Does Bread Make You Fat?

does bread make you fat

Between the gluten-free folks and the low-carb dieters, I sometimes feel like I’m one of the last few people in LA who still eats bread.  While my friends order bun-less burgers and tortilla-less tacos, I’m sinking my teeth into a warm buttered slice of sourdough, and not feeling guilty in the slightest.

Why?  Because contrary to popular belief, bread does not make you fat.

In fact, there isn’t any one food that makes you fat.  Weight gain occurs when you eat more calories than you burn.  These extra un-burned calories could come from bread, but they could also come from anything else you eat.

So why does bread get such a bad reputation?

For a few (good) reasons:

  1. Refined white bread products – not just bread but bagels, cakes, cookies, muffins, biscuits, crackers, etc – are high in calories and low in nutrients.  So if you frequently choose refined options, you won’t get much nutritional bang for your buck.
  2. Many Americans eat bread as part of every meal, which is not good partly because of Reason #1 and partly because bread is being consumed instead of something more nutritious, like vegetables.
  3. People who eat a lot of white refined carbohydrates tend to weigh more and have more belly fat, which increases the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and other lifestyle-related health conditions.  Great reason to choose whole grain on most occasions.
  4. Carbohydrates – especially refined ones – can cause spikes and drops in blood sugar if they’re not eaten along with protein and fat.  This leads to uneven metabolism and lack of energy – so best to make meals and snacks a combination of carbs, protein, and fat.

If you stick to whole grain breads (most of the time), bread can actually be a great source of nutrients.

100% whole grain bread offers:

  • Fiber, which helps keep you satisfied and helps keep cholesterol in check
  • Protein, which helps keep you feeling satisfied
  • Naturally-occurring vitamins

And you can certainly eat bread on a regular basis – in moderate portions of course – without gaining weight.

Here’s how to make bread part of a healthy diet:

  • Choose 100% whole grain breads most of the time.  White refined carbohydrates are just empty calories that take up precious space in our diets, but whole grain choices offer satisfying, heart-healthy fiber and protein as well as other nutrients.
  • Keep track of your consumption.  If you have toast with peanut butter for breakfast, skip the lunchtime sandwich and dinnertime pizza and aim to have bread-less meals instead (like soup, salad, stir-fry, etc).  If you’re going out for an Italian dinner later (read: bread dipped in garlic oil followed by pasta), make a smoothie for breakfast and have a big salad for lunch.  Thinking about what you’ve eaten/what you’re going to eat helps you achieve moderation throughout the day.
  • Eat bread with protein and fat.  A piece of plain bread won’t fill you up for long or give you sustained energy.  Try to eat grains with cheese, nut butter, avocado, a slice of turkey, an egg, etc.  so that you get more nutrients and feel more satisfied.
  • Decide between bread, alcohol, or dessert when eating out.  In an ideal world, I’d have bread and wine with dinner every night followed by dessert.  But to maintain a healthy weight you have to make choices, and there isn’t room for everything.
  • Bread is a serving of starch, not a side dish to accompany other starch.  Keep this in mind when eating pizza and pasta (limit or skip the garlic bread), sandwiches (opt for a side green salad instead of pasta/potato/macaroni salad), burgers (choose a side salad instead of fries), etc.  Again, it’s all about choosing what you most want to indulge in.

Some breads I like and recommend:

  1. Food For Life Sprouted Grain Breads – Cinnamon Raisin and Sesame are my favorites
  2. Rudi’s Organic 7 Grain with Flax
  3. Milton’s 100% Whole Wheat
  4. Trader Joe’s Whole Wheat Tuscan Pane
  5. Homemade whole grain bread of any kind!
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30 Responses to Does Bread Make You Fat?

  1. Awesome post! You’re right, it’s not one food that makes us fat, but it’s a combo, or an over-eating of one thing. I love me some bread, but I can’t eat it all day everyday.

    • The answer to this question varies by individual – and I’d say if you’re trying to lose weight it’s even more important to eat whole, unrefined grains.

