You may not equate a slice of bread to eating a spoonful of sugar…but, sadly, it is. In fact a thick slice of white bread at 375kj is more like eating six teaspoons of sugar. Say what? Where’s all the sugar in bread? Well, in food made from grain – particularly wheat, rice and barley, that sugar is starch. Starch is a complex carbohydrate, and plants make starch to store their excess energy when they have more food than they can use – just like we store our sugars as fat.
Basically, plants join long chains of glucose together to make starch, and our bodies are very good at pulling those chains apart to turn those starches back into glucose. Once that glucose hits the bloodstream it’s ready to fuel the body or fill fat cells. The one saving grace with eating starches is the time they can take to enter the bloodstream. Complex carbohydrates need more time (and energy) to digest…and that time is usually measured on the glycaemic index (GI) these days. The longer the body takes to turn starch into sugar, the lower the GI – glucose in starch enters blood at the rate of 8kj per minute while glucose from a soft drink can be as much as 124kj per minute. In other words, there’s more chance of muscles burning that ‘slow release’ starch than the one sudden dose from sugar.
So just what bread should we eat for the smallest slice of energy? Well, a slice of wholemeal, rye and mountain bread all have around the same energy content as white bread. A slice of corn bread has a whopping 750kj, and a slice of garlic bread 420kj. A bread roll rolls out 900kj – that’s 14 teaspoons of sugar before you’ve put any butter or burgers on it. A plain bagel is still 545kj and a croissant without that ham and cheese is 670kj. For the lowest dose of sugar, you need to go German with a slice of pumpernickel at just 195kj or Indian with a 115kj pappadom.
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