Experts say there are good reasons to indulge in a sandwich once in a while, writes Shanthini Naidoo
Those who love the comfort of bread but are wary of its effect on the waistline and health will find comfort in this.
A review of South African bread has revealed that it can add to the nutritional content of your diet — if you stick to good portions and a variety of accompaniments.
Renowned dietician and nutritionist Jane Badham, who conducted the review, said the reduced salt content in store-bought bread that was recently legislated to improve the health of all South Africans had helped.
But compared to other starches, there were other good reasons to indulge in a sandwich once in a while.
"The nutritional composition of bread compared to rice, pasta and maize meal per 100g shows that from among the starchy-foods group, bread is the best source of carbohydrate, protein and fibre," said Badham. The review was commissioned by Anchor Yeast.
"Although it also contains the highest level of fat per 100g (not per serving) in this group, this is a negligible amount in a healthy, balanced diet. Bread also meets two of the 11 South African food-based dietary guidelines — 'make starchy foods part of most meals' and 'enjoy a variety of foods'," she said.
Badham said the key was to vary the diet, and not to overindulge.
"A varied diet is also more likely to be an enjoyable eating plan. Sadly, many South Africans have a monotonous diet and so are prone to deficiencies. Bread has a positive role to play in terms of dietary diversity."
Fortified products — which include vitamins and minerals - added to healthy, tasty toppings, mean bread could be incorporated into meals every day without guilt, said Badham. She said there was no evidence linking bread with weight status.
"There have been extensive studies on bread and weight loss. A review which looked at 38 studies over 30 years, and the relation between consumption, body weight and abdominal fat distribution, showed that food patterns that included bread were not related to weight.
"Whole-grain bread is more beneficial, which could be because of fibre content. Always, the less refined products are, the better."
Badham said commercially produced bread was not as evil as it had been made out to be.
"There is no evidence to show any of the ingredients in store-bought bread are negative. The more unrefined the bread, the closer to dietary guidelines, so something with flax and seeds in it added to a healthy diet of including plenty of fruit and vegetables, is fine."
Before the Banting crowd scream murder, Badham said the message was for the general public and did not override individual guidelines that might have been recommended by a professional, like a doctor or dietician.