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Why Bread Makes You Fat and High Fat Foods Can Help You Lose Weight

For a long time, we've been told to eat a diet low in fat and high in carbohydrate rich grains to be healthy. The food pyramid, found on school classroom walls and doctors offices, has breads, grains and other starches and its base. The message is eat more wheat, corn and other grains and we've been listening.

Wheat production alone has tripled in the last 50 years to try and keep up with our insatiable demand for 'healthy' grains. But is it working?

Just look around you any time you're out walking on the street if you really wondered the answer to that question. During that same 50 year time period clinical obesity levels in American adults have risen from just under 10% in 1960 to over 35% in 2010. Children's obesity rates are going up even faster. It's estimated that by 2030, over half the US population will be obese.

To be defined as clinically obese isn't just overweight, it's life threatening. We are getting fat real fast. But how can this be when saturated animal fat consumption has actually fallen significantly over the same time period? Surely eating less saturated fat should have made things better, shouldn't it? Actually, it's made things much worse.

How Protein, Fat and Carbohydrates Affect Your Body

One of the hardest things for some people to get their head around is that it's usually not eating fat that makes us fat. Yes fatty acids contain more calories than carbohydrates or protein. But the way our bodies process and use protein, carbohydrates and fats are very different.

Good protein sources like free range eggs, seeds and nuts, wild salmon or grass fed meat help to build and maintain your body and its muscles, organs and blood. Eating protein also provides a good level of satiety (that satisfied feeling of fullness you should get after eating a meal) and you would find it very difficult to get fat on a diet of natural protein foods combined with a variety of vegetables.

Healthy fats like those found in coconut, avocado, butter from grass fed cows, nuts and seeds and free range meats provide an even higher level of satiety than protein. These types of high-fat foods really fill you up and tell your body to stop eating. They level out your blood sugar and tend to stop our hunger dead in its tracks for many hours.

Certain fatty acids, like the saturated capric acid found in coconuts or the monounsaturated oleic fatty acid predominant in avocados, have also been shown to help reduce body fat and significantly aid in weight loss.
Weight gain really is a much more complex subject than simply calories in calories out. The evidence has been staring mainstream food regulators in the face for many decades. But they are either very slow, or have a very big grain industry to protect.
This brings us to carbohydrates and grains. Bread, pasta and cereals are dealt with by your body much differently than protein or fat.

First of all, they're digested much quicker. Even the so-called complex carbohydrates are rapidly converted into glucose and hit your bloodstream very fast. Whole wheat bread for instance completes its digestion only marginally slower than white bread. And as for those bleached burger buns or bright white slices of bread, they might as well be made of table sugar for all your body knows. The effect they have and the lack of nutrition they provide really isn't very different.

Check here how to lose weight using coconut oil

Carbohydrates are sold to us as a quick source of energy. Sounds good but this is precisely the reason why they make us fat. Here's why.

How Bread Makes You Fat?

Insulin is a powerful hormone that is responsible for storing fat. When a farmer wants to fatten up his cattle or a sumo wrestler wants to put on weight quickly, they don't eat fats. That would fill them up and not have the desired effect. Instead they eat grain - wheat for the cattle, rice for the sumo wrestler.

They do this for the grains ability to spike insulin. It's insulin that is needed to swell the body’s adipose fat cells and deposit even more fat. Without a spike in insulin you'd actually have a very hard time gaining weight.

Eating a diet high in carbohydrates will prevent stored body fat being used as fuel. There is never a chance for your body to switch to using it as an energy source. Even if you were to cut out fat completely (which is extremely unhealthy as fatty acids are involved in many vital bodily processes), you would still be unlikely to lose weight as long as you continue to eat grains. In fact, you'd probably get fatter even faster.

Your body isn't actually very good at dealing with large amounts of carbohydrates. Any meal high in carbs converts quickly to significant amounts of glucose and is actually seen as a threat. Your blood sugar levels must be maintained in a fairly narrow range. As soon as they get too high your body releases insulin to deal with the danger.

A small amount of glucose can be stored in the liver and muscles as glycogen (and this would be helpful if you intend to run a marathon the next day). But the rest is shuttled away into the adipose tissue designed to store fat, at first around the waist and hips and once that starts to get full, pretty much anywhere it can.

This is a protective mechanism we've developed over many thousands of years and would have been useful in the past when food was scarce. But that's no longer the case and now it's our relentless consumption of fattening grains that is making so many of us obese and leading to a huge rise in diseases like diabetes and cardiovascular disease that are killing us.

Low-Fat Versus Low-Carb

Low-fat diets haven't worked. They make us hungrier and much fatter as a result. We need healthy fats. They are a vital part of both good health and weight loss.

