Q:I just can’t seem to cut bread out of my life. I want it. I crave it. Since this is something I feel like I can’t live without, are there any breads that are better than others? Is there a time of day that is best to have bread?


This is a question that I get so often. Somewhere during the “low carb” movement, our media convinced us that bread was the worst possible food that we could possibly eat, but “whole grains” in sugary cereals and granola bars were ok. Now, there is a perspective that wheat causes obesity, but I think that wheat is only one piece in the puzzle and that is actually just excess carbohydrates/sugars in the diet that cause us to gain weight.

Our bodies have such a very limited capacity for storing carbohydrates as energy. When we are eating more carbs than the body needs, it simply stores them as fat for later use. Because it is harder for the body to access fat for energy, the body continues to draw on the carbohydrates if we are continually providing them. For example, if you eat more carbohydrates than your body needs, it will simply place them in your fat stores. The next time your body needs energy, it will first look for quick carbohydrate energy. If you are continually feeding your body carbohydrates, it will use them for energy instead of using the fat that you would like it to use.

For most people, BREAD BY ITSELF IS NOT THE ENEMY! It is often the consumption of bread COMBINED with all of the other carbohydrates that causes us to gain weight. If you are having cereal for breakfast, pretzels for a snack, a sandwich and baked chips for lunch, rice cakes for a snack, bread with dinner, and various high sugar fruit choices during the day, bread is probably not the sole cause of your weight gain. If you are choosing LOW GLYCEMIC VEGETABLES and PROTEIN most of the time, then occasional bread makes far less of an impact on your body’s storage and usage of fat. Eating for fat loss is about balance, NOT ABOUT DEPRIVATION. If you want to occasionally have bread, here are some factors that may help you when you make your choices:

  1. Thin, Thin, Thin – You can often get 2 slices of bread when you make thin choices (sandwich thins, bagel thins).
  2. Go Ezekial – Ezekial bread is a sprouted grain bread that is a little higher in calories (about 80 per slice) but is made of all whole, sprouted grains. The theory behind this choice is that your body takes longer to break down the carbohydrates, so the blood sugar does not raise as high. The glycemic index on Ezekial bread is listed at 35, while whole wheat bread ranges 48-69.
  3. Add Protein – Blood sugar does not raise as quickly or as high (a major contributor to fat storage) when you put a protein with your bread. Think about adding some tuna, sandwich meat, low-fat cheese, scrambled egg, or a small portion of nut butter to your bread.
  4. Time of Day Matters – The body is most receptive to burning carbohydrates for energy (as opposed to storing them) in the early part of the day. If you want to eat bread, or any other carbohydrates, try to keep them at breakfast or lunch instead of dinner. Carbs at night are not the best idea if your goal is fat loss.
  5. Assess Your Fruit Consumption – Fruits and vegetables are fantastic sources of antioxidants, fiber, and about a million other great things. Here is the caveat though. Eating a great deal of high sugar fruits (watermelon, grapes, bananas) adds to the glycemic load on the body. If you want to keep bread in your diet and continue to lose fat, consider choosing more low glycemic vegetables instead (green vegetables like zucchini, kale, green beans, and spinach). If you are interested in looking at the glycemic index of your favorite foods, here are two great resources.

Glycemic Index Lookup By Food Name

Glycemic Index List Of Foods (This list may not have everything you are looking for but allows you to compare foods in a table format. If you would like to look up a specific food, follow the link above).

As you assess the role of bread in your life, take time to assess the bigger picture. I try to take the moderate road with my clients as deprivation is not something people usually stick with for very long. There is an interesting book out right now called Wheat Belly by Dr. William Davis (a cardiologist). It is a great book. I don’t think “diets” are a great idea, but this has some thought-provoking information in it.