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It rolls off the tongues of deli denizens everywhere: white or wheat? And the resounding response, from health-conscious folk, is wheat bread.
In nature, wheat grains are brown because the bran (or outer layer) is brown. When the bran layer is intact, it contains the endosperm and the germ, though only the bran and germ have true nutritional benefit. To get white flour (and hence white bread), wheat grains are stripped of their bran and germ, leaving only the nutrient-poor endosperm.
Wheat bread has more fiber than white bread, which is why health nuts love it. Fiber is important to both cardiovascular (it lowers cholesterol) and gastrointestinal (it keeps things moving) health, and it serves to slow down digestion of the carbohydrates in wheat bread — imparting longer-lasting energy throughout the day, and throughout a workout. This is important to those who are concerned about maintaining steady insulin levels, as the slower the carbohydrates are digested, the more level the insulin response. White bread, on the other hand, is a fast-digesting carbohydrate, which causes insulin levels to spike — which, during non-training times, causes energy levels to crash and leads to increased fat storage.
THE WINNER IS: Draw
REASON: There are times in a day when a massive insulin spike is required to amplify muscle gains, and that’s when wheat bread just won’t do. We’re sure you’ve realized that we’re talking about post-workout nutrition — the fact is that a dollop of jelly on white bread is among the best ways to get fast carbs after a session cradling the iron. Lest you need reminding, insulin is an anabolic hormone; the more you have after tearing muscle apart, the more muscle you’ll rebuild. A day’s diet that includes a few slices of white bread is also extremely effective at refilling glycogen stores (and thereby rebooting your metabolism) after a week or so of low-carb dieting.
So, after workouts, white is right. At all other times of the day, you can’t beat wheat. Just make sure the label says whole wheat, not multigrain or plain wheat, and that it contains whole-wheat flour (not enriched white flour).
This table compares some of the nutrient values found in a slice of white bread and one of whole-wheat bread.
Note: g = grams, mg = milligrams, mcg = micrograms