We know whole grains are heroes when it comes to their strong link to a lower risk of mortality and chronic diseases including heart attack and other cardiovascular disease; stroke; cancer; respiratory disease; and type 2 diabetes.

Many recent studies support the risk reduction associated with the consumption of whole grains. In addition to all this, whole grains, which essentially provide a high fiber diet, aid in digestive health and even gum disease prevention.

Enriched Grains

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans remind us to make half of our grains whole grains, which leaves the remaining grains as refined.

So if the other half of your grains are refined, choose enriched grains including white bread. Despite having gone through processing, refined grains do possess nutrition value.

Enrichment is the process used to add vitamins and nutrients back into bread and other grains that have been lost during the manufacturing process.

Enriched grains are usually good sources of iron and four B vitamins: thiamin, niacin, riboflavin, and folic acid.

The B vitamins help our bodies convert fuel we use for energy. Thiamin, or B1, aids in normal nervous system functioning. Riboflavin, or B2, promotes healthy vision, provides energy, and aids in healthy skin. Niacin, or B3, helps in digestion and maintaining a normal appetite and nervous system.

Folic acid is the most notable because it is critical in fetal development during pregnancy for the prevention of birth defects of a baby’s brain and spinal cord. Folic acid plays an important role in red blood cell production and helps a baby’s neural tube develop in her brain and spinal cord. Folic acid may also protect against heart disease, stroke, some type of cancers, Alzheimer’s disease, and depression.


Better Than a Cookie

While white bread is processed and refined, the foods that you really need to eat less of are those that are highly processed refined carbs that contain little nutrition, like syrup, candy, soda, and table sugar.

These foods contain added fats and calories and hence are referred to as empty calories. As not all carbohydrates are alike, neither are all refined carbs.

When making a choice, white bread will be better for you than a donut or other high sugar sweets and beverages.

Mix It Up

A good mix of whole and enriched grains can offer many benefits. Examples of foods with enriched grains include white bread and rolls, tortillas, rice, pasta, and cereals that are sources of B vitamins, including folic acid and iron.

Whole grains, such as whole wheat bread, brown rice, popcorn, oatmeal, are also excellent sources of fiber, antioxidants, B vitamins magnesium, iron, as well as other vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients – just another way a balanced, well-rounded diet can provide health and wellbeing.

Refer to this Mythbuster on processed foods for more information.

Remember that Breadsense is not a medical source and you should always consult your physician when making health-related decisions.  

Lela Iliopoulos is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator and an expert in nutrition therapy, health promotion, and education. She is passionate about impacting nutritional health through the practical application of science-based information.