Photo of two things I love, baguettes and bikes, from the blog Lovely Objects.
I’ve been thinking about white bread this week in Spain. It’s a local staple. And as a vegetarian I’m relying on it more than I usually do for daily sustenance. Aside from wishing for more choice, it’s not all bad.
While there is nothing I like better (in the bread department) than thick dark bread, milled with nuts and seeds (maybe even some fruit too), I know that not everyone feels the same way. I’m a parent and so I know that most kids, mine included, prefer the white stuff. Sometimes I like it too.
I know for sure I did as I kid. I even wrote a piece about it for Philosophers on Holiday (back when they were a printed zine, mailed to your home or office ) called “Ode to Hotel Toast.”
When I was a kid I only encountered commercially prepared white bread in hotels, though I didn’t know that. I just thought hotels made exceptionally good toast. The piece talks about Wonder bread, and how someone I know from Newfoundland called it “fog bread.” All fluff, no substance. “But it makes a right good piece of toast.”
In recent years, those who aspire to healthy eating turned away from white bread as part of our anti carb, healthy lifestyles. Between the paleo people and the low carbers more generally, it can feel like you might as well just eat spoonfuls of sugar out of the jar as pick up a slice of white bread.
There are even no white food diets.
I’ve had my doubts. The French don’t get fat. (National stereotype, I know. They also don’t eat much and they smoke.) Look at those lovely crusty white baguettes and croissants they eat everyday. My kids loved to eat with the French family next door. “They don’t have to eat whole wheat bread,” they reported back.
These days I eat all kinds of bread but often I’ve felt guilty about the white stuff.
So I was happy to read this month that there are some health benefits to white bread
“When people try to eat healthier, they usually skip the white bread and go for whole grains. Yet it seems as if white bread may not be as bad for you as once thought. Scientists have found that white bread actually encourages the growth of beneficial gut bacteria, which could mean that choosing this type of bread isn’t completely unhealthy.”
That’s bread. But what about rice?
“Somewhere along the line, a terrible rumor began: White rice is bad, and brown rice is good. We’re not sure who started it, but Ryan Andrews, R.D., director of education for Precision Nutrition, is here to explain the confusion.”
And then there’s the arsenic problem. See The New York Times, The Trouble with Rice. It turns out that there are high levels of arsenic in rice, ten times higher in brown rice than white.
Can’t we be white bread/white rice moderates? No food is evil, after all, not even white bread.