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Tuesday, August 01, 2006

The Whole Truth About Whole Grain Bread

I recently got a comment from reader Trint Ladd, who heard me on PowerFM in Dallas a month or so ago. He had a few questions about the new “whole grain white breads” popping up at supermarkets across the nation—specifically, why they all have a gooey, spongy texture, as opposed to the course, crumbly texture of wheat bread.


Trint also noticed that the first ingredient on the label of his favorite whole grain white bread was enriched bleached flour, not the typical whole wheat flour found in most wheat breads. Plus, his bread didn’t mold for two months! (Always cause for suspicion.)


Let’s break this mystery down. That soft, yummy, nostalgic bread texture Trint mentions comes from gluten, a natural component of wheat material (and the same stuff that makes bagels feel so chewy in your mouth). However, to enhance that gooey, spongy feeling, bread makers add extra gluten, which is already hard to digest because of its proteins. In fact, gluten’s digestive challenges are probably the biggest reason why most people develop wheat allergies.


Confusing, yes, but here are some tips to keep you from scratching your head in the bread aisle. Always look for some sort of “whole grain” as one of the FIRST ingredients on the bread label. Likewise, avoid any breads with extra added gluten if you’re trying to get the best from your processed grain products. This means your bread will have a coarser and drier mouth feel, and be easier than gluten for your GI tract to tackle.


Lastly, whole grain bread shouldn’t last many too many weeks at room temperature. It will probably need at least some refrigeration to survive even two weeks. If it lasts two months on the counter, with nary a moldy hair, that means there are a lot of preservatives, and not near enough nutrients in that loaf.


Now you know the truth, the whole wheat truth, and nothing but the truth.

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