The findings follow a recent major study that found millions of people are at risk of an early death because they do not eat enough fibre – with bread known to be a significant source. Commissioned by the World Health Organisation, the research found that people who get plenty of fibre in their diet could cut their risk of early mortality by up to a third.
According to new research released today, more than HALF (54 per cent) of Brits believe that BREAD is BAD for you.
Over a third believe that they need to cut out bread to maintain a healthy weight and nearly a quarter are clueless on carbs, having “no idea” on whether the food group is good or bad for us.
The national study of more than 2,000 adults, commissioned by healthy bread brand Burgen, is aiming to help tackle the confusion by busting today’s most popular health myths and inspiring healthy eating attitudes.
Harley Street Nutritionist, Rhiannon Lambert, teamed up with Burgen to help separate fact from fiction by debunking 12 of today’s most popular health myths:
1. Is breakfast the most important meal of the day?
Breakfast helps top up the energy stores you have used up each night whilst your body repairs and renews itself. It also gives you energy for your morning activities, whether at work, school, home or just out and about. While breakfast is often quoted as ‘the most important meal of the day’, this may not be strictly true. It’s more helpful to say that no meal should be categorised as more important than another, and daily food intake should be considered as a whole. Everyone is unique with different requirements and meal times.
Skipping meals, whether it be breakfast, lunch or dinner, is not advised. Establishing a regular eating pattern has been shown to improve glycemic control, reduce the likelihood of weight gain and curb hunger pangs.
Research has shown that people who eat breakfast have more balanced diets than those who skip it, are less likely to be overweight, lose weight more successfully if overweight, and have reduced risk of certain diseases such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
Missing breakfast may increase feelings of hunger later on in the day, resulting in snacking on less healthy foods without necessarily catching up on essential nutrients. Eating breakfast may also help to improve mental performance, concentration and mood – three more good reasons to eat something in the morning.
Eating a healthy breakfast every day will give you the best possible start, as well as enhancing the overall nutritional quality of your daily food intake. Planning ahead or grabbing something easy can help if you are short of time, but remember to include at least three of the four main food groups on a regular basis: starchy foods, fruit and vegetables, milk and dairy foods and meat, fish, eggs and non-dairy sources of protein. Avoid food and drink that is high in fat and sugar as these are often low in vitamins, minerals and other nutrients. Remember to include a drink, as being well hydrated will help you to concentrate throughout the day.
2. An hour’s exercise is better for you than 15 minutes
To stay healthy, adults should try to be active every day and aim to achieve at least 150 minutes of physical activity over a week through a variety of activities. This can reduce your risk of major illnesses, such as heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and cancer by up to 50% and lower your risk of early death by up to 30%.
For most people, the easiest way to get moving is to make activity part of everyday life, like walking or cycling instead of using the car to get around. However, the more you do, the better, and taking part in activities such as sports and exercise will make you even healthier. For any type of activity to benefit your health, you need to be moving quick enough to raise your heart rate, breathe faster and feel warmer.
There is substantial evidence that vigorous activity can bring health benefits over and above that of moderate activity. You can tell when it’s vigorous activity because you’re breathing hard and fast, and your heart rate has gone up quite a bit. If you’re working at this level, you won’t be able to say more than a few words without pausing for a breath.
3. Is cutting carbs the ONLY way that you can maintain a healthy weight?
The view that all carbohydrates should be cut from someone’s diet to maintain a healthy weight is quite simply wrong. We get the energy in our diet from foods containing; carbohydrates, protein and fat.
Carbohydrate contained in food, isn’t directly ‘fattening’, however it can be very easy to eat too much (and too much of any food leads to weight gain) or add unnecessary or extra fatty foods to carbohydrate-based foods.
Pasta will not make you gain weight, however eating five times more than you need smothered in a creamy sauce will contribute to weight gain.
In fact, carbs are an important source of fuel for your brain and body. Good (complex/starchy) carbs include wholegrain pasta, quinoa, brown rice, sweet potatoes, wholegrain bread, oats and bulgur. Our brains use the glucose from carbohydrates as fuel. If you’ve ever been on a strict diet regime which promote cutting carbs, you’ll know that it can be hard to concentrate and you often experience severe drops in mood. That’s because carbs play an important role in transporting tryptophan (key to creating serotonin, your happy hormone) to the brain.
