While shopping the other day I ran into Steve, the bread man as he was stocking the shelves. Curious, I asked if he had noticed any trends in the type of bread folks are buying.
He said he can hardly keep Pepperidge Farm's Seven Grain on the shelves. He said, that Seven Grain had gotten him off white bread. Now it's the only bread he eats.
Pepperidge Farm's Seven Grain is a good first step for most Americans raised on white bread. Although enriched flour is its ,, first ingredient, it does contain enough wheat bran, rice bran and oat bran to bring its dietary fiber total to 1 gram per slice.
Most white breads, unless they have fiber added, contain none. The Seven Grain probably contains more folacin, too, but the label doesn't say.
A recent caller asked about the difference between white and whole wheat breads. White bread is made from wheat flour that has been refined to remove the bran, which happens to be the fiber. In the process, all the vitamins and minerals are removed, too. By law, enrichment restores three B vitamins (thiamine, riboflavin and niacin) and iron.
Nutrients not restored include vitamins such as B-6, E, folacin and pantothenic acid, and the minerals zinc, copper and magnesium.
Although there are only small amounts of these nutrients in each slice of bread, they add up. Four slices of whole wheat bread provide 15 percent of your day's folacin, a nutrient essential for preventing some birth defects. Adequate folacin may also prevent cataracts.
Unbleached flour is white flour that has skipped the final decolorizing step. Although it looks darker than white flour, it contains no more vitamins or minerals.
A friend has started mixing wheat germ into her daily yogurt. Wheat germ contains all the vitamins and minerals of whole wheat in a concentrated, nutty-tasting form.
Wheat germ is removed along with the bran in the milling process that turns whole wheat into white flour. It's what we've been throwing away.
Four tablespoons of wheat germ contain 100 calories, 9 grams of protein, 12 grams carbohydrate and 3 grams fat.
And it is a nutritional powerhouse. Along with 3 grams of fiber, wheat germ provides the following percentages of your daily requirements: thiamine, 30 percent; riboflavin, 10; niacin, 6; iron, 10; B-6, 8; folacin, 25; vitamin E, 30; magnesium, 20; zinc, 30; copper, 4. Or sprinkle on salads or cold cereals.
Many people have a tough time moving from white to whole wheat because of the stronger, somewhat bitter taste. One easy switch is pita pockets. Pop a whole wheat pocket into your toaster oven. It will puff up so it's easy to split. Then, as it cools slightly, it gets crisp, so it makes a crunchy sandwich. Whole wheat pretzels are delicious, too.
Colleen Pierre, a registered dietitian, is the nutrition consultant to the Union Memorial Sports Medicine Center in Baltimore.