Is White Bread Good for You?

Is White Bread Good for You?
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Is eating refined grains, white potatoes, and iceberg lettuce better than nothing?

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Let’s say you get a typical dinner roll when you’re at a restaurant. Should you eat it? Look, it’s free, and has eight essential nutrients. Is it better than nothing? No. It’s not nutritionally worth it, and I’ll show you why in a second.

We should strive to eat whole foods. There’s really only one common whole plant food that isn’t worth it, and I’ll give you a hint: it’s either iceberg lettuce or white potatoes. Do you think iceberg lettuce is better than nothing? Or is it the potatoes that are worth eating?

Iceberg lettuce is one of the least nutritious vegetables. So, if you have a choice, always choose a healthier salad green, but it is still better than nothing. I recommend, however, you pass on the potatoes.

This year, in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, eating non-fried white potatoes was associated with a 50% increased risk of kidney cancer. Same with eating white bread—50% increased risk of cancer. That’s why the dinner roll isn’t worth it, either.

To put it into context, though, meat, in this study, was associated with a 400% increased risk. Which food cut the risk in half, though? Dark green leafy vegetables.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by veganmontreal.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Images thanks to aesop via Flickr.

Let’s say you get a typical dinner roll when you’re at a restaurant. Should you eat it? Look, it’s free, and has eight essential nutrients. Is it better than nothing? No. It’s not nutritionally worth it, and I’ll show you why in a second.

We should strive to eat whole foods. There’s really only one common whole plant food that isn’t worth it, and I’ll give you a hint: it’s either iceberg lettuce or white potatoes. Do you think iceberg lettuce is better than nothing? Or is it the potatoes that are worth eating?

Iceberg lettuce is one of the least nutritious vegetables. So, if you have a choice, always choose a healthier salad green, but it is still better than nothing. I recommend, however, you pass on the potatoes.

This year, in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, eating non-fried white potatoes was associated with a 50% increased risk of kidney cancer. Same with eating white bread—50% increased risk of cancer. That’s why the dinner roll isn’t worth it, either.

To put it into context, though, meat, in this study, was associated with a 400% increased risk. Which food cut the risk in half, though? Dark green leafy vegetables.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by veganmontreal.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Images thanks to aesop via Flickr.

Doctor's Note

Check out these videos on refined grains:
If Fructose is Bad, What About Fruit?
Constructing a Cognitive Portfolio
Prostate vs. Plants

For more context, see my associated blog post:  Plant-Based Diets for Metabolic Syndrome.

If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

42 responses to “Is White Bread Good for You?

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      1. I’m also unhappy about these research results. Is this a single isolated study regarding white potatoes and cancer? What about the healthy Peruvians and Ecuadorians?
        As far as the potato skin, I have heard of people who survived starvation eating potatoes with their skins, while those who ate the potato alone did not survive. The implication was that there are good things we don’t necessarily know about in the skin.

        Is one study enough to condemn a food that has been widely consumed for hundreds of years?

        By the way, I love your site!




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      2. Regarding iceberg lettuce, Jeff Novick says, “One of the most common myths and misunderstandings in nutrition is about
        the nutritional value and worthiness of iceberg lettuce. I am always
        amazed to see peoples’ faces when I tell them that iceberg lettuce is a
        good food.”
        http://jeffnovick.com/RD/Articles/Entries/2008/3/21_Iceberg_Lettuce__A_Lesson_In_Nutrient_Density.html

        I usually agree with Dr Gregor, but I have to go with Jeff Novick on this one, especially because he provides the nutrition facts on lettuce. :-)




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      3. Dr. Greger were these people vegan or plant based or just normal people eating lots of other meat/dairy/oils?

        Will have a read of the study soon + look at your other potato vids. A little more detail would’ve been good here in the video. Thanks for the vid though! Gives us something to look more into!

        These are the questions that came to mind: Any meta-anlyses on potatoes out there and what do they say? If they were just normal people who ate potatoes I’d assume they were getting the oils/cheese/butter along with it + all the other meat/dairy in their diet? Were they eating potatoes in baked/fried/chip form? Isn’t the average American getting very little veg intake and of this, potato chips makes up like 1/2 haha? Organic vs non organic? Effect of fertilisers? Amount of exercise done by participants?

        What about people doing all potato diets? I wonder what their blood says about their cancer risks/rates? Guy in Australia doing a potato diet, Dr.McDougall talks about a study where athletes or something were put on an all potato diet (will have to check which type though!) though I guess they hadn’t checked for cancer rates/risk..