There's one important exception, sometimes still marketed as good for you or 'heart healthy' but definitely not so. The processed vegetable oils like corn, soy, cottonseed, sunflower and canola oil that are added to a high percentage of processed supermarket foods and hydrogenated into toxic margarine.

These heated and altered polyunsaturated fats are highly inflammatory and linked to heart disease and many other health problems. Avoid them at all costs.
Avocado oil or coconut oil are far healthier cooking choices in your kitchen. Olive oil is a source of good fats too as long as you don't heat it as it breaks down easily.

Ideally, carbohydrates in your diet should come from vegetables like pumpkin, sweet potatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, peas, carrots, peppers, leafy greens and many others and lesser amounts of fruit. These contain the fiber to slow down carbohydrate digestion as well as high levels of nutrients and enzymes for better health.

There's a growing movement of people who have given up grains completely and many have been amazed at the changes in their health and energy. If you really need to lose some weight, cutting out grains for a while will be likely to have a far greater effect on your body weight than the old counting calories. Starving yourself just doesn't work. You actually teach your body to get better at storing fat as food is suddenly restricted.

Once you reach your ideal body weight, you may be able to tolerate some grain foods without provoking too much of a spike in insulin. Even then, nutritional experts who've actually looked deeply into the effect foods like wheat and corn have on our physiology (rather than just chanting the old 'carbohydrates for quick energy' mantra) generally believe grain based food should not be more than 20% of your daily intake.

They also consistently say healthy fats have an important place in your meals if you want to lose weight and be fit and healthy.

In the meantime, check what other benefits bread has!

Conclusion

Have you been trying to lose weight with the old cutting calories, low fat, more grains prescription? Has it been working? Why not try a different way?

While it may be hard to believe, you probably need more, not less, of the right kind of fats. Couple that with a reduction in insulin spiking grains and you'll be well on your way to weight loss, better heath and more energy.

Here's an interesting infographic from finedininglovers.com

Jim Dillan
 

Jim Dillan is health and wellness researcher, writing about natural nutrition, improving your physical and mental well-being and moving to a healthier lifestyle. His website Superfood Profiles has detailed articles on superfood health benefits, hair and skin treatments and healthy recipes.

  • Mark

    Awesome post Jim. On the topic of reducing grains percentage in your diet, are there “smarter” ways to do this? For example, lets say someone is eating 4 slices of bread per day. Would replacing that with two warps, such as these (http://www.mountainbread.com.au/cgi-bin/index.pl?menu_id=49) work towards reducing the overall % of grains in your diet. I mean, are we looking are the carb numbers within the grains, calorie numbers or how does one measure this?

    • Hi Mark and thanks for your comments.

      Wraps like those look like they would be a bit better than slices of bleached white bread. A healthier option would be rye bread or oat bread. Both have been shown to have a less pronounced effect on your blood sugar than wheat or corn. Traditional and sourdough breads are also better.

      In terms of weight loss I’d maintain that removing grains from the diet until you’re at your ideal weight is much more effective than counting calories. Once you’ve got there if you want to have breads the lower their glycemic index the better. This link has a list of different types of breads and their approximate glycemic index – http://www.carbs-information.com/gi-value-bread.htm The values are probably even lower for more traditional and wholegrain versions, but as an example white bread is listed as having a GI of 70 whereas oatbran bread has a GI of 48.

      Hope this helps.

  • Nina

    So, not eating any bread will help me lose weight? I have 5-10 pounds left to lose and my progress was really slow (1 lb. per month or less) until a few months ago when I changed my diet again by cutting out most processed foods and taking a break from bread seemed to help me even more. Well, I didn’t eat bread for a month (I only eat 100% whole wheat or other breads that are said to be healthy), and I noticed that I have more of a slimmer appearance and my weight is going down at a steady, healthy pace. I’ve also started losing weight again because I stopped drinking alcohol and fruit juice–(I don’t drink soda).

    I admit that I started to miss bread and I had one slice yesterday and today with one teaspoon of peanut butter and one teaspoon of strawberry jam. I usually don’t consume jams, jellies, sauces, dressings, etc. but when it comes to peanut butter and jelly on a piece of bread..It’s hard for me to resist..But of course I keep everything in moderation.

    I like to eat oatmeal (not oatmeal in packets), 100% whole wheat bread, brown rice and sometimes bran (As my grains sources). I might start having one slice per day..But if you tell me that you believe that I really will get to my current goal weight faster by not eating bread, then I will gladly go back to my break from it. I’m a little confused about this topic because some health sites say to eat whole grains and breads to lose weight, and others say the opposite. If you know of any alternatives that I may have then I’d be glad to know..Cutting out bread has kept me from being “regular” and eating bran doesn’t seem to make too much of a difference for me.

    I currently weigh 128 lbs. and my current goal is 125 lbs. But I might try to get to 120 lbs.. According to a certain health site, I’m supposed to reach my goal by September 10. Thanks for reading.

