White bread in disguise: why you're probably still eating it

Discussing the many reasons to avoid white bread may seem like old news to you healthy foodies, but are you sure you’re not still eating it? Although you may not be eating Wonder Bread, chances are, similarly processed stuff sneaks into your diet rather regularly. Do you know where it’s hiding?

Whole grains are a key part of a healthy, balanced diet. But once those grains have been refined—stripped of their outer bran coating and inner germ during the milling process—all that is left is the endosperm, a carbohydrate that your body converts quickly into sugars that can spike and crash your glucose levels.

“Unbleached” flour is ubiquitous, but it is nothing more than white flour that’s only slightly healthier than its pure white cousin because it is not exposed to the harsh bleaching chemicals. But that’s the only difference. Are you eating any of these common foods that could be considered white bread in disguise?

Pasta: Noodles are probably the most obvious culprits. Durum or semolina flours are just fancy words for unbleached flour, and they are easy, cheap and hard to avoid. Opt instead for whole grain pasta, like brown rice, whole wheat or quinoa.

White Rice: Brown rice is a fiber, vitamin and mineral rich food. White rice, however, offers virtually zero benefits and has the same effect on your health as white bread. Choose brown rice or whole grains such as millet or quinoa.

Baked Goods: Ah, dessert. Or snack time. Or breakfast. Or 2am… we certainly love our glazed, sugary sweet anythings. Aside from sugar—legion among the world of baked goods—even healthier looking versions like muffins or biscuits are often made with unbleached flour. Bake your own (try healthy vegan baking) instead and follow Michael Pollan’s Food Rule about eating sweets only on days that start with “S.”

Whole Wheat Bread: It looks nutty and grainy and brown. But a closer peek at the label may reveal artificial or natural colors used to give that enriched or unbleached flour a dye job. Read your labels! And give sprouted grain breads a try, or learn to bake your own.

Health Food Store Bread: You think by stepping into the Whole Foods temple you’re safe from Wonder Bread and the ilk, but that warm and crusty ciabatta or sourdough is made with unbleached flour. Check the fiber content. Whole grain breads will have 2-3 grams of fiber per slice. Limit the rest to special occasions.

Keep in touch with Jill on Twitter @jillettinger

Photo: SliceOfChic