Bread is a staple in the diets of many Canadians. We eat it at breakfast, lunch and dinner. When we choose the right types of bread – those made with whole grains and no preservatives – they can be a nutritious source of fiber, vitamins and minerals. But more often than not, commercially produced breads lack nutrients and can actually contribute to dietary imbalances and health concerns. What’s worse, these products are marketed to us as being wholesome, healthy food choices.
Take Wonder Bread, and its popular Wonder+ White Loaf with Fiber.
Ingredients: Unbleached wheat flour, water, sugar, oat hull fiber, yeast, soybean and/or canola oil, wheat gluten, salt, natural sour flavour (bacterial culture), soy flour, cultured wheat starch solids, vinegar, soy lecithin.
Let’s break down some of those ingredients, shall we?
Unbleached wheat flour = refined white flour. The healthiest parts of the wheat – the bran and the germ – have been removed, and with it, all of the fiber, healthy unsaturated oils, B vitamins, vitamin E (an antioxidant) and other minerals. Why take out all of that goodness? Because it gives the bread a longer shelf life, and that equals increased profits for the manufacturer.
Sugar: Do you really want the second ingredient in your bread to be sugar? To me, refined, processed sugar isn’t what comes to mind when I hear that something is made with “simple, real ingredients.” It robs the body of those essential nutrients that Wonder Bread claims to offer. A dehydrating, acid-producing substance, sugar also inhibits immune function, leads to weight gain, and messes with the healthy bacteria balance in the digestive tract.
Soybean and/or canola oil, soy flour, soy lecithin: This bread is made with not one, not two, but three separate ingredients containing soy. Most soybeans grown in North America (85 per cent of U.S. production) are genetically modified to be more resistant to herbicides, and are then sprayed with massive quantities of these toxic chemicals. Consuming foods made with non-organic, processed soy not only increases our exposure to these toxins, but also to novel, untested and potentially dangerous altered food products. No one knows for sure how eating genetically modified foods affects human health, making their excessive use in the food industry like one big science experiment. This is scary stuff.
Oat Hull Fiber: In order to be able to claim their bread has fiber, the people at Wonder Bread have added in processed insoluble fiber from oat hulls – the outer sheath that surrounds the oat groat. The fiber in Wonder+ White Loaf with Fiber doesn’t include the groat, the part that contains the nutrient-dense layers (bran and germ) with all of the oat’s vitamins, minerals, healthy fats and soluble fiber.
Oats are generally touted for their ability to lower LDL cholesterol and regulate blood sugar levels. However, these health benefits are due to the soluble fiber, the type that absorbs water and binds to toxins as it moves through the digestive tract. Insoluble fiber is not absorbed or digested by the body. It does not aid in regulation of blood sugar or cholesterol; though it does add bulk to stools, preventing constipation.
Instead of simply making their bread with nutrient-dense whole grains, they’ve taken part of the wheat and part of the oat to create their own doughy concoction. There’s a whole lot of unnecessary processing going on.
And exactly how much added fiber are you getting in each slice? A measly 1.5 grams! Compare that to a cup of broccoli, which contains 4.7 grams of fiber. Or a cup of raspberries, which provides over 8 grams of fiber. One cup of cooked lentils gets you a whopping 15.5 grams.
In my opinion, if you’re looking to increase fiber in your diet, do it with whole, fresh fruits, vegetables and legumes, not processed, nutrient-poor slices of Wonder Bread.