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        1. Hi, Tharun. I am Christine, a NF volunteer moderator. This was a case control study comparing the eating habits of cancer patients with those of people matched for age, race, etc. from the general population. I think it is safe to say that most were probably not vegan, and you raise an important point. What people eat with their potatoes and white bread may play a role. With a food frequency questionnaire, such as the one used in this study, there is likely no differentiation between the forms of potato eaten and the way in which they were prepared, and that could also make a difference. This is not addressed in the study, as far as I can tell. With regard to all-potato diets, I personally do not believe in the existence of a single, perfect food. In my opinion, the key to a healthy diet is to eat a wide variety of whole, plant foods. I hope that helps!




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    1. I would take this study with a grain (65 mg) of salt. Food consumption was based on questionnaire not clinical intervention. The study was performed in Florida and I suspect very few people ate their potatoes without butter, sour cream or milk, and lots of salt. I suspect it is difficult for statistical analysis to separate the effects of potato toppings even if subjects demonstrated perfect memory on the questionnaire.




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  1. I remember a study awhile ago that found that white potatoes are actually way healthier than we used to think because there are a lot of nutrients in the skin. Do you know about this?




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    1. Becochic:
      Certainly, there are nutrients in the skin of potatoes. But also there are toxins (called glycoalkaloids) produced by the tuber in response to the attacks of the potato beetle. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19286450). The video http://nutritionfacts.org/videos/toxins-in-cooked-potatoes/ shows a wonderful explanation about this issue. If you still want to eat white potatoes, please peel them or, even better, eat sweet potatoes as recommended in http://nutritionfacts.org/videos/toxins-in-sweet-potatoes/




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      1. There are many toxins in many of the plants we eat, doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll do us harm, it’s the nature of plants that they have various defenses and you’d imagine that plant eating animals have learnt to deal with this to a fair extent?




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  2. Certainly, there are nutrients in the skin of potatoes. But also there are toxins (called glycoalkaloids) produced by the tuber in response to the attacks of the potato beetle. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19286450). The video http://nutritionfacts.org/videos/toxins-in-cooked-potatoes/ shows a wonderful explanation about this issue. If you still want to eat white potatoes, please peel them or, even better, eat sweet potatoes as recommended in http://nutritionfacts.org/videos/toxins-in-sweet-potatoes/




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  3. Ok so white potatoes aren’t very good but what about colored (I’m not referring to sweet potatoes, I understand they are very nutritious)? Is there a nutritional difference between colored potatoes? Are yellow fleshed, blue fleshed, or red fleshed potatoes more nutritious than white potatoes? I have read claims that some of the colored (flesh not just the skin) potatoes are more nutritious and intuitively based on the idea that vibrant color is an evolutionary sign of nutrition it would make sense to me, but I was curious if there is any research out there about it.




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  4. i like white potatoes and sweet potatoes, pop them in the microwave 3 min… easy snack, and i like the skin in white ones…. so my question is: Would i have to eat a lot of skins or is just eating one on occasion enough to harm my health.




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        1. The nutritional content of the food is the least of my concerns with microwaves, LOL. Why don’t you check YOUR facts!?




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          1. Please give a reason for your opinion or post a link to a reputable source! I did my research and decided the fear of microwaves was basically an unsubstantiated paranoia of technology.




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            1. LOL, how about you do your OWN research and stop having a go at people. What makes you think you can demand my time? Get lost, Pest!




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            2. Nunya, DStack is asking an honest and good question. Basically what he is asking, and what I am curious as well of, is what reason do you have to believe that microwaves are harmful? Do you have any studies to back these claims? You must understand, NF.org is very science based, so an evidence based approach is best.




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  5. Interesting, because a similar study (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17058282) found something different:

     Poultry (OR = 0.74), processed meat (OR = 0.64) and vegetables (OR = 0.65) were inversely associated with RCC risk. No relation was found for coffee and tea, soups, eggs, red meat, fish, cheese, pulses, potatoes, fruits, desserts and sugars.




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  6. Hi Dr. Greger,

    My sister just met you in Marshall, TX over the weekend. She’s a huge fan of yours!

