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Does Bread Make You Fat? (From A Dietitian)

Michael Garrico
Published by Michael Garrico
Last updated: August 22, 2022

For most of my clients, bread is still one of their favorite foods and one of the hardest to forgo in an era when low-carb, keto, and gluten-free foods seem like a better option.

As a fitness trainer with over a decade of experience, I never encourage my clients to eat bread, but I don’t discourage them either.

To solve the dilemma of whether bread is detrimental to weight loss once and for all, I teamed up with my dietitian and spent hours researching whether such a bad reputation of bread is unfounded or whether eating bread really makes you accumulate belly fat and gain weight.

Here’s what I found.

Quick Summary

  • Bread could make you gain weight if you eat it in excessive amounts, especially the one low in nutrients made with refined grains.
  • It’s best to opt for bread varieties like whole wheat bread, sourdough, or multigrain bread to reap the most of this carbohydrate food source.
  • When choosing bread made with whole grains, take it in moderation and combine it with other nutrients like healthy fat or lean proteins to have a complete nutrient-dense meal.

Does Eating Bread Result in Weight Gain?

Eating bread may result in weight gain, but it heavily depends on other factors like the type of bread, bread eating habits, and your overall diet.

4 Types of Bread

Top view of different types of bread

On a large scale, whether the bread will make you fat depends on the type of bread you are consuming - what flour it's made of and what other ingredients, except for salt, yeast, and fats, it contains.

White Bread

Nutritional value (100 grams): 265 calories, 52g carbs, 4g fats, and 8g proteins [1].

You should avoid white bread since it's made of greatly refined (processed) wheat flour without the healthy wheat parts - bran and germ. 

As a result, white wheat flour is made of starchy endosperms (inner part of the grain), a simple carbohydrate that's quickly broken down in the body [2].

To make things worse, white bread usually contains a lot of added sugar (which contributes to blood sugar levels increase), which along with preservatives and bad recipe practices, make white bread part of highly processed foods.

With everything said, it's clear you should replace white bread with healthier bread types and consume them instead.

Whole Wheat Bread

Sliced wheat bread on white background

Nutritional value: 244 calories, 45g carbs, 4g fats, and 10g proteins [3].

Unlike white bread, as the name suggests, this bread is made of unrefined whole wheat flour; hence, it contains more vitamins, proteins, fat, and fiber.

This nutrient composition makes this bread a desirable, healthy diet bread option.

Since it contains a lot of fiber, it slows down digestion and stabilizes blood sugar levels, suppressing your appetite and making you feel full longer [4].

One of the healthiest forms of whole wheat bread is Ezekiel bread, made of sprouted legumes and grains like wheat, millet, barley, spelt, soybeans, and lentils without sugar.

Sourdough Bread

Nutritional value: 274 calories, 51g carbs, 3g fats, and 9g proteins [5].

Sourdough is a type of bread made from a long-hour bacteria and yeast fermented dough. While fermenting it, bacteria and yeast feed on simple carbs and reduce the antinutrients in the grains, increasing the availability of nutrients [6].

Therefore, this fermentation process 'byproducts' make sourdough bread easily digestible and more nutritious than other types.

However, fermentation also produces lactic acid, making the taste of this bread less pleasant than different bread types.

Multigrain Bread

A detailed look of a multigrain bread

Nutritional value: 251 calories, 46g carbs, 3.8g fats, and 10g proteins [7].

This whole grain bread has more calories and fiber than other healthy types of bread made from different grains.

This amount of calories combined with dietary fiber will keep you satiated for a more extended time, preventing you from snacking and food cravings.

It's usually made of whole grains like flaxseeds, millet, buckwheat, maize, oats, wheat, and barley.

If consumed regularly in moderation, these bread varieties have almost no drawbacks, unlike white bread.

Downsides of White Bread

Top view of white bread

White bread is made of refined flour because, without the bran, white flour becomes tastier, softer, and easier to chew.

This feature also makes white flour fluffy and light, suitable for delicate pastries.

Refining will make this flour tastier but also will strip down all the nutritional value of wheat, providing you with empty calories [8].

Refined, it doesn't contain any fiber, and it will get easily absorbed, triggering blood sugar spikes.

It's the reason why white bread has low nutritional value and a high glycemic index [9].

"Just as we know there are good fats and unhealthy fats, there are good carbohydrates that are rich in fiber, and less helpful carbohydrates such as white bread, excessive intake of potato products, refined breakfast cereals, and the like."

- David Ludwig, MD, Ph.D. 

Consumption of food with a high glycemic index could lead to obesity and insulin resistance that could eventually cause type 2 diabetes.

A popular study from 2014. speaks in favor of this, showing that eating bread in amounts of just two slices (120 grams) daily lead to a 40% greater risk of obesity and weight gain [10]. Moreover, other research shows that consumption of processed and refined foods (like white bread) contributes to more belly fat [11].

