Is White Bread the Same as Sugar?

by Shari

Shari's question...

My husband and I are having a disagreement, and I am hoping you can settle it. He says that eating white bread is the same as eating white sugar from the sugar bowl. I say that it is better for you than white sugar? What do you say?

Suzy's answer...

Let me first say that it does my heart good to find a couple having a serious discussion about nutrition and health!

This is an excellent question, and one that does not have and easy answer.

A word to the wise.

Anyone who has read my website, will know that I am in favor of choosing whole grain products over those made from white flour because whole grains have vital nutrients that have been removed from their more-processed counterparts.

In addition, I suggest that you limit or avoid adding sugar to your food and eating products made with added sugar.

However, this question is specifically about whether white bread is the same as white sugar, as far as your body is concerned.

Yes and no.

The simple answer is that eating white bread is not the same as eating white sugar. The more complicated answer is that it depends on how you are looking at it.

Effect on blood sugar and insulin

The reason many health experts say that eating white bread is the same as eating sugar, is because, without the bran and germ found in whole wheat, the white bread becomes a starch that is nothing more than a chain of glucose (simple sugar) molecules bonded together. These bonds are easily broken, a process that begins to happen in your mouth as you are chewing.

So, if you are looking at this issue from the standpoint of blood sugar and controlling diabetes, white bread will deliver glucose into your bloodstream just about as fast as eating sugar, and therefore, has much the same effect on your insulin response.

Fun Fact: Try holding a starchy saltine cracker in your mouth for a few minutes. The longer you hold it, the sweeter it will taste, as the starch changes to sugar when the bonds between the glucose molecules are broken down by your saliva.

Not quite an empty calorie

One could also make the argument, that while white sugar has no nutritional advantages beyond supplying energy in the form of calories, most white bread has been fortified and enriched with vitamins and minerals. This gives white bread a slight edge over table sugar in the nutrient category.

Glucose vs. Fructose

An interesting nuance to this question, involves a quick foray into the biochemistry of food. As mentioned, the starch in white bread is made up of chains of glucose molecules bonded together and easily broken down and released into the bloodstream.

However, white sugar (also known as table sugar and sucrose), consists of a molecule of glucose and a molecule of another simple sugar, fructose, bonded together. When these bonds are broken you end up with half glucose, which goes directly into your bloodstream, and half fructose that must be processed by your liver.

Too much fructose in your diet can cause a fatty liver, as well as cause your body to synthesize fat. For this reason, it may be that the widespread use of fructose as a sweetener in our food supply, a fairly recent development, has contributed to the rise of obesity, particularly childhood obesity.

Keep up the good work!

I hope this helps settle the dispute with your husband, Shari, and I hope you will both keep learning about food and its effect on your health!

For more information on carbohydrates and childhood obesity, please click on the appropriate buttons on the right side of this page.

Eat and be healthy with my warmest regards,

Suzy Staywell

Comments for Is White Bread the Same as Sugar?

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Carbs good or bad
by: Meri

I read a lot of articles about carbs and how such food as bread and pasta contribute to weight gain, sugar content and so forth. I understand how it works.

However, recently my husband and I were in Italy and couldn't help noticing how slim the average person was regardless of age, teenagers through to 80 yr olds. Maybe 1 out of 10 people were overweight and this included my family.

I know for a fact they practically live off carbs, everyday pasta and pizza and hardly any vegetables. What gives?

Are they just used to it? The only thing that I can tell is that they are not gluttonous. Is that the secret? Can anyone explain? Bread pizza and pasta are slowly becoming my enemies and I would rather be like my skinny post- menstrual, pasta-loving cousins.

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