The Truth About White Bread: Why It’s Time to Switch to a Healthier Alternative

By Hannah de Gruchy / Nutrition / June 8th, 2023

What is White Flour and How is it Different to Brown Flour?

white flour

White flour, used to make everything from white bread and pasta, to cakes, pastries and biscuits, is flour that’s been processed, or refined.

All flour is made from the seed, or grain, of a cereal plant. In the case of bread, this cereal plant is usually wheat. But flour can also be made from rice, rye, barley, oats and even quinoa. Either way, all grains are made up of three distinct parts – the endosperm, germ and bran. The endosperm is the most central part of the seed, and contains mostly starchy carbohydrate. The germ is rich in protein, good fats and vitamin E. The outermost part is the bran, which is packed with fibre and B vitamins.

Wholemeal flour, that’s used to make brown bread, is made by grinding down the entire seed, hence the words ‘wholegrain’ or ‘wholewheat’ are often used to describe brown bread. It contains ‘complex’ carbs that are more difficult to break down.

White flour on the other hand, is made using the seeds that have had most of the germ and bran removed through processing, or refining. Removing the germ and bran makes the flour more desirable to the 21st Century Western palate, and possibly more pleasing to the eye. (A Victoria sponge made with brown flour isn’t likely to be as satisfying to either, than one made with white flour.) But it also removes much of the healthy nutrients.

Therefore, brown bread is a rich source of not only carbohydrate, but protein, good fats, fibre and vitamins B and E. White bread is a source of carbohydrate and not much else. Not only that, the carbohydrates in white bread are considered ‘simple’ and are broken down more quickly by the body during digestion as there’s less fibre to keep them intact for longer. This means that the blood is flooded with sugar, and that’s where the Glycaemic Index comes in…

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