Wheat grain has been a valuable food for thousands of years. Whole wheat bread packs the nutrition of all three components of the wheat kernel. The outer rough layer of the grain — the bran — is valuable for its fiber; the wheat germ of the seed is high in nutrients; and the majority of the grain, called the endosperm, is a good source of carbohydrates.
Labels are often confusing when choosing a 100 percent whole wheat bread. Sometimes the label says made with “whole wheat,” “100 percent whole wheat” or “100 percent wheat bread.” Read the label carefully to determine if it is made with whole-grain wheat flour or just wheat flour. All white, refined flour is made from wheat, and a loaf of bread may be labeled as containing 100 percent wheat and be mostly white flour. Wheat flour is synonymous with white flour. Choose breads that specify 100 percent whole wheat to get the whole grain benefits.
Breads made with 100 percent whole grain wheat are a good source of bran fiber. The bran in wheat bread will improve your bowel movements by softening and increasing the bulk of your stools, making them easier to pass through your intestines. Fiber may provide relief from irritable bowel syndrome. MayoClinic.com recommends that you increase your fiber intake with whole foods instead of taking laxative medications. Adult males up to age 50 should have 38 grams of fiber daily, and women 25 grams daily. Too much fiber can cause gas and bloating; be careful and add whole wheat bread to your diet gradually. One slice of whole wheat bread contains about 2.8 grams of fiber.
Reduced Risk of Heart Disease
Whole grains were found to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease in a study of 42,850 men, ages 40 to 75, over a period of 14 years. A 2004 issue of “The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition” reported that men who included three servings of whole grains in their daily diet had a lower risk of coronary heart disease. The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends that half of your daily grain intake be whole grains. For adult women ages 19 to 50, the USDA recommends 6 ounces of grain daily; one slice of bread is equal to 1 ounce. Men should get 7 to 8 ounces per day.
Lower Risk of Weight Gain
Bread made with whole wheat helps you maintain a healthy weight. According to a study published in a 2003 issue of “The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition,” women who ate more whole grains consistently weighed less than women who ate fewer whole grains. Approximately 74,000 females ages 38 to 63 were studied for 12 years. The women who ate whole grain foods, such as 100 percent whole wheat bread, had a 49 percent lower risk of weight gain than women who ate refined grain products, such as white bread.
Within the whole wheat kernel is the vital wheat germ or embryo of the seed that contains B vitamins, vitamin E, magnesium, phosphorus, iron and zinc. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, some studies have suggested that B vitamins and vitamin E may protect against diseases of mental decline, such as Alzheimer’s.