The Whole Wheat Hoax

Is whole-wheat bread more healthful than white bread? Most shoppers think so. But many “whole-wheat” products are just as bad as white bread — and some are even worse.


Why Whole Grains Are Better


Foods baked from white flour have the same effect on your blood sugar as table sugar. Digestion converts both directly into glucose. Your blood sugar spikes. You need extra insulin to clear the glucose from your bloodstream.

By contrast, the fiber in whole-grain foods slows glucose conversion. Your blood sugar remains stable instead spiking and dropping.

In a study published in Diabetes Care, researchers found that diets high in refined carbs threw blood sugar and metabolism into chaos. But the problem resolved when whole grains replaced refined carbs.

            Eating too many refined carbs is the top cause of weight gain and Type 2 diabetes. You can reduce your diabetes risk by 40% just by replacing some of your fast carbs with whole grains, a recent Harvard study showed. And if you’re already having blood sugar problems, whole-grain foods are good medicine. (See The 30-Day Diabetes Cure for details.)


A Grain of Truth

It’s tricky to find real whole-grain products. Food manufacturers know you want to make healthy choices. But it’s expensive for stores to stock whole-grain baked goods. They spoil much faster than refined-flour products.

Whole-grain products contain the germ, bran, and oil of a grain. These elements contain 80% of the life-sustaining nutrients. They also attract insects and go rancid over time. Whole-grain baked goods require frequent replacement, whereas refined grain, without all those inventory-spoiling nutrients, costs less to stock.

In the 1960s, biochemist Roger Williams fed white flour to one group of rats and whole-grain flour to another. The former became malnourished, and two-thirds of them died. The latter flourished. When this experiment made headlines, consumers began to shun white bread. Food manufacturers responded by adding brown coloring and a little bran to white flour and labeling the resulting bread “whole-wheat.”

They fooled many consumers. But they couldn’t fool the rats. In a follow-up experiment, Williams fed 33 brands of refined-flour bread — including so-called “whole-wheat” bread — to another group of rats. They fared as poorly as the white bread group.


Cracking the Code

Here’s how to crack the code words used on the labels of baked goods:

•           “Whole-wheat bread”: Check the ingredients list. If the first ingredient is “whole-wheat flour,” it’s the good stuff. If it’s “wheat flour” or “flour,” then it’s refined.  If it’s “enriched flour,” it’s refined but has added nutrients. It’s far less healthful than whole-wheat flour.

•           “Multigrain”: The product contains multiple types of grain. Check the top of the ingredients list for whole-grain flour.

•           “Made with whole grain”: The product contains an insignificant amount of whole grains. The manufacturer wants you to believe it’s enough to benefit your health. It usually isn’t.


Shopping Savvy

Choose bread and other baked goods labeled “whole grain” or “100% whole grain.” Search for the Whole Grains Council’s “100% whole grain” stamp. Products with the council’s basic “whole grain” stamp provide only half a serving of whole grains. We love Ezekiel bread products made by Food for Life. They’re often in the freezer section to prevent spoilage.

While you’re tracking down whole-grain bread, why not choose some other whole grains, too? You can easily incorporate whole grains into any meal. Enjoy old favorites such as oats, barley, and brown rice — or experiment with adventurous “new” whole grains, such as quinoa, teff, amaranth, farro, and millet.

Each whole grain offers unique nutritional benefits. All cook in water, just like rice. For convenience, cook a large batch of whole grains and freeze serving-size portions for later use. How do these wonderful whole grains fit into your meals? Wonderfully! You’ll find a wealth of free whole-grain recipes at our My Healing Kitchen website.

The variety of whole grains is so great that you may need a lifetime to get to know them all. But my guess is that you’ll love them at first bite.


About Jim Healthy

Jim Healthy™ is a prolific health writer with a life-long dedication to researching and publishing the most important health discoveries of our time -- and creating practical “action plans” that help readers incorporate these new medical findings in their daily lives. He is the co-author of The Healthy Body Book, Arthritis Interrupted, The 30 Day Diabetes Cure, and The Healing Kitchen.
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