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By Stephenie Karony

Wednesday, March 1, 2000

You can lose weight
without giving up bread

Question: I'm trying to lose weight. My sister thinks I should stop eating bread. Do you agree?

Answer: No, I do not agree. I don't believe that any food you like, especially one packed with nutrients, should be eliminated completely from your diet. Eliminating foods that we like only makes us crave them more.

That said, here's my opinion about bread. All breads are not created equal. Some contain heart-healthy fiber, vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals. Those that are overly processed, do not.

If bread is white, it's lacking the healthy benefits of eating whole wheat. White bread has lost all of its natural heart-healthy vitamin E. The vitamin E is found in the wheat germ, which is separated out in the milling process. One hundred percent whole wheat flour is the healthiest; it contains the wheat germ, the most fiber, and the outer bran layer of the wheat kernel.

Whole wheat flour naturally contains the B vitamins, folic acid, essential trace minerals and disease-preventing phytochemicals. These vital nutrients are processed out of white flour. Even though most white bread is enriched, only some nutrients are added back. The trace minerals, phytochemicals and fiber are lost forever.

Why does bread have such a bad reputation for being fattening?

There are several reasons. First, even the healthiest slices can become fat traps if you slather on butter, nut butter, mayo or other high calorie toppings.

Second, people simply eat too much of the stuff. A typical slice of whole wheat bread is low in fat (one to two grams), and can contain 2 to 3 grams of fiber.

Numerous studies have shown people on fiber- rich diets also tend to have lower levels of body fat. However, like any food, bread does contain calories, so if you eat too much, you will gain weight. This is true of all food.

The third reason bread has a bad rap is because bread has become a catch-all term for high-fat, high-calorie items such as biscuits, muffins, croissants and dinner rolls.

So how much bread should a person eat? That depends on two things: how active the person is and how many total daily calories they eat. If you're very active and eat about 1,600 calories a day, a couple of slices a day is about the right amount. That means one sandwich for lunch, or one sandwich for lunch and one slice of toast for breakfast. It does not mean two or three slices of toast for breakfast, a couple of sandwiches for lunch, and a couple of rolls with dinner. Anyone eating nine slices of bread (which is the total daily consumption of all grains recommended for someone eating 2,000 calories) would likely gain weight. A triathlete or the equivalent may be the exception.

Be sure to read labels when shopping for bread. All-natural doesn't mean it's 100 percent whole wheat, high in fiber or low in fat. Avoid brands that contain hydrogenated fats (trans fat), and high fructose corn syrup (sugar).

As far as preservatives are concerned, it's a toss-up. If you want your bread to last longer than one or two days, you'll need to purchase varieties that contain additives.

The term "organic" sounds appealing, but be aware that it may not mean much, because there are currently no federal organic standards in place.

In conclusion - does bread make us fat? Contrary to what high-protein diet proponents believe, the answer is no.

Health Events

Stephenie Karony is a certified health
and fitness instructor, a personal trainer and the author of
"Body Shaping with Free Weights." Send questions to her at
P.O. Box 262, Wailuku Hi. Her column appears on Wednesdays.

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