4. You shouldn’t eat after 6pm
The danger here is, post-6pm becomes a window of opportunity to hoover up a myriad of foods high in calories, saturated fat and packed with added salt and sugar, undoing your earlier healthier choices. The reality is, eating different food groups at different times of the day doesn’t matter, in terms of your health, its nutritional balance that’s key.
5. You should NOT eat before your workout
No matter what your sport, carbohydrates are vital for the best performance. Exercising muscles rely on carbohydrate as their main source of fuel. The amount you need will depend on your training programme and dietary goals. In general, the more intense the training programme, the more carbohydrate you need to include in your diet.
A diet low in carbohydrate can lead to a lack of energy during exercise, early fatigue, loss of concentration and delayed recovery.
In general people who do regular intense training should make sure they get enough food energy, which includes energy from carbohydrates as well as not forgetting the importance of fluid. If the right amount of food and fluid is eaten and drunk before, during and after exercise, performance can be maximised during exercise and recovery after exercise supported.
In fact, the ideal time for a pre-exercise meal is 2 – 4 hours before your workout because its early enough to digest the food, yet late enough that this energy won’t be used up by the time you begin exercising.
6. Bread is bad for you
Bread, especially wholemeal, brown and seeded bread, is a healthy choice to eat as part of a balanced diet. It is a nutritious and economical food and provides an excellent source of many nutrients including:
• Fibre. Bread can be good source of fibre and provides a fifth of our daily intake. Fibre from wheat bran, oats, rye and barley can help to keep our digestive system healthy and can help us to feel full, which means we are less likely to eat too much.
• Calcium. By law white and brown flour are fortified with calcium. Calcium is an essential nutrient for strong bones and healthy teeth but is equally vital as a regulator in most of our body tissues, helping nerves and muscles to work properly.
• Iron. Flour is one of the major sources of iron in the diet making bread an excellent source of iron which is an important mineral, essential for healthy blood cells and good circulation.
• B vitamins. Over a third of our daily requirement of thiamin comes from cereals and flour-based foods such as bread. Bread is also a good source of niacin, another B vitamin and vitamin B9 (folate) which helps prevent neural tube defects in pregnancy.
7. Whole Grains
The evidence is growing that eating whole grains regularly as part of a healthy diet and lifestyle helps to keep us healthy and may assist to reduce the risk of many common diseases.
It is not only fibre that has health promoting properties – it seems to be the ‘complete package’ of nutrients working together to offer protection.
Research suggests that:
• The risk of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes may be up to 30% lower in people who regularly eat whole grains as part of a healthy lifestyle.
• The risk of developing some forms of cancer of the digestive system like bowel cancer may be reduced with higher intakes of whole grains. Some of the fibre in whole grains moves food along with more quickly and easily, reducing the time that damaging substances are in contact with the gut wall.
Some of the fibre provides a food source for ‘friendly’ gut bacteria helping them to increase and produce substances which are thought to protect the gut wall, such as short-chain fatty acids.
• Whole grains may help in maintaining a healthy body weight over time as part of a healthy diet and lifestyle.
• Whole grains are usually low in fat but rich in fibre and starchy carbohydrate and often have a low glycemic index (GI). This means they provide a slow release of carbohydrate into the blood which, together with fibre content, may help keep you feeling fuller for longer – aiding to control snacking and appetite.
• Our intake of whole grains in the UK is very low. Surveys show that 95% of adults don’t eat enough whole grains and nearly one in three of us get none at all so consuming wholegrain bread as part of a healthy, balanced diet should be encouraged.
8. Bread makes us bloat
There are many factors that can contribute to bloating, largely related to lifestyle. For example, stress, lack of sleep, sitting down for several hours (moving encourages blood flow to the digestive tract), high waisted clothing, etc. Eating mindfully is also important.
Some people find certain foods are simply hard to digest, and wheat appears to be one of those. There are 3 key health problems caused by wheat:
• Wheat allergy – reactions usually begin within minutes and include itching, sneezing and wheezing. See your GP for referral to an NHS allergy clinic.
