For same calories, whole wheat bread is more nutritional than white

EATING WELL

March 02, 1993|By Colleen Pierre, R.D. | Colleen Pierre, R.D.,Contributing Writer

I have to print a retraction.

Several weeks ago, I said white bread contained no fiber. Judi Adams of the Wheat Foods Council pointed out to me that white bread does, in fact, contain 0.5 grams of soluble fiber per slice. (Soluble fiber is the kind you find in oat bran, which helps somewhat in lowering cholesterol.)

While I do apologize for my technical error, I must admit to being somewhat puzzled by the critical nature of the letter I received.

Why would the WFC care whether you choose white or whole wheat products when they're all made from wheat flour?

In fact, it seems the WFC is in the catbird seat. America has been raised on white bread, so they've been winning all along. Now they can jump on the good nutrition bandwagon and promote whole grain products, too. It's win-win for wheat.

Given that, I'd like to clarify my position on white vs. whole wheat.

The WFC says white bread is a nutritious food and you shouldn't feel guilty for eating it. I agree.

White bread is a predominantly complex carbohydrate food. When made from enriched flour it does contain three B vitamins (thiamine, riboflavin and niacin) and iron. In fact, it contains more iron than whole wheat bread.

But no matter how you slice it, whole wheat bread is a better deal. For the same number of calories, you get far more nutrition.

Whole wheat bread contains two grams of fiber per slice, compared to 0.5 grams for white bread. That means you'd have to eat four slices of white bread to get the same fiber as one slice of whole wheat.

The WFC points out you can get 20-35 grams of fiber without eating whole wheat bread if you eat enough fruits and vegetables. This is true but begs another issue.

Whole wheat bread contains vitamin B-6, folacin, vitamin E, pantothenic acid, zinc, copper and magnesium, which are not restored to white bread in the enriching process.

So no matter how much white bread you eat, you never make up these nutrients. And they're all very important ones.

B-6 is important for proper nerve function, and is often used to treat carpal tunnel syndrome and severe PMS.

Folacin is essential for preventing such birth defects as spina bifida and anencephaly, some forms of uterine cancer and possibly cataracts.

Vitamin E has been connected to prevention of cancer and heart disease.

But let's talk about delicious food and good nutrition.

Frankly, I think there's nothing more delicious than a slice of warm, yeasty Italian bread with a big plate of spaghetti, and I sure don't feel guilty when I eat it.

But I also want the health benefits and hearty flavor of whole grain breads for breakfast and lunch.

.` Guilt has nothing to do with it.

Colleen Pierre, a registered dietitian, is the nutrition consultant to the Union Memorial Sports Medicine Center in Baltimore.

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