Back when I first started learning about diet and nutrition, I heard a lot about “good” carbs and “bad” carbs. Good means complex, bad means simple. The difference between the two lies mostly in how they are digested. Good carbs (such as vegetables) digest slowly, bad carbs (such as sugar) digest quickly.
In the war between good and bad carbs, something I came across over and over again were lists of which carbs were good, and which were bad. Back when the low carb diet was even more popular than it is today, everyone and their grandma wrote their own good carb/bad carb list.
For the most part, these lists were fine and good. People learned that brown rice is better than white rice. Sweet potatoes are better than white potatoes. And whole wheat bread is better than white bread.
Wait… hold it right there.
Upon learning that whole wheat bread was the better bread, I was first in line at my grocery store the next day to pick up some whole wheat bread. No more “bad” bread for me. So, I walked down the bread aisle… white bread, more white bread, more white bread, wait, here we go… whole wheat bread!
I bought it. I ate it. I bought more. I ate more. Every single piece of bread I ate from that point on was whole wheat. I felt good knowing I was eating the “better” food.
Cut to a little while later. Whole wheat bread wasn’t on the “good” carb lists anymore. See, it had now been replaced by “100%” whole wheat bread. Oh no, it seems as if the lists I’ve been reading weren’t specific enough. Apparently, the whole wheat bread I was currently eating may not have been 100%. Who knew there was anything less than 100%?
So, I went back to the store. White bread, white bread, whole wheat bread, ah, here we go… 100% whole wheat bread. NOW I got the right one. Screw you white bread, and screw you too ordinary whole wheat bread, you’ve both been replaced by the much more healthy 100% whole wheat bread.
Cut to a little while later. This was when I learned the point of this post. Just like there are “good” and “bad” carbs, there also happens to be “good” and “bad” whole wheat bread… and the “100%” has nothing to do with it.
In order to understand the difference, the first thing you need to do is ignore that “100%” part. Just ignore it completely. It means nothing to you. Think of it more like a marketing slogan than a nutritional fact. You know what, just ignore the entire front side of the package of bread altogether. There’s nothing important there anyway.
What you need to do is turn all of your attention to the back. Specifically, the ingredients. This is where you will find out if you really have selected the “good” whole wheat bread.
To help show the difference between “good” and “bad,” here is the list of ingredients on a package of one brand’s 100% Whole Wheat Bread:
“Whole Wheat Flour, Water, Gluten, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Yeast, Cracked Wheat, Salt, Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil, Molasses, Raisin Juice Concentrate, Ethoxylated Mono-And Diglycerides Calcium Propionate (Preservative), Honey, Soy Lecithin.”
Here is the list of ingredients on the back of a package of another bread from the same brand, this time called Natural 100% Whole Wheat Bread:
“Unbleached Enriched Wheat Flour [Flour, Malted Barley Flour, Reduced Iron, Niacin, Thiamin Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Riboflavin (Vitamin B2) Folic Acid], Water, Cracked Wheat, Whole Wheat Flour, Yeast, Barley, Honey, Fructose, Wheat Gluten, Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil, Salt, Wheat Bran, Malt, Ethoxylated Mono-And Diglycerides, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Calcium Propionate (Preservative), Caramel Color, Whey, Soy Flour, Calcium Carbonate, Soy Lecithin, Nonfat Milk.”
And now, here are the ingredients on the back of the package of whole wheat pita bread I ate today:
Stone Ground Whole Wheat Flour, Water, Yeast, Salt, Calcium Propionate
Catch any differences? I bet you did. Some of the ingredients that stand out the most in the first two are High Fructose Corn Syrup and Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil. Both are junk. The second bread also lists Unbleached Enriched Wheat Flour, which is almost like saying “Borderline Fake Whole Wheat Bread.”
These are things you do NOT want to see anywhere near the list of ingredients of the whole wheat bread you buy. This of course will eliminate about 90% of the whole wheat breads on the market for you, because 90% of them contain one or more of these ingredients. And, as you can see from the first two breads, the fact that it says “100% whole wheat bread” or “natural” on the package means very little.
In fact, I was in my grocery store yesterday, and knowing I was going to blog about this today, I took a minute in the bread aisle to check ingredients. Literally every single 100% whole wheat bread in the store contained High Fructose Corn Syrup.
So, now that you know all about the “bad” whole wheat breads, you may be wondering what brands make up the 10% of the “good” breads. Interestingly enough, I don’t have any brands to list for you off the top of my head. The brand I eat is just some small local brand that you won’t find anywhere else except for a few small stores in my neighborhood.
Now, while it’s possible that you may be able to find your own “good” small local whole wheat bread brand near you, there is one place where you’re almost guaranteed to find one… a health food store.
Most (if not all) of the breads you find in your grocery store will contain one or more of the “bad” ingredients mentioned before. The breads in a health food store are made specifically to be the complete opposite of those junky breads.
You’ll still want to double check the ingredients of the whole wheat bread before you buy it, but your chances of finding a “good” bread in a health food store are MUCH higher than finding one in a grocery store.
And, just so you know, your bread’s ingredients do not have to identically match my bread’s ingredients in order to be “good.” For example, some organic whole wheat breads will have a huge list of stuff in it that mine doesn’t have and it will still be perfectly fine.
You’re mainly checking to make sure certain things are NOT in it. Specifically, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil, and any mention of the words “Unbleached” and/or “Enriched.” If you do spot something on there that looks a little funny, feel free to come home and look that ingredient up before you buy it or eat it. Or, leave a comment here with the ingredients and I’ll take a peek at it.
In conclusion (it took me 5 minutes to come up with a phrase to start this sentence with, by the way), whenever you see 100% whole wheat bread on some kind of healthy food list, just keep in mind that this is the additional explanation that is meant to go with it.
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