Wholemeal or White Bread?

08 May 2017

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08 May 2017

Wholemeal or White Bread?


  • Fact or fiction - Wholemeal bread is better for you than white?

Of course, wholemeal bread is good, but that doesn’t make white bread bad! The dietary contribution of white bread is often under-appreciated. The Government’s National Diet and Nutrition Survey (NDNS) shows that white bread contributes 10% or more of adult calcium, iron, manganese and thiamine intake; it is low in fat and sugar but provides one tenth of our dietary fibre and nearly a tenth of protein.

  • Fact or fiction - Bread is fattening so steer clear when you are on a diet?

With a slice of wholemeal bread containing only 76 calories and 0.9 grams of fat, and a slice of white bread providing only 77 calories and 0.6g of fat, eating bread will not make you fat. It is what you put on the bread that increases the calorie and fat content of sandwiches and toast. Any diet which limits the intake of certain food groups can lead to potentially dangerous deficiencies in a number of different vitamins and minerals. With most medical professionals now recommending a healthy, balanced diet in the majority of cases, it would be more sensible to take a similar approach rather than following the latest diet.

  • Fact or fiction - Wheat allergy and intolerance is becoming more common?

Only 2% of us have a food allergy.

  • Fact or fiction - Wholemeal bread should be eaten by children and young adults instead of white bread as it contains more calcium.

According to data published by the Food Standards Agency in 2002, a medium slice of wholemeal bread provides around 37mg of calcium. A medium slice of white bread on the other hand would provide around 40% more calcium – around 62mg per slice. Perhaps with this in mind, parents may find it easier to let their child choose which type of bread they would prefer to eat – white, brown or wholemeal, they can all contribute significantly to their daily calcium intake when included in the daily diet.

  • Fact or fiction - White bread is full of sugar.

In fact bread (white, brown or wholemeal) doesn’t normally contain added sugar as part of the recipe. A small portion of the starch present in flour is broken down into maltose and fructose, which are types of sugar, as bread ferments in the bakery. This means that even though none has been added, bread contains a small amount – between 3 and 4% (or 1-2 grams per slice) of sugars when it has been baked.


Made from whole wheat, brown bread is more nutritious and a healthy snack option as compared to white bread. Whole wheat grains are rich in fibre and are associated with a number of health benefits. The brown bread also contains greater amounts of essential nutrients such as vitamin B-6 and E, magnesium, folic acid, zinc copper and manganese. On the other hand, white bread is low in fibre but contains more calcium

than brown bread. You can opt for a few brands of white bread, like Daily Bread, that come with fortified vitamins and fibre.


While manufacturing white bread, the manufacturers remove the bran and wheat germ from wheat flour and then bleach it white with compounds such as potassium bromate, benzoyl peroxide and chlorine dioxide gas. When inhaled, swallowed or absorbed in large doses, these compounds can cause a lot of health problems. On the other hand, the germ and bran of brown bread are not removed while manufacturing, thus keeping the nutrients intact.

Glycaemic Index

Foods with low GI are healthier because they do not cause any spike in the blood sugar levels. Brown bread is low in GI value compared to white bread, which means that it would not affect your blood sugar levels, which in turn would contribute to better health and lowered risk of diabetes, obesity and other cardiovascular diseases. You may also read how foods with low glycaemic index help maintain weight. But be mindful of the GI index – see my article on “Dietings mixed messages".

Tips to keep in mind

  • Not all brown breads are made of 100% whole wheat. To make sure that you buy the most nutritious bread, make sure you read the label and check the ingredients present in it. The first ingredient listed should either be whole wheat or whole meal flour. If the label reads ‘enriched’ it means that the flour used in the bread is the same as the one in white flour.
  • The presence of the ingredient caramel in the bread would mean that the same white bread has been coloured to brown.
  • Always make sure that the bread contains the fewest ingredients possible to ensure that you are buying the healthiest one.

Please Note: The material on this site is provided for informational purposes only and is not medical advice. Always consult your doctor before beginning any diet or exercise program.