• Coeliac disease – a condition where the intestine lining can’t absorb and is damaged by gluten-containing foods including wheat, barley, oats and rye. See your GP for a blood test.
• Wheat sensitivity – symptoms like bloating, cramps, diarrhoea and sickness come on quite slowly, usually hours after eating wheat. There’s no diagnostic test.
If your symptoms are severe and long-lasting, especially if you have blood in your poo (stools), vomiting or painful stomach cramps, see your doctor to rule out a medical condition.
If you have bloating or other minor symptoms after eating bread, consider trying an elimination diet. This is where you completely cut out wheat from your diet for 4 weeks, then gradually bring it back in to see if symptoms reappear.
The good news is you might not need to cut out bread completely. Some people with wheat sensitivity appear to have no problems when they eat toast (cooked wheat tends to be easier to digest) or sourdough bread.
9. You can only eat carbs after a workout
The best way to fuel exercise is to have a regular meal/eating pattern which includes a low fat, high-carbohydrate snack or a light meal two to three hours before exercise. Then after exercise start replenishing your glycogen stores immediately with a high carbohydrate low fat snack. The most effective refuelling occurs within 0-30 minutes after exercise.
Muscle is gained through a combination of resistance training and a diet that contains adequate energy and carbohydrate.
If you only concentrate on a high protein intake without enough carbohydrate, then the protein will be used for energy instead of being used to build muscle! Additionally, too little carbohydrate will lead to low energy levels, which will make it very difficult for you to train and perform at your best.
10. Carbs make you sleep poorly
Our blood sugar is affected by the amount of carbohydrate we eat. If our blood sugar levels are changeable this can result in headaches, poor concentration or feeling moody and irritable. Aim for wholegrain varieties to maximize B vitamins- have a moderate (fist-sized) portion of carbohydrate with every meal. High sugar foods are absorbed quickly into the bloodstream. This can give us an initial energy boost that unfortunately doesn’t last long, so it is important to have a regular intake of starchy carbohydrates during the day instead of relying on high sugar foods. If you don’t eat enough carbohydrate and provide your brain with glucose you may find thinking clearly and logically can become very difficult. You may also feel very tired and in a low mood. If your brain isn’t getting enough fuel it will keep waking you up to find food. This makes sleeping difficult. If you don’t sleep well, altering your dietary intake may make a significant difference.
Carbs play an important role in creating serotonin, your ‘happy hormone’. Tryptophan, an essential amino acid, plays a key role in this production but it cannot cross the brain’s blood barrier and needs carbs to help it cross over.
11. Freezing bread reduces its nutritional value
You can freeze pretty much everything, including bread. Wrap it tightly in freezer bags or similar before placing in the freezer otherwise, the cold air will dry it out. Research suggests there is no significant impact on nutritional value when freezing and in the case of bread it can be beneficial as it turns refined carbs into resistant starch, which means there is more fibre after freezing.
12. Gluten-free bread is better for you than non-gluten free bread
Gluten-free bread is essential if you have been diagnosed with Coeliac Disease, but if you have not been diagnosed then removing gluten from your diet means you run the risk of missing out on fibre and some valuable vitamins and minerals. In order to make up for the shortage of fibre, eating other grains such as brown rice or quinoa should be encouraged.
Gluten is also abundant in many traditional diets making it an ingredient very hard to cut out. It’s everywhere from frozen vegetables to some medication. Many so called natural flavourings added to food labels have barley as a base so it’s really hard to eliminate completely.
Gluten-free foods are not necessarily healthier than their gluten-containing counterparts. Many would be tasteless without the higher levels of sugar, salt, and other additives to make them more palatable. Gluten-free junk food is still junk food. If you want to make a change for health reasons then getting rid of the refined carbs in your diet like bagels, white pasta and replacing them with grains will provide an immediate boost in nutrients and fibre which will ensure your energy levels will be higher than ever..
Ultimately, a gluten-free diet won’t necessarily mean you’ve chosen a healthier route when you run the risk of losing out on essential nutrients. Eating a gluten-free diet isn’t easy either which is exactly why if you’re considering cutting it out, you should definitely consult with a health professional first.