Question: My white bread claims to have the same amount of fiber as whole wheat bread, and the vitamin content on the label looks about the same. I've heard that whole wheat is actually better for you. Is there really any difference between the two? What about other foods like pasta?
Karen Prior responds: Dietary and medical experts alike have issued statements that adding whole grains to your diet offers health benefits. The American Academy of Pediatrics even states that "whole wheat bread offers a nutritional advantage over white bread." However, many white breads on the market today are fortified with many of the nutrients that occur naturally in whole wheat bread. There are even some brands of white breads that provide more calcium than whole wheat brands, due to higher milk content.
White and whole wheat breads share many properties. They are usually quite similar in their calorie, fat, cholesterol and sodium content. Whole wheat bread contains vitamins such as B6 and E, magnesium, folic acid, copper and zinc. Many white breads are also fortified with these nutrients.
The big difference between white bread and whole wheat bread is in the flour. Whole wheat bread contains whole wheat flour, which contains the entire wheat kernel -- the germ, bran and endosperm of the wheat. White flour contains only the endosperm. During the refining process, white flour is stripped of nutrients and chemically bleached to make it more white. Some nutrients
are added back in at the end of this process. “Wheat bread" is usually made up of three parts white flour and one part whole wheat flour. The same goes for whole wheat, white and wheat pastas and rice.
Overall, whole wheat bread is less processed than white or “wheat” bread, so it contains more of the natural nutrition found in the grain. But if there is someone in your family who dislikes the taste and texture of whole wheat bread, then a fortified white or wheat bread is the next best bet.
© Karen Prior.
Karen Prior’s impressive breadth of knowledge in the therapeutic uses of yoga, nutrition and prenatal fitness is backed by solid credentials: she is a registered yoga teacher with the Yoga Alliance, a member of the International Association of Yoga Therapists, a clinical nutritionist and a retired La Leche League leader. Karen runs a Registered Yoga School, where she offers specialized training in prenatal yoga and yoga for children through her programs MamasteYoga and Let'sPlayYoga. Karen lives in Texas with her husband and young daughter.
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