    I love tacos, and since going on a plant-based diet I’ve been eating vegan tacos from one of our local taco places: the Freakin’ Vegan: corn tortillas, black beans, pico de gallo and avocados. The Papadulce: sweet potato, roasted corn, pepitas (roasted pumpkin seeds), etc. They’re all delicious!

    However, I haven’t seen anything on your site about:

    – Tortillas, especially corn tortillas and
    – Cooking oils from a weight gain vs. weight loss perspective (although you’ve covered their shelf-life).

    Could you tell me how healthy corn tortillas are, and what is the best cooking oil if I’m trying to lose weight, avoid cancer, etc.?

    Finally, is it just bad all around to use a lot of oil when cooking? That’s the way I cook refried beans; put a bunch of onions and garlic in to hot oil and have them swim around in there until they’re translucent, then put the beans in there.

    Thanks!

    Fernando




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      1. This is quite difficult in the USofA. Big Ag will not let Big Gov make them label foods that contain GMO products. We have to grow our own or simply trust the small grower or company that “claims” non-GMO. One MUST assume anything with wheat or corn in it in this country is GMO. Very sad situation, but shows us who the boss is.

        I eat a LOT of corn tortillas myself. Get them straight from the Mexicans who live here, from their open markets. They taste wonderful, hope they aren’t entirely toxic.




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  7. I’m very skeptical of these association studies. Correlation is not causation, but in medical science, the two are often irresponsibly equated. Moreover, as one commentator noted previously, a similar study found (with one exception) entirely different food associations with renal cell carcinoma, viz. Int. J. Cancer: 120, 681–685 (2006) (c) 2006 Wiley-Liss,Inc.: FOOD GROUPS AND RENAL CELL CARINOMA: A CASE-CONTROL STUDY FROM ITALY. In this study,

    “A significant direct trend in risk was found for bread (OR 5 1.94 for the highest versus the lowest intake quintile), and a modest excess of risk was observed for pasta and rice (OR 5 1.29), and milk and yoghurt (OR 5 1.27). Poultry (OR 5 0.74), processed meat (OR 5 0.64) and vegetables (OR 5 0.65) were inversely associated with RCC risk. No relation was found for coffee and tea, soups, eggs, red meat, fish, cheese, pulses, potatoes, fruits, desserts and sugars.”

    I’m especially skeptical of the association with potatoes that the study cited by Dr. Greger claimed to have found. Potatoes (baked or boiled) have generally been considered a healthy carbohydrate. In fact, there’s enough vitamin C in a potato to cure scurvy. The idea that the consumption of (non-fried) potatoes are a cause of renal cell carcinoma strikes me as counter intuitive!




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    1. Likewise with me, especially since potatoes have formed the staple food of whole populations of people who appear to have thrived on them. I’d want more evidence and there’s already contradictions in the studies we have to hand.




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  8. Potassium a little raise – had kidney cancer – one kidney- information from doctor – eat white bread ,no sweet potatoes and a host of
    Other foods that are high in potassium .

    Your site seems to disagree. confused.




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  9. Would it be accurate to say that all bread induces large sugar spikes in the blood which in turn damage our arteries. Wheat had the highest correlation with heart disease amongst the China Study data




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    1. Mark: “Would it be accurate to say…” I can’t speak to the heart disease part. (And I don’t remember wheat having a correlation to hearst disease in the China Study–do you have a page number for my curiosity?) But I can speak to your question about bread and sugar spikes. According to a table in Dr. Barnard’s book on diabetes, two kinds of bread result in significantly less blood sugar spikes: rye and pumpernickel. It may depend on the other grains and the grain ratios in the bread on what the sugar spike ends up being, but the general public may be concerned with blood sugar spikes can certainly enjoy some bread of some types.




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  10. Cooking is the culprit; acrylamide, acrolein, AGEs, PAHs, HCAs, that kind of cooking-born carcinogens.

    Raw we’ve got the defense for them, alkaloids and other so-called phytotoxins, they actually make us stronger, it’s called hormesis.




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  11. Stupid edit timer. Anyway I was adding…

    Take oven-dried + steam-rehydrated plums, also called prunes; these are the second highest source of acrylamide; an example of man transforming a healthy fruit into a clear-cut carcinogen.

    Stop messing with nature, those dangerous, habitat slaying ultra-high heat chemical transformations are outside our cognitive grasp, don’t risk it, stop burning everything.

    You get used to not being addicted to your food, I eat raw potatoes and sprouted legumes all the time, they don’t affect my mood, lower my energy… edit-timer running out




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