Surprisingly, besides physical, it could also impact your mental health since one study even showed a link between refined carbs consumption and depression in postmenopausal women [12].

Luckily, the white bread counterpart - whole grain bread, has opposite effects, acceptable for bread lovers, even those on a weight loss journey.

Benefits of Whole Grain Bread

Top side view of a whole grain bread

Whole grain bread could bring numerous health benefits if included as a part of your healthy diet.

Since it contains more proteins, vitamins, minerals, and a lot of fiber, it could improve your overall wellbeing.

Being a high-fiber nutrient-dense food, whole-grain bread doesn't cause sugar spikes and could lower cholesterol levels, as one research suggests that women who ate whole-grains products had a lower risk of cardiovascular diseases [13].

Another study researching whole grains suggests that regular eating of these products lowers the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 30%, while in postmenopausal women, the risk was even lower - 43% [14].

Besides keeping you satiated for a more extended period and hence contributing to losing weight, fiber could also improve digestive health, relieving constipation and acting protective against colorectal cancer.

All of these benefits show that you should eat the correct type of bread often and make it part of your healthy diet; just be sure always to read the label since many so-called healthy breads contain colored flour, sugar, or additives.

How to Make Bread Part of Your Balanced Diet?

Getting a cut of a sliced bread

To make bread part of your balanced diet, you should eat the kind with whole grain and high fiber content in a moderate amount, combining it with other healthy food options.

No matter how nutritious and healthy the food is, too much will result in weight gain, and whole grain bread isn't an exception.

Not just bread, but too much of anything will provide you with excess calories and carbs that will eventually make you fat.

Therefore, you should keep track of your daily bread consumption, and if you like to eat bread for breakfast or lunch, you should eat carbs from other sources for dinner.

So definitely try to avoid using bread as a side dish for every meal, especially for other starchy foods like fries or pasta.

The way I do it with my clients is by advising them to combine bread with some healthy fat sources or proteins as plain bread won't be nutritious enough. Try pairing it with nut butter, cheese, avocado, or lean meat to have a complete meal.

Used with these guidelines, the bread will become an important part of your diet, supporting your essential nutrient intake and even keeping you away from gaining weight.

FAQs

Is It Ok To Eat Bread Every Day?

Yes, it is ok to eat bread every day as long as you choose bread made of whole grain flour and consume it in moderation.

On the other hand, no matter how attractive buttery bread straight out of the oven is, everyday usage of that high-simple-carbohydrates bread variety would probably make you gain weight quickly and eventually lead to an increased risk of diabetes and heart disease.

What Happens if You Stop Eating Bread for a Month?

If you stop eating bread for a month, you will probably notice some weight loss as a consequence of a decrease in the number of calories and water-binding carbohydrates intake that will further release stored water inside the body.

However, what this will happen and what results will greatly depend on your previous bread-eating habits and total carbs diet.

How Many Slices of Whole Wheat Bread a Day to Lose Weight

To lose weight, you should opt for eight slices of whole wheat bread a day. However, this number varies according to your calorie intake throughout the day.

If you want to maintain your current weight, you should eat up to 12 slices, whereas if you consume bread to make you gain weight, the weight gain occurs when the number goes above 15 slices per day.

Don't Dread Eating Bread

No matter the popular belief and bad reputation, the bread won't make you fat as long as you take it in moderation, and you can include it as a healthy carb source option in your diet.

As long as you choose a suitable variety and amount, you shouldn't restrain from it. It is as good as other popular high-carb foods like white rice, potatoes, or oats.

In case you’re struggling to lose weight, try adding a fat burner to your routine and avoid consuming too much bread, especially the white kind.

Adding a fat burner to your already healthy meal routine will not only help shed pounds quicker, but it’ll also suppress the cravings that made you reach out for unhealthy carbs in the first place.


References:

  1. https://www.fatsecret.com/calories-nutrition/usda/white-bread
  2. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/325171
  3. https://www.nutritionix.com/food/whole-wheat-bread/100-g
  4. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/carbohydrates/fiber/
  5. https://www.fatsecret.com/calories-nutrition/generic/bread-sour-dough
  6. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11368651/
  7. https://www.fatsecret.com/calories-nutrition/generic/bread-multigrain
  8. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/321342781_Bread_and_Health
  9. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10885323/
  10. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25335643/
  11. https://www.imi.com.hk/how-to-lose-belly-fat.html
  12. https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/102/2/454/4564524
  13. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/223994939_Relationship_between_bread_consumption_body_weight_and_abdominal_fat_distribution_Evidence_from_epidemiological_studies
  14. https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/proceedings-of-the-nutrition-society/article/epidemiological-support-for-the-protection-of-whole-grains-against-diabetes/0CF1654EED8AD205BDCF28215DD032FE
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