Sunday, August 25, 2013

How to Cook Healthy Food for Kids : Why Bread is Bad For Kids

School Lunch

When I was a kid, lunchtime in my school cafeteria had very little to do with enjoying a nice meal.  Instead, lunch was a social scene where I was predominantly preoccupied with sharpening my social skills and making sure I fit in with the crowd.  If I packed something too unconventional into my lunch, I risked social ostracism and null value on the lunch food trading block.  If I brought Doritos, I suddenly had a lot of friends; carrot sticks and I mine as well have crawled into a ditch.

Why Processed Bread Is Unhealthy

As far as the main entree was concerned, sandwiches were the norm in my school cafeteria.  In my day, white bread was king and brown bread was considered odd.  Now, brown is king and white is out, but bread remains a pervasive staple.  Indeed, sandwiches are a hallmark of American lunch cuisine.  But how healthy are those two slices of bread we oblige ourselves to on a regular basis?  Because bread conjures up images of healthy, wholesome grains, it's natural to assume that the processed bread loaves you buy at the grocery store are healthy for you.  I'm here to tell you that they aren't.  Processed bread is not only one of the most overlooked examples of food processing, it is one of the most  unhealthy things you can give your kids to eat! 

Blasphemy you say!  How dare I besmirch the name of the pillars of wheat that our great nation rests upon!  While most parents accept that excessive amounts of sugar are bad for kids, it is hard to believe that bread could be bad for kids.  However, because processed bread is so rapidly broken down into sugar, it practically acts like sugar.  On average, processed bread has a glycemic index of seventy-five, inducing three-quarters the amount of blood glucose elevation as pure glucose!    

But I am by no means the first to draw attention to the harms of processed bread.  In fact, a cardiologist named Dr. William Davis has dedicated an entire book to the subject matter.  In his book, Wheat Belly: Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight, and Find Your Path Back to Health, Dr. Davis argues that wheat such as wheat bread is the single biggest contributor to the American obesity and diabetes epidemics.  One of the most intriguing positions he takes in his best selling book is that all wheat products--even whole wheat bread have deleterious effects on our health.  

A Flour By Any Other Color

In my last post, I discussed that while grains are generally high in glycemic index, whole grains are lower in glycemic index compared to processed grains because whole grains have the intact bran layer which is rich in fiber and delays the absorption of the starchy endosperm.
For instance, rolled oats, wheat, barley, and rye grains are digested and absorbed at a slower rate compared to when they are ground up and eaten as a flour product.

And there's the rub.  Because most processed breads are made out of flour that has been finely ground by commercial mills, most processed breads have a high glycemic index.  This is the case even for breads that are made from 100% whole wheat flour containing all parts of the wheat berry including the bran.  For instance, the average glycemic index of white bread is seventy-five and the average glycemic index of whole wheat/whole meal bread is seventy-four.  

The problem is particle size.  Bread used to be made from coarsely ground flour, which is absorbed more slowly.  Now, modern commercial mills grind grains to such a fine degree that it doesn't matter if it contains the bran.  The exposed surface area for digestion increases with decreasing particle size and the architecture of the fiber is so obliterated that it doesn't effectively delay the absorption of the starchy endosperm.  That's why I don't recommend most processed breads, regardless if they are white, brown, or whole.  The following clip discusses the evolution of modern day mills:

But don't despair!  You can have your bread and eat it too!  You can lower the glycemic index of the breads you and your kids eat by:

  1. Baking your own bread. 

  2. Homemade bread has been demonstrated to be digested and absorbed at a slower rate than commercial bread.
  3. Baking or buying sourdough bread.
                                                                                                                                                      Breads made from sourdough starter have undergone a process of lactic acidosis by bacteria, which delays the absorption of the starch and results in an average glycemic index of around forty-eight.  To read more about making your own sourdough starter, see the following link:  Here is a recipe for basic sourdough bread:

  4. Baking or buying sprouted grain bread.                                                                                                                                            
    Sprouted grain bread uses no flour.  Instead, whole grains such as wheat berries are soaked and allowed to germinate.  These sprouted grains are then ground up and baked to produce a hearty bread.  Sprouting grains improves the digestion and absorption of the minerals and starches in the grains.  However, because the whole grains are not ground into a fine flour, sprouted grain bread has a lower glycemic index compared to most other processed breads.  In the following video, I explain why sprouted grain bread is a "top bun" and demonstrate how to make your own sprouted grain bread.                                                                                                                                      

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To make the sprouted grain bread in this video, I used the recipe in the following link:(Tip: try adding a little water to the pulsed wheat berries to create a dough like consistency)                                                                                        
You can also buy sprouted grain bread such as Ezekiel bread made from Food For Life:


Snow P & O'Dea K.  Factors affecting the rate of hydrolysis of starch in food.  Am J Clin Nutr 1981;34:2721-2727.

Atkinson FS et al.  International tables of glycemic index and glycemic load values: 2008. Diabetes Care 2008 Dec 31(12):2281-3.

Heaton KW et al.  Particle size of wheat, maize, and oat test meals: effects on plasma glucose and insulin responses and on the rate of starch digestion in vitro.  Am J Clin Nutr 1988;47:675-82.

Najjar AM et al.  The acute impact of ingestion of breads of varying composition on blood glucose, insulin and incretins following first and second meals.  Bri J Nutr 2009;101:391-398.

Liljeberg HGM & Bjorck IME.  Delayed gastric emptying rate as a potential mechanism for lowered glycemia after eating sourdough bread: studies in humans and rats using test products with added organic acids or an organic salt.  Am J Clin Nutr 1996;64:886-93.

Fardet A et al.  Parameters controlling the glycaemic response to breads.  Nutrition Research Reviews 2006;19:18-25.

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