  2. Oh the calories in, calories out argument. It is far more complicated than that. Most people don’t realize that whole grain bread has a higher glycemic index than white bread and even table sugar!! The fact is you cannot burn fat if your insulin levels are elevated. You cannot store fat without the presence of insulin. Shame on you for perpetuating the “healthy whole grain” nonsense. Americans are fat because we eat waaaay more carbohydrates than our bodies are designed for. Cut the carbs out and the fat will melt away almost effortlessly. I personally am down 30 lbs in 7 weeks eating the foods I love, the very same foods we have been told make you fat. My fasting blood sugar is now 80, down from 105. My blood pressure has also dropped to normal levels. I’m living proof that that low carb works. “Healthy whole grain” is an oxymoron. Don’t buy in to it.

    • Congratulations on your weight loss. I agree that cutting out excess carbs, whole grain or not, can be a successful weight loss tool for those people who tend to overdo it. However, 7 weeks is a very short time, and cutting out grains completely is not sustainable. I’d be willing to bet you’re not on this diet in 7 years…which means it’s not a great plan for long term weight maintenance, the key factor in good overall health.

    • I’d also like to point out that your argument about whole grain bread being higher glycemic index than white bread or sugar is false. Biochemically this is impossible, so I’d be hard pressed to see this in any reliable research study.

    • Explain how countries like South Korea, China, and Japan are so slender when white rice is served at most every meal. In Korea, the word for rice is synonymous with meal 밥. Why aren’t they so fat? Perhaps portion size, lack of fried foods and sugar plays more of a factor than carbs. Sorry, I’m not overweight and I eat a good amount of white bread, white rice, and pasta/noodles. I understand that wheat and while grains are better, but I just don’t buy that carbs make you fat.

  3. I have studied food for 3 years now and all I can say is:
    It is not natrual for a human being to eat food like bread, noodles, potatoes. These are foods who humans have not been eating for very long.
    Animals get sick if they eat stuff they aren’t supposed to. Everyone knows that. And humans become fat and/or get pimples and the infection rate is higher.
    I believe if you are not climbing trees all day and running away from carnivores the whole time, it’s best NOT to eat carbs, since they are hard to work off and, if not worked off become fat.

    Hope this helps clear up some things. Remember, it’s just plain logic, human evolution, etc…

    • There are some holes in your argument here, Dr. Shneider. Claiming that eating carbs is unnatural because it doesn’t follow logic is not exactly citing nutrition science. I agree with you that American consume way too many carbs for how much energy they burn, but that is not to say that carbohydrates are an unnatural source of calories for humans. People have been eating bread for thousands of years, and obesity has come and gone in trends. There is no proof that this is causal relationship.

    • Your logic is human evolution. However by your logic we should truncate our evolution and never evolve beyond the hunter/gatherer stage. By this logic, we should renounce our sophisticated dwellings, clothing, and certainly technology. Sorry, this argument of returning to our roots doesn’t work socially or nutritiously. Also, many animals, including mammals, can’t digest or consume certain foods that humans do (look at dogs and you’ve got onions, garlic, avocados, etc). We aren’t all the same. We evolved so let’s embrace it.

  4. The entire “we didn’t evolve to eat this” argument is exhausting. I tried to cut out grains under the same premise, but then one day while training for a marathon I thought “did I evolve to run over 20 miles without a break?” If youve ever run that distance youd know the answer is no. Hell no.

    You can’t say we didn’t evolve to eat grains or not eat grains (after all, something[s] evovled must have driven us to opt for sedentary grain producing over endless hunting). What you can say is that we evolved to eat food. We also evolved an awareness of what we consume and an awareness of how it makes us feel.

    Whats “natural” for me and all of us is to eat when I’m hungry and so thats what I’m gonna do. If I eat too much bread and feel bloated, fatty, or letthargic…I’ll eat less bread. I’ll eat veggies next time if it makes me feel better.

    We love to think to much. Trust your body.

    • I am so with you, Nick. There are tons of things we do that are likely not consistent with how we were “supposed” to evolve, but we will never know which behaviors fall into which category!

    • This more has to do with the bread being nearly straight carbohydrate, and the Snickers being a balance of carbohydrate, protein, and fat. Anytime you eat carbohydrate along with protein and fat, your blood sugar goes up more slowly.

