In Britain, the consumption of bread has more than halved over the last few decades. What’s more, sales of white bread have gone down dramatically while sales of brown and wholemeal bread have increased. However, white bread continues to be the most sold.
Wheat-based bread is the most commonly consumed bread in the UK. Wheat grain is made up of the endosperm (rich in starch and gluten protein) and the bran (full of dietary fibre, B vitamins, iron, zinc and magnesium). Whole meal flour is made from milling all parts of the wheat to create the flour. On the other hand, when white flour is made, the nutritious bran is removed and only the starchy endosperm is left.
But this doesn’t mean that white bread is lacking in vitamins and minerals. There are legal regulations which enforce the fortification of white bread with some of the nutrients that have been lost during the milling process. However, we are not yet fortifying white bread with folate, a vitamin that wholemeal bread contains good concentrations of. Wholemeal bread also contains more niacin, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, iron, copper, zinc and manganese than white bread. Nevertheless, white bread does contain more calcium.
The main difference between the two types of bread is the fibre content. Wholemeal bread contains around 7g of fibre per 100g, while white bread has only 2.9g of fibre per 100g. This means that consumption of white bread is likely to raise blood sugar levels to a higher extent than wholemeal bread.
Overall, wholemeal bread provides more nutrients compared to white bread and is associated with a range of health benefits including a reduction in risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease. But this does not mean you should remove white bread from your diet, it still contains a number of important nutrients! So, try to opt for wholemeal over white as often as you can, and make sure you look for whole-wheat flour listed as the first ingredient when buying your wholemeal bread!