Baguette, Sandwich Bread, Whole Wheat Bread: How To Choose For Your Health?

Karen Lennox Author: Karen Lennox Time for reading: ~6 minutes Last Updated: October 04, 2022
Baguette, sandwich bread, whole wheat bread: how to choose for your health?

Can we eat a bagel regularly and without risk? Is a traditional baguette better? Is whole wheat bread always better than white?

Can we eat a bagel regularly and without risk? Is a traditional baguette better?  Is whole wheat bread always better than white? 

According to a survey conducted in 2021  by the Federation of Bread Companies, 87% of French people say they always have bread at home and 48% cannot do without it.  On average, we consume 105 grams of bread per day on weekdays, which is down from 2015 (114 grams per day).  And 96% of consumers say they are increasingly satisfied with product quality.  The most popular breads are the traditional baguette, overtaking the classic baguette.  What are these breads really worth in terms of health and how do we choose?

Not all flours are created equal

"  In a grain of wheat  ," says nutritionist Angelique Hulbert, minerals and other vitamins are found in the shell of the grain.  By removing it, we retain only a quarter of the originally available vitamins and minerals.  Therefore, in white flour there is little magnesium, fiber, B vitamins ... substances that are still present in the original grain.  Whole wheat flour (T180) provides 1.80 grams of minerals per 100g, while white flour (T55) provides only 0.55 grams of minerals per 100g.  Thus, breads and products made from wheat flour will also have different nutritional densities depending on the type of flour used. Bread made with T110 or T80 flour will always have a higher nutritional density than the same bread made with whiter type 55 flour.  "

Yeast or kvass is not the same thing

Bread leavened with baker's yeast has a shorter shelf life than bread with  sourdough  (fermented flour).  Another difference: Sourdough bread "digests" phytic acid, a compound in grains that leaches minerals (especially zinc and magnesium) and reduces their absorption.  Thus, the minerals in whole wheat bread with sourdough are absorbed much better by the body.

A simple baguette poses a risk for diabetics and insulin resistance

Some qualities of old-fashioned bread (  see box  ) behave like slow sugars: they do not suddenly raise blood sugar.  Compared to glucose (index 100), these breads are said to have a moderate glycemic index (GI).  But 70 to 80% of breads on the market have a GI above 70, which is high.  Regular and high consumption of these foods is associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes. This is especially true of the classic white flour baguette, which should be avoided by overweight people, diabetics and people with insulin resistance. 

The GI of the baguette until 2006 was rated at 95, therefore very high.  In 2006, industrial millers performed a new series of GI measurements on several breads, including baguettes.  The results were released in April of that year by a group of nutritionists.  According to these scientists, these results "  upset conventional wisdom  " and would show that the baguette "  actually has a moderate GI and can be consumed by diabetics  ".  " First problem: these nutritionists belong to the "  scientific committee of the National Association of French Milling », a promotional structure created by the producers. Second problem: the GI of the "plain French baguette" comes out to be 78. Assuming this number is correct, does that put the baguette, as our nutritionists claim, in the moderate GI category?  Here is the answer from the leading specialist in the field, the Australian Jenny Brand Miller (University of Sydney): “  The value of 95 is based on a French study conducted on type II diabetics.  It is possible that the GI in normal individuals is slightly lower.  But what you really need to remember is that the two values ​​(95 and 78) indicate that the bar has a high GI (above 70).  This is a food that is not recommended for diabetics  .  »

The traditional baguette is not optimal

Faced with competition from supermarkets, the bakers' union obtained from the legislature the "traditional French bread" decree of 1993, presented as revolutionary, but content to purge the many additives permitted in flour, while retaining bean flour, soy , malt extracts or gluten addition.  According to this decree promulgated by the government of Édouard Balladur, the traditional French baguette can only be prepared with the following ingredients: wheat flour, water, yeast and/or sourdough, salt.  Three additives are allowed: 2% bean flour, 0.5% soy flour, 0.3% wheat malt flour (these percentages represent the maximum proportions allowed).  Note that gluten is not considered an adjuvant.

"Cockroaches  who knew how to read between the lines  ," commented  Dr. Christian Remessy  , author of  Sauvons le pain  ,  took advantage of the opportunity to abandon intensive kneading, to extend the fermentation time, when this decree did not even specify that it was necessary to kneaded as little as possible and lengthened the fermentation time. It also gave no recommendation for the type of flour; some bakers still made bread with type 55 flour instead of the more traditional types 65 or 80. The paradox was that this inconsistent, insignificant, senseless decree serves as turning point for French bakery  ."

To show that it is necessary to take a more serious approach in terms of nutrition, it was Christian Remesi who voiced the toxins in 2000 and initiated the first campaign in favor of the use of brown flours. 

Supermarket sandwich bread is an ultra-processed food

Industrial sandwich bread is an ultra-processed food and has all the flaws.  Even when it contains "whole wheat flour" and no added sugars, it is made up of ingredients called  ACEs  , including added fiber, oil, gluten, flavors, various extracts.  This type of food is far from ideal bread, as researcher Christian Remesi describes it.  Its regular consumption is not recommended.


Whole grain bread is not always healthier than white bread (PREMIUM)

Whole grain breads provide more fiber, vitamins and in some cases minerals than refined flour breads. Compared to white bread, their regular consumption is associated with a lower risk of constipation, intestinal disorders, heart attacks and cancer of the stomach, colon, gall bladder and ovaries. However, if whole wheat bread is made from only wheat flour, it may have a similar glycemic index to white bread. If it's ultra-processed bread, even whole grain, even Nutri-Score A or B, then it won't give any advantage over white bread.

Read about: Are whole grains better for your health than refined grains?

Bread can make you fat (PREMIUM)

In any case, this is the case with white bread and other refined grains, with a high glycemic index. Several studies have shown this, including one published by researchers at Tufts University (Boston, Massachusetts). Volunteers who followed the "white bread bagel" diet noted an increase in waist circumference of an average of one centimeter, i.e. 3 times more than those who eat whole grains. Remember that 80% of the French population consumes refined grains.

In practice (PREMIUM)


Bread can be an ally, but also an enemy of line and health. In his book Sauvons le pain, Christian Remessy gives the recipe for several healthy breads that you can make at home or ask your baker. The alternative is to look for wholemeal bread from several flours, specifically rye flour, sourdough. A dense, not very airy crumb is a sign of a lower glycemic index. Unfortunately, it remains difficult even in France to find such breads in bakeries. 

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