Switching over from white bread? Here's what you need to know about its healthier alternatives

Switching over from white bread? Here's what you need to know about its healthier alternatives

Whole grain bread is made of natural ingredients and lower on the glycemic index
16 Oct, 2016

Inspired by my friend, Gori, who is very particular about her breads, I choose recently to venture out of my comfort zone of the factory-manufactured sliced white bread.

Though I’ve had whole wheat bread a couple of times, the idea of was new to me, largely because the traditional white bread has been my breakfast staple since childhood. Occasionally, my mother would buy meethi bread laden with raisins and nuts, or milk bread that looked like plain white bread but tasted sweetish and is apparently made with milk instead of water.

Nevertheless, plain white bread is, and has always been, my first choice. After all, white bread is available everywhere and goes as well with fried eggs as it does with Shami kebabs.

So, why make the switch?

Eating whole grains is a sound weight-loss strategy and a healthier option than white bread Whole grain or brown bread contains natural ingredients beneficial to one’s health – it contains a high amount of significant health-promoting nutrients, minerals, vitamins and anti-oxidants. This is because brown bread includes all parts of the wheat grain – endosperm, bran and germ - and goes through less processing than white bread.

The glycemic index of brown bread is also much lower compared to white bread which reduces the risk of insulin resistance, prevents cardiovascular diseases and controls obesity.

Considering the numerous health benefits of brown bread, it isn’t surprising that more people are switching to it and increasingly bakeries and specialty stores have begun offering a variety of breads that are a far cry from the packaged white bread one finds at one’s neighbourhood corner store.

Nazish Chagla, director of a leading Karachi-based natural store and café, says that there are approximately 20 different types of bread available at her café including flaxseed, multigrain, gluten-free, evening bread, zero-carb, bran, French baguette, focaccia, ciabatta, panini, oregano, olive, barley and Ezekiel bread.

Chagla points out that the breads sold at the bakery are popular because they “are better alternatives as compared to the conventional, ready-to-eat bakery products that contain [a lot] of added sugars”. In addition, many types of bread are baked with ingredients keeping in mind a health and fitness conscious clientele.

“Ezekiel bread, which is a mixture of sprouted whole grains and legumes, is extremely filling and ideal for someone looking to upgrade the nutritional values of their food. Gluten-free, zero-carb bread is especially baked for athletes and individuals who engage in high intensity workouts as it contains a high concentration of Omega-3s and flaxseeds but very few carbohydrates,” Chagla says.

Why people aren't buying

Despite numerous health benefits of whole wheat and multigrain bread, and bakeries that have begun to offer alternatives to the everyday sliced white bread, only a small percentage of people opt for whole grain bread. Many people are put off by the high prices, for others it’s too consuming to make a daily trip to the bakeries and cafes that sell such breads, while others prefer the taste of sliced white bread.

In a recent local survey of approximately 1,000 people, around 50 per cent of the participants said they found white bread tastier, softer and cheaper as compared to multigrain/brown and 20 per cent complained that they would like to switch to authentic multigrain or brown bread but can’t find it easily in their localities. Only 30 per cent of the participants affirmed they have included multigrain/wholewheat bread in their daily diet and are aware of its health benefits.

“I know brown bread is healthier, but only a few bakeries and grocery stores stock bona fide brown bread. Brown colour is used to trick consumers. It’s difficult to go to specific outlets to purchase fresh brown bread every day. On the other hand, fresh white bread is readily available at all the shops across the city, so mostly I end up using it,” reasoned 25 year-old Ibrahim.

Another participant of the survey, Saleem Khan, asked: “Why should I make expensive, coarse and dark-looking bread a part of my daily diet when I have cheaper substitutes? I am fit as a fiddle!”

Interestingly, 23 per cent of the participants out of the 30 per cent who consume organic bread said they mainly eat it to reduce weight and get slimmer. For instance, Sadaf, 29, eats multigrain bread for breakfast mainly because she’s on a strict 35-day weight loss plan. “My trainers recommended this type of bread as long as I’m on a diet. I will stop using it once I’ve reduced enough weight,” she tells me.

Furthermore, many shop attendants brand brown bread as ‘weight-losing bread’. “Women ask our helpers to give them ‘brown weight-losing’ bread. Due to the colour, taste and texture of brown bread, people usually associate it with a diet food,” said Rehan, 45, manager at a well-known bakery in Karachi.

This is a major, widespread misconception. Dr. Ayesha Abbas, a renowned nutritionist argues that eating brown bread on its own can’t help one lose weight.

“Weight loss is subjected to altering your overall lifestyle. If you consume brown bread at breakfast and eat junk throughout the day, and think that this will prevent fats from building up and being stored in your body, then you’re absolutely wrong,” she explains.

Dr Abbas is quick to point out, however, that brown bread is better than white bread because it leaves you feeling ‘full’ for longer. “All kinds of bread contain carbohydrates … [but] organic bread is high in fiber and low in glycemic index, so it maintains your blood sugar levels and does not leave you feeling tired or hungry quickly,” she adds.

Natural ingredients in bread make it tastier and give it texture, making it a must on your breakfast table. There is a huge variety to choose from, but remember bread won’t shed pounds. They are baked to fill you up, satisfy your taste buds and meet your fitness requirements. So head out and find one that suits you.

Originally published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, October 16th, 2016


Dr. Javed Arshad Oct 16, 2016 12:13pm
Thanks for sharing an interesting and informative article. Sedentary life style and weight gain is a leading cause of metabolic syndrome which is combination of obesity, hypertension, dyslipidemia (deranged lipid profile in the blood) and poor glycaemic control. It leads to diabetes, impotence and ischaemic heart disease and stroke. In addition to many other things, American Heart Association (AHA) recommends physical exercise for 150 minutes a week ( 30 minutes a day for 5 days a week). This regimen should increase heart rate to 50 - 85% of the maximum heart rate, which stands equal to 220 - age. For example if somebody is 40 years of age, his/her maximum heart rate is 180. The target is to achieve the targeted heart rate during the exercise which is 50 - 85% of the maximum heart rate.
Zi Oct 16, 2016 06:07pm
Long time ago, I switched to brown bread because I find it more tasty. All kind of breads have to be brown for me. My family also love it's taste.
M Khalil Sufi Oct 16, 2016 08:18pm
@Dr. Javed Arshad Is "Brown" bread a misnomer for "Bran" bread or is colored or different ingredients.
Salma Oct 17, 2016 08:49am
The best bread one can eat is 'whole wheat chapati'...without preservatives and artificial dont even know whats being added to the breads that you buy from bakeries..
nawaz Oct 17, 2016 02:46pm
i love to eat bran bread of jalal sons
Mariam Naeem Khan Oct 17, 2016 02:51pm
@M Khalil Sufi Brown bread is different from bran bread. Bran bread contains high proportion of bran part of the grain, whereas brown bread contains all the three parts of the grain (as mentioned in the article) in equally quantities. It isn't a misnomer.