Thank goodness the word is finally getting around about how much sugar we Americans consume these days (would you believe, 175 pounds per person per year?) - and how terrible it is for our health (obesity, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, kidney disease, Alzheimer's, and more).
But there's another dietary bad guy flying under the radar that's almost as bad for us: Bread.
Like most Americans, I was once an enthusiastic bread eater. I loved a crunchy French baguette. I swooned for chewy, dark, whole-grain bread. I'd wrap anything in a warm tortilla. And I was hooked on the morning muffin that accompanied my first latte of the day.
But no more. I've given up bread and baked goods - and I'm slimmer and better off for it.
Once I bagged the bread, I noticed a quick improvement in my health. Why? Because bread was damaging my body on a daily basis. Here are just 5 of many good reasons to stop eating this wildly popular food….
1. Bread spikes your blood sugar.
Different foods affect your blood sugar differently. How much a food raises your blood sugar is expressed as its glycemic index (GI). A high-GI food spikes your blood sugar and triggers an insulin rush as soon as you eat it. A low-GI food raises your blood sugar only a little and triggers a small insulin release.
Most people know that sweets have a high GI. But few people realize that bread does, too. In fact, the GI of bread is higher than that of table sugar. If you eat a lot of bread and baked goods, your blood sugar spikes over and over. Continuously spiking blood sugar and insulin release leads to insulin resistance and weight gain.
2) Bread makes you fat .
Because the glycemic index of bread is higher than table sugar, it causes an immediate insulin response to deal with the excess glucose. if the cells have become "resistant" to it, then insulin converts excess glucose into fat (triglycerides) and stores it in fat cells (usually around the belly area).
That, in turn, makes you hungry again. You see, when the bloodstream is cleared of glucose, hunger re-occurs because the body wants/needs quick energy (usually sugar or refined carbs to perk-up blood sugar levels quickly). So the usual response is to reach for a soda or candy bar for a quick pick-me-up. But guess what happens next? This snack triggers still more insulin. And because insulin's job is to keep glucose out of the bloodstream, its presence will not allow stored body fat to be released and utilized for nourishment (which normally happens between meals and during sleep, when insulin levels are supposed to be low). So the result of chronically high insulin in your blood is a vicious cycle of constant hunger and the continual accumulation of body fat.
3. Bread is as addictive as sugar.
People have a hard time giving up bread and baked goods. That's because bread is addictive.
Refined carbohydrates stimulate the striatum, or "reward center" of the brain . The brain releases dopamine, a chemical that creates feelings of pleasure. It's natural to want what feels good. So we eat more carbs. And the more carbs we consume, the more we want.
As we eat more carbs and keep stimulating the striatum, it builds up tolerance to the stimuli. We need a stronger and more frequent dose to get the same high. If we don't get our carb fix, our brain slides into withdrawal. We feel sad and irritable. It's a vicious cycle. (For more information on this kind of addiction, see my article "How to Conquer Sugar Addiction." )
4. Bread contains gluten- Up to 30% of Americans are sensitive to wheat gluten - and it's a big health problem for many of us. Their symptoms range from celiac and inflammatory bowel disease to depression, hives, diarrhea, chronic bloating, and gas. These problems are a result of the gluten proteins found in all commercial wheat products - even those labeled "whole wheat" or "whole grain."
The problem is that today's wheat is not what our ancestors ate. The hybridized and genetically modified gluten proteins in modern wheat are very different from the gluten our bodies evolved to digest. (For more information about gluten-related illness, see my article "Is Wheat Secretly Making You Sick?" )
5. Bread causes inflammation.
Bread is high in omega-6 fatty acids, which counteract the inflammation-fighting omega-3s you eat. A bread-eating habit can cause constant, low-grade inflammation. Long-term inflammation can damage healthy tissues. This inflammation and tissue damage leads to a variety of chronic diseases, such as Type 2 diabetes, arthritis, heart disease, Alzheimer's disease, and many others.
Should youbreak up with bread?
I say, why not give it a try?
There are just too many advantages and benefits to be gained -- and a lot of potential health problems to lose. For instance, I lost 11 pounds in the three weeks following my decision to give up bread and baked goods.
Some people can't imagine life without bread. That's because bread is such an intimate part of our cultural conditioning. After all, isn't bread "the staff of life?"
I'm proof that there islife after bread. And if you want to try going bread-free for 30 days, here are some tips that may help…
Rethink the sandwich. Our food culture is obsessed with sandwiches. Indeed, the majority of people can't think about lunch without envisioning some type of sandwich or burger or taco. But there are plenty of "bread-less" lunch alternatives, including hearty soup … a salad topped with grilled salmon or chicken … or last night's leftovers in your lunchbox.
Wrap it in lettuce. Pre-made sandwich wraps are all the rage these days, but you really don't need the tortilla. How about trying a crunchy lettuce or cabbage leaf as a wrap for your cold cuts or chicken salad?
Start slow. If you aren't ready to go "cold turkey" with bread yet, I suggest taking it slow and easing into abstinence with a healthier bread, such as sprouted whole grain or spelt. (A brand you can count on for quality is the Ezekiel product line made by Food For Life.) As you experience the benefits of lower blood sugar and reduced gluten, you'll find the motivation you need to take the next step.
Still craving carbs?Try the truewhole grains. Quinoa, brown rice and amaranth are just a few of the tasty non-wheat alternatives that will satisfy.