  5. This post is truth that needs to be heard. I too bought into the Atkins phase only to realize that I needed carbs for energy. When a diet tells you to put down some bread in favor of bacon, that should be a red flag. Now we have the Paleolithic diet or whatever it’s called. Well, why not adopt a full on Paleolithic lifestyle and renounce all luxuries of shelter and clothing only to run for the high grounds every time it rains? I completely agree that certain foods are better than others, but I fail to see how bread or carbs are so horrid. I lived in Asia for the better part of a decade. Now I won’t say that I didn’t miss meat while living there, but I did learn to adopt a when in Rome attitude and began eating white rice. Guess what?! I didn’t balloon up and have a heart attack. Furthermore, I noticed that most people over there were quite thin (though lack of protein made body builders scarce). I’ve now learned that most foods high in carbs are pretty awful; however it’s not usually because of the carbs. Is pizza unhealthy or is it all the cheese, garlic butter sauce, and grease? Is it the bread or the 1/4 flame grilled whopper patty in between cheese and buns slathered with mayo? Is it the rice or the fact that it’s drenched in sesame seed oil, and stir fried with eggs and high sodium soy sauce?

    Thank you for taking the road less traveled and having some bread every day.

    • 100% whole wheat bread, since its made entirely from whole grains. A few (very few) cinnamon raisin breads are too – like Food for Life Ezekial cinnamon raisin bread.

  6. HI,
    Like you’ve said – it’s not the bread that makes you fat, it’s the (extra) calories that will make your belly rounder. Bread is in no way different than other foods as it includes fats, protein and carbs which all together add to a calorie amount. It depends what kind of bread you eat, but most of bread contain a lot of carbs and some protein. Since 1 carb is 4kcal, you can do the math. Here is an article on different types of bread http://healthiack.com/foods/different-types-of-bread to see which type of bread is “best”. For me it’s corn bread. It tastes great and has a decent amount of protein as well. I eat bread every day. I specially like it along with eggs.
    I really don’t see why people are so concerned with bread. I would worry more about fat rich foods, because fat is even more caloric than carbs. 1 gram of fat has 9 kcal! Yes, that’s more than twice as much.
    Final thought – don’t bother yourself with that question and eat bread if you like it. Just make sure you spend all the calories you have consumed during the day or else, extra kilograms will start to show on the scale.

    • Which is also why Amelia suggested to eat bread with but butter or cheese. I tried theology carb diet, while it worked to melt the weight off it was unsustainable over the long haul. My new strategy is to take the time to track what I eat and develop healthy habits. This way I can include bread in my diet, just not all of the time and I can still maintain healthy weight. Oh this glycemic index is Bs too, it is only ever accurate if you’re living a sedentary lifestyle. If you’re active regularly, every day that is, it and weight gain becomes less if an issue and another argument for activity, if you’re maintaining weight you get to eat the extra calories you worked off. Great article!

  7. All I know is back in the ’60’s when I was a kid everyone ate white bread, potatoes, rice, and so forth every day and very few people were fat. Maybe one kid in your class might be a little chubby. But personally I think 100% whole wheat bread tastes lots better than white bread. Thanks for taking a stand in favor of bread. It’s the staff of life.

  8. I personally think that carbs don’t really make you overweight. I think it’s processed sugars, foods that make us overweight, especially when eaten in surplus. Foods such as vegetables, and fruits, are carbs that shouldn’t be avoided, and they come with lots nutrients, and vitamins. When I was overweight a few years ago, it wasn’t the rice or bread I ate that made me overweight, it was the sauces, condiments, and toppings I put on them that made me gain weight. Plus my portion sizes where really huge. I have now adapted a much healthier lifestyle that incorporates exercise, less processed food, and lots of fruits and vegetables. Eating healthy doesn’t mean you can’t eat happy! You can get great recipes, or experiment on your own. Now excuse me while I eat my peanut butter and raisin toast.

    • This depends on the person. The most important thing is that you’re eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, and lean/plant-based proteins, and that starches don’t become the base of every meal.

  9. 3.5 months ago I hit 360 lbs. If I ate healthy, exercised like crazy and watched my portion sizes I would lose maybe 1lb every 2 weeks… but then I would have a bad couple of days and gain it right back. Since cutting out carbs almost completely and eating whatever else I wanted and as much as I wanted whenever I wanted… I’ve lost 38lbs. I haven’t even started exercising yet. It may not be scientific, but let me tell you it sure seems to me carbs make you fat.

    • It’s not about the loss itself, it’s about maintaining the loss over time. If in 5 years you’ve maintained your loss, then I’ll hand it to you. However, losing weight via any method requires hard work and dedication (yes I’ve had to do it too) and I commend you for your achievement.

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