Entry-level plain white bread, with all its bleached flour, trouble-making gluten, and uncouth carbohydrates, really lost a lot of love from the good sandwich-making people of the United States during the last few years. It’s been a victim of local food movements and fad diets, on a clear decline since 2010 when whole wheat surpassed white for the first time ever and everybody basically cheered. Sales are down again this year; 56 percent of shoppers say they want nothing at all to do with white bread; and hell, we even almost lost Wonder Bread when parent company Hostess foundered. But a new study conducted at the University of Oviedo in Spain says, essentially, maybe it’s time to stop the hate.
A team of seven researchers looked at fibers and polyphenols found in white bread and oranges, respectively, with relation to production of intestinal microbiota, the vast bacterial colonies that do the heaviest lifting of your digestive process. “In terms of food consumption,” researchers write, “probably the most novel finding of our study was the positive association between the intake of white bread and Lactobacillus levels.” Specifically, people who ate more white bread had higher numbers of Lactobacilli, which is generally believed to be a good thing and runs contrary to the notion that a favored “prebiotic effect of cereals” comes from whole grain foods. In other words: Up yours, whole wheat.
While the authors of the paper, which appeared in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry last month, write that a number of other factors — everything from mastication to more variables of the other stuff that gets eaten with white bread, like good pickles and fatty brisket — need consideration in subsequent experiments, let’s just call it peanut butter jelly time. “[O]ur results reveal that the consumption of refined grains, often undervalued in this regard, could beneficially modulate intestinal microbiota,” the researchers write.