part of that.
10. You should still eat some whole-grain
After all of this tirade, it should be said that carbohydrates are the best source of energy for our body, and going cold turkey off of them can have several adverse effects on your health. You can and should eat bread- preferably whole-wheat bread- occasionally and in moderation, just don’t make it your bread and butter (pun very much intended). When buying whole-wheat bread, make sure it actually is whole-wheat. The easiest way to tell is by looking at the ingredients, where the first one should always be whole grain wheat flour.