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Does Bread Serve A Purpose?

  • 7 min read

by Christian Duque

Not all carbs are created equal. The truth of the matter is that a great many types of carbohydrates are actually instrumental in providing good energy for developing lean muscle tissue and for overall good health. We all know about the dangers of corn syrup, highly processed foods, trans fats and simple sugars. We also know how important complex carbs can be in achieving satiation and keeping the body properly fueled along with slow and fast digesting proteins and good fats.

There’s also a strong case to be made for eating in moderation and keeping things interesting. After all, variety is the spice of life, and as soon as eating approaches get boring that’s when you have diet fads that wind up getting people to not only regress from their initial starting point but sometimes end up heavier than when they started. Fad diets typically fall into this category and it’s no secret that diets that go to the extremes are disfavored by the lion’s share of physique and strength-based athletes. Whether we’re talking about high protein diets, low carb approaches, or even high carb diets like those favored by raw vegans (e.g. 80:10:10). The fact of the matter is that most people tend to succeed when there’s balance. What’s a balanced diet for you, may be totally different than for me. There is no real uniformity in balance. Each person must find what works best for them and this is usually achieved through a painstaking process of trial and error. I wish I had better news for you, but Iron Magazine is all about the truth.

We’ve established that balance is key, but I think it’s also safe to say that there are useless calories out there, and I’d certainly throw certain products in there like most types of bread. This is because most Americans – the primary audience of Iron Magazine – eat highly processed, mass produced loaves of sliced concoctions that are largely devoid of any significant nutritional value. For example, what benefits are there for folks consuming Wonder Bread? And not to pick on that particular brand but more so just plain white bread?

It doesn’t have much fiber, it has little protein, it doesn’t have any good fats and much like candy bars, potato chips, and cookies, it’s going to spike your blood sugar, not keep you full for long, and it doesn’t even really hold meats, veggies, and/or condiments in place, either. It actually fails in the only thing it’s intended for. This type of bread product usually disintegrates quickly and lacks any type of heartiness. It’s more air than flour but still packs anywhere from 80 to 120 calories per slice. Plus most people don’t eat single slice of bread sandwiches so anytime you’re talking about calories per slice, you almost always have to multiply that by 2.

While most Latin Americans, Europeans, Asians and Africans consume whole food meals throughout the day, we Americans have a meal all our own – lunch.

Lunch is the meal where sliced bread is used most often and if we’re talking about school children, adolescents, or college-age students, white bread is the name of the game. Whether it’s for PB&J’s, ham and cheese, tuna fish or fried egg sandwiches, you can’t have a sandwich without bread. There are far better options, but most won’t beat the price or convenience of a loaf of sliced bread that lasts up to 10 days if put in the fridge. It can be used for toast, sandwiches, french toast or even meatloaf. It’s so versatile largely because it’s so flimsy and lacks so much in taste. Honestly, white bread doesn’t taste like much, but it’s the foundation for endless, simple meal choices. The problem, once again, is that it offers no nutritional value.

There are other more expensive options like Ezekiel bread – made famous in our world by 4x Mr. Olympia Jay Cutler. A couple of slices of this bread provides a good amount of protein, healthy fiber, and not a lot of fillers. It’s considerably more expensive and actually tastes more like oats, barely, and millet, but it does the body good. Unfortunately, you’d be hard pressed to get a primary or secondary student to eat this bread. It’s not spongy, it’s not super soft, and it doesn’t provide the quick burst of energy that white bread does.

Other bread choices might go the high fiber route and possibly use some sugar alternatives as a way to fill people up or possibly sneak some good protein in there. When it comes to bread, the major danger is bad carbs. These empty carbs are the main culprit in people swearing off carbs altogether and vilifying them as the building blocks of fat. While carbs in the form of white bread may likely result in bad weight gain and out of whack energy levels, the better bread options are no different than eating a bowl of oatmeal or digging into a sweet potato. There’s good carbs and bad ones. And not all breads fall into the bad category.

Other bread makers have opted to go the portion-control route. Whether they cut their slices thinner or they include some of the bleached flour, but also add some healthier ingredients to provide the best of both worlds.

Wheat and multi grain breads are another great alternative. Wheat bread is still mass marketed and still very convenient, but curbs some of the negative baggage of white bread. That said, wheat bread isn’t “fun” and it’s not favored by the youth. If you were to poll most kids between PB&J’s on white bread vs wheat bread, I’d bet that the vast majority would go for the white bread. This is because lower quality food just seems to taste better.

Taste is very much subjective. I believe we can train ourselves to like and dislike things. Unfortunately, we as a society tend to associate things that are bad for us as being more fun and exciting. This might go back to our upbringing and/or simply rebelling against authority. Whether that authority is parents, schools, or supervisors, it’s really all the same. There’s something undeniably fun about breaking the rules and this is why countless adults will have breakfast for dinner or a t-bone steak and rice for breakfast. They like the idea of being able to do what they please. It’s like the movie Falling Down when Michael Douglas’ character walks into the fast food place at just a minute past breakfast but wants breakfast. He wasn’t looking to shoot the place up, he just didn’t want to be told it was lunch time. He was hungry for breakfast and he didn’t care that it was now lunchtime.

Healthy bread can taste just as good as the nutritionally devoid type, but it all depends on mindset. With younger people that’s going to be a lot harder said than done, but I’m here to tell you that bread isn’t the enemy. Not all bread, just like not all carbs, are created equal.

What’s your take on bread as a food source? Is it a must-have in your diet or not that big of a deal?