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Are you bread literate?

The bell rings and it's break time. Out comes the lunch boxes and what do most of them have in there- sandwiches.

Sandwiches are the universal answer. Most wives depend on the dough solution to "What's for lunch today" Of course, not all breads are created equal.

Some are made from 100 percent whole grains, with all the vitamins, minerals, fibre, and phytochemicals intact. They're the ones that may help cut your risk of heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.

The rest are all or largely refined white flour -- stripped of most of its nutrients. That includes rye bread, oatmeal, French, Italian, honey wheat, crushed or cracked wheat, multi grain -- you name it. Refined flour breads are not condemned as bad for you. Ofcourse, they're low in fat, have no cholesterol, and supply some fibre, iron, and B-vitamins. But the essence of life, they are not, despite their names. "Enriched" flour, which is what most breads are made from, is far from whole. Some companies that make "light" breads toss in highly processed fibre to boost the fibre numbers and cut the calories. But nothing replaces the lost vitamin E, B-6, magnesium, manganese, zinc, potassium, copper, pantothenic acid, and phytochemicals present in whole wheat bread.

If a bread doesn't have whole wheat, oats, or some other whole grain as the first ingredient, much of its vitamin-and-mineral-rich germ and bran have been milled away, along with most of its fibre.

Next time you go to the supermarket, be bread literate. To ensure that you're buying whole wheat bread, look at the ingredients. "Whole wheat flour" should be the only flour listed. Not "wheat flour," "unbleached wheat flour," or "unbleached enriched wheat flour." Those are just sneaky ways of saying "refined white flour." Even any bread, roll, or bun with "whole wheat" as part of its name must be made with only whole wheat flour.

Breads with "Stone Ground Wheat," "Cracked Wheat," "Crushed Wheat,"or "Wheat Berry" in their names may or may not be whole grain. Check theingredients. If you're a fan of multi grain breads, look for whole wheat flour or some other whole grain as the first or second flour listed.

Don't be fooled by high-fibre "light" breads. They're all or mostly refined white flour. Two slices of light breads contain five to six grams of fibre . . . more than two slices of most 100% whole wheat breads.

The "light" makers have probably added highly processed cottonseed, oat, or soy fiber. That means the breads may help prevent constipation, but they don't supply the nutrients and phytochemicals that come with the whole grain. "Light" breads have fewer calories and less sodium than regular breads, at least in part, because they're sliced thinner. And the labels can subtract the calories in the added fibre, because it passes through the body unabsorbed.

Check the serving size. What's a serving of bread? For most people, it's two slices. Yet many labels give calories, sodium, fibre, and other nutrition information for one slice. That's fine, as long as you double the numbers before you make your sandwich.

Knowing your bread is important because it's a daily affair.

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