OPINION: I frequently get asked about bread. Elite athletes and the general public alike all seem to want to know if it is OK to eat.
I can understand the confusion; bread has become something of an enemy which may be attributed to low carbohydrate trends as well as its gluten content.
Bread comes in many forms, but for the most part contains flour, yeast, salt and water. Not all breads are equal and some varieties contain far more nutrients than others. Two slices of white bread (although very yummy) contain only 1.5g of fibre, whereas multigrain breads contain 5.2g fibre (depending on brand), more protein, and healthy fats and vitamins due to the seeds and grains. The higher fibre content makes these breads more filling too, meaning you eat fewer slices to feel satisfied.
If one uses bread as a food rather than a filler you eat smaller amounts. Many people use bread as a quick and easy alternative to making something else.
I’ll use an example to explain what I mean. I see time and time again in food diaries how bread used as a quick fix. You are feeling hungry, you scan the pantry and decide toast is easiest, with perhaps peanut butter or jam. Two slices are not filling enough so you make an extra slice.
Yes, toast is a quick and easy option but if one lives on toast as a snack then you miss out on other key nutrients that you may have eaten if you had perhaps made a smoothie (milk, yoghurt, banana, and berries), or had a pottle of yoghurt and a piece of fruit.
Another example is the humble sandwich. I frequently see sandwiches in food diaries that contain bread, ham, chicken or luncheon with some lettuce and mayo. Not very filling and so three to four sandwiches are eaten.
A better way to use bread is as a small part of the meal rather the primary ingredient. A good sandwich is made from multigrain bread, filled with salad ingredients such as lettuce, tomato, grated carrot, avocado, beetroot, sliced red onion, cucumber, and ham, chicken or some other protein source. This kind of sandwich is far more filling – and it’s yummy too.
There are some people unable to eat standard breads due to conditions such as coeliac disease and gluten intolerance. However, there are many bread alternatives available, and the same rules apply.
So, yes, you can eat bread, just don’t live on it.
Take a moment and think about how you use bread. If you are using bread as a substitute for other foods because you are too busy, too lazy, or too tired to prepare something else, then take some time to think about how you can change this.
Eat plenty of fresh vegetables and fruit, eat healthy snacks and avoid toast for dinner.
Lillian Morton is a performance nutritionist and senior academic staff member. She holds an MSc in sport and exercise science and is currently working towards her PhD.