Why Wholemeal Bread Is NOT Any "Healthier" Than White Bread

Guest Post By Eddie "The Magician" Ng

Whether it is hot buttered toast in the morning, a simple BLT sandwich for lunch, or even warm bread rolls in your favorite restaurant; bread is everywhere around us.  It is firmly established as a "staple" food, and rightly so.  Bread is tasty, cheap, easy to store, stays fresh, convenient to grab and go, has a ton of different varieties, and is very versatile at any given meal time! Just think of coffee and toast, bread roll and soup, garlic bread and pasta, etc. Bread accompanies everything perfectly!

It is generally perceived that "white" bread is not recommended for those that are health conscious.  Instead, we are told to replace white bread with a wholegrain or wholewheat version, often referred to as "brown" bread. These versions are said to have numerous health benefits over white bread as they contain many more nutrients.  The biggest difference between the two, besides the color, is in the actual processing and manufacturing stage. Wholewheat/grain bread includes all 3 parts of the wheat grain whereas white bread only contains 1 part.  This is the reason that "brown" bread versions include more nutrients than white. Despite the differences in nutrients and color, they are both made with wheat and contain gluten.

Gluten is made up of 2 proteins called Gliadin and Glutenins, which is found in grains such as wheat, barley, oats, rye and spelt. It is partly responsible for the texture and "chewiness" of bread. Whereas higher gluten levels provide a more chewy texture such as that in bread/bagels/pizza crusts, less gluten provides a softer texture such as that found in pastries and other baked products.

Gluten is largely indigestible and places huge amounts of stress on our digestive systems.  High levels of gluten were not a major part of our diet until modern times.

Gluten is very difficult to digest and can cause serious damage to our digestive system. Due to its difficulty to digest and the fact that gluten is actually toxic, our body triggers an immune system response in order to break down the gluten particles. This creates havoc and inflammation in our small intestine.  Some people will actually experience symptoms after consuming gluten such as:

                                     - Gas                                                            - Diarrhea
                                     - Bloating                                                    - Irritability
                                     - Constipation                                             - Headaches
                                    - Abdominal cramp

Some of these symptoms are very similar to the common cold and flu, and many of us are unaware that gluten may be the actual cause of the symptoms.

Our small intestine is lined with long finger like tissue called villi; they are responsible for absorbing the good nutrients from food. Prolonged consumption of gluten can eventually damage the gut lining.  As the body battles to breakdown gluten, it breaks down the villi at the same time. This can lead to malnutrition, as the villi responsible for absorbing nutrients have been damaged and can no longer perform their job correctly.

Due to the difficulty our body has in digesting gluten, it causes other problems as a result. Not only can it reduce the absorption of nutrients in the long term, but it also slows down the absorption of nutrients from anything else eaten at the same time. The body uses so much energy to digest gluten that it affects our overall energy levels, leaving us feeling sluggish and low on energy.

Bread has become such a staple in the modern diet that for many it will be very difficult to cut bread out completely. Some alternatives that are recommended over bread are brown rice, buckwheat, quinoa or nuts/seeds.

Yes, kicking the bread habit is very difficult, but it is actually not the bread that your body is craving. Bread is made from wheat, and wheat in its processed form is not much different than sugar! The craving you have for eating candy is the same as the craving for bread.  You are craving sugar! All the health problems associated with eating high amounts of sugar also apply to eating wheat-based products!

Bread is the best example of a popular product containing gluten that is widely consumed, but it is far from being the only one! Check out some other popular food products that share the same problems as bread:

- Pasta
- Tortilla wraps
- Microwave meals
- Cereal
- Baked goods i.e. cakes
- Beer
- Table sauces (gluten is added as a thickener)


- White bread, wholemeal bread, wholegrain bread, tortilla wraps, etc. are all made up of wheat.

- Gluten is a protein that is found in wheat and other grains. 

- Our body has difficulty digesting gluten, and in struggling to do so we can experience some short-term issues such as: stomach discomfort, headaches, and irritability. Long-term health issues such as malnutrition may also occur due to the damage of the intestinal lining.

- Bread is made from wheat.  Wheat in its processed form is barely distinguishable from sugar! All the health issues associated with sugar also apply to bread! For example, cardiovascular disease, weight gain, diabetes, etc.

- Some substitutes for bread that are more nutritious and don't contain gluten include brown rice, quinoa, buckwheat, amaranth, nuts, and seeds.

Our genes date back to millions of years ago, the consumption of wheat and grains has only been around since the beginning of agriculture some 10,000 years ago.  They are considered to be a modern creation. Our digestive system has not evolved with time, and is simply not well equipped to deal with and digest wheat or any other grains for that matter.

We face a huge problem in that the food system has been altered in a way that suggests we should consume more grains (including wholegrain) in our daily diet and that they are "healthy".  Try cutting out bread, cereal, pasta, and all other foods that are listed in the avoid list for 2 weeks. You will be rewarded with higher energy levels and a better overall feeling of well-being.

Good luck!

About the author: Eddie Ng is an Instructor at Evolve Mixed Martial Arts.  He has over 12 years of Mixed Martial Arts experience.  A professional MMA fighter with a 5-1 record, he is a Total Combat Champion and currently competes for ONE Fighting Championship, Asia's largest and most prestigious MMA event.  He is also a 2x Revolution No Gi Submissions Champion.  Eddie is a member of the Evolve Fight Team.  He is also an expert in nutrition.  Eddie holds a Blue Belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu under Renzo Gracie.
Evolve Mixed Martial Arts® is Asia's premier brand of MMA academies. With World Champions in Muay Thai, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Mixed Martial Arts, Boxing, Wrestling, and No Gi Grappling, Evolve MMA is the top martial arts training organization in Asia. It ranks among the best martial arts academies in the world.