Wellness Friday with MAKwellness

Carbohydrates 101:  Whole-Wheat May Actually Be White Bread with a Tan, Part Two
In MAKwellness
By:  Maria Kasdagly

Most brown bread is merely white bread with a fake tan.  -Joel Fuhrman, M.D.

You may think you know all you need to know about white vs. whole-wheat bread.  Selecting darker colored breads (i.e. brown breads) are better for me than white colored breads, right?  Wrong!  There is a lot more than just the color of your bread in making a healthy selection.

History of Refined Cereal Grains

We have been refining cereal grains since the Industrial Revolution.  Although nutrients are lost, people tended to favor white flour and white rice over brown.  A huge part of this had to do with wealth status; meaning that for a while only the wealthy could afford refined grains.  Refined grains were also favored because of the extended shelf-life and they are easier to digest because fiber and nutrients have been removed.

As the refining process improved, the epidemics of pellagra and beriberi soon followed (both diseases are caused by deficiencies in the B vitamins that the wheat germ contributed to the diet).  In the 1930s, with the discovery of vitamins, millers began fortifying refined grains with B vitamins, which did take care of the obvious deficiencies.  (Folate was added in 1996)  Great!  So “Wonder Bread” is truly wonderful!  Wrong again!  So many Americans consider such food healthy merely because it is low in fat.  Although supplementation will help treat deficiencies, it won’t solve our problem of chronic diseases- diabetes, heart disease, and certain cancers.

Is Soil Depletion of Nutrients to Blame?

In fact, wheat grown on American soil is not a nutrient-dense food to begin with.  Then millers take wheat and strip the food of any valuable part and then add bleach, preservatives, salt, sugar, and food coloring to make breads, breakfast cereals, and other convenience foods.   So, yes it is easy to think that our nutrient-deficient wheat has all to do with the soil and not so much the refining process, which many nutritional-supplement proponents claim.  The truth of the matter is that…Americans are not nutrient-deficient because of our soil, but rather due to insufficient consumption of fresh produce and hearty nutrient-dense grains…but that is a whole different topic

 Over 90% pf the calories consumed by Americans come from refined foods or animal products.  With such a small percentage of our diet consisting of unrefined plant foods, how could we not become nutrient-deficient? – Joel Fuhrman, M.D.

Making Wise Choices

So we know that white bread isn’t our best choice because they are lacking the “good” stuff (vitamins, minerals, and health-promoting fiber), but we can’t just buy brown bread because the color convinces us that it is healthier.  Sometimes caramel color is added to the product to make you think it is the real thing when it really isn’t.  The most important factor in determining your bread is the ingredient label.  ”Whole Wheat” or “Whole Grain” should be the first or second ingredient on the label.  Even breads like rye or pumpernickel could be fooling you, so always check the label on what you are actually eating.  In addition, look at the fiber content- the ratio of fiber to sugar should be nearly equivalent (i.e 4 g of fiber and 4 g of sugar).  Lastly, sodium is added to many breads as a preservative, avoid breads that have over 350 mg per serving.

Shown is an example of three different bread labels.  Notice that the 100% Organic Bread does not add back in vitamins and minerals, as it is the purest form of the nutrient-dense wheat.


  1. Fuhrman, J. Eat to Live: The Amazing Nutrient-Rich Program for Fast and Sustainable Weight Loss.  (2003) Little, Brown and Company. New York, NY.
  2. Polan, M. In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto. (2008) The Penguin Press. New York, NY.
  3. Smith, E., Benbrook, C., Davis, D.R.  Grains: a in-depth study- A closer look at What’s in Our Daily Bread. Organic-Center (April 2012)


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