    • Hi Nina and thanks for your comments and questions.

      I really believe quitting wheat based bread, including whole wheat bread, will speed up healthy weight loss. All the tampering that has gone on with this grain has made it have a very strong effect on your blood sugar levels. Compounds in it are also believed to stimulate hunger, the last thing you want when you are trying to lose weight. There’s more on this here – https://healthambition.com/white-bread-vs-brown-bread/

      It’s much better for your fiber to come from a variety of vegetables and fruit than grains, which really tend to make accessing stored body fat difficult. For much more on this I’d recommend this page – https://healthambition.com/cutting-carbs-lose-weight/ and especially the Healthier Life email series which has detailed plan for how to make the specific changes – https://healthambition.com/hacking-your-kitchen.html

      Hope this helps.

  • Carol

    At the moment i weigh 90.8kgs am 29yrs old and am 6.3 tall the doctor said that my BMI is at 38. I have tried losing weight bt its been impossible. Have been taking vegetable,eggs n yogurt also alot of fruits bt i end up feeling so hungry n the craving to eat something sweet or something more satisfying my battle in losing weight is becoming tough. How do i go about it. How can i stop the hunger.

    • Hi Carol,

      In all my research and years of reading people’s comments on weight loss forums and sites, the most effective way I’ve come across is basing meals around high quality protein sources, lots of vegetables and definitely using healthy fats like coconut oil, olive oil and avocado oil. It’s the high carbohydrate foods and in particular those made from wheat that have been shown to stimulate hunger and cravings. The last 50 years have seen specialized breeding programs of the wheat grain specifically for this purpose and it has been largely changed from the food our grandparents used to eat. I’ve virtually cut wheat out of my diet, eat as much as I want and my weight has been a stable 73 – 75 kg for many years. This page describes the process – https://healthambition.com/cutting-carbs-lose-weight/ and for a detailed plan on making the change the Hacking Your Kitchen for a Healthier Life email series takes in step by step over the next 10 weeks – https://healthambition.com/hack-your-kitchen

      Hope this helps.

    • Christine

      If you are serious about losing weight, you should consider going on a raw vegan diet, if even for a short time so that you can stop your food addiction, which is what probably caused your weight gain to begin with. You can eat on volume on a raw vegan diet and lose weight without counting calories or worrying when meal time will come around. At some point, your body will start to recalibrate and you will naturally stop having cravings and eat less if you wanted to. You will not be a slave to food. You can eat whenever you want to until you are full! If you have a craving on a raw food diet, go ahead and eat 5 ripe bananas. There’s no guilt involved because your body will process 5 bananas differently than that 100 calorie snack pack filled with processed carbs. I know this because even though I wasn’t 100% raw, I ate 7 medium sized potatoes along with fruits and vegetables one day and the next day I still managed to lose half a lb. That’s 1/2lb a day on a high raw vegan diet. You do not have have to be 100% raw forever, unless you wanted to, but after you lose the weight, you will end up incorporating a lot of the healthy food choices back into your normal eating. One caveat about a raw vegan diet, just don’t abuse fats — the people who lose weight are high carb-low fat (lots of fruit, lots of green vegetables, moderate fat consumption) .. that means they don’t go overboard with the nuts and avocados. Please also research the supplements you need before embarking on a raw vegan diet if this is something that interests you. You need to supplement Vitamin K2, Vitamin D3, and Vitamin B12 — those are the most important but there are other things you might need.

      • Hi Christine and thanks for your comments. Raw vegan diets can work for some people though I think the healthy fats become extra important eating this way. Avocado in particular has actually been shown to be a great weight loss food for all the reasons in this article – http://superfoodprofiles.com/is-avocado-fattening

        My research has consistently shown that grain based foods are the biggest culprit when it comes to weight gain and unfortunately being vegan doesn’t automatically preclude being overweight. While vegans often eat healthier some people find they eat a lot of grain foods on this kind of diet and have trouble losing weight because of this.

        • tet4tet

          Every diet can work for people. The issue is maintaining a life on those diets. Most people can lose on doing any kind of diet…even a banana diet I would reckon. Can one keep it up for very long, though? Americans have to look at eating food a whole new way. Americans have to stop insane food production from the likes of chemical companies, such as Monsanto, Cargill, and ADM. Food in our country is total crap…a chemical cocktail. People used to eat bread and not get fat. Why? Well, they did not have a sedentary lifestyle. They didn’t eat processed foods from chemical companies. They didn’t have GMO products. The first thing I did was to stop eating processed foods, and tried to do organic as much as possible. It’s more expensive product for product…but you do end up buying less of the other crap you used to buy. Immediately, I started dropping weight. Fruits, lean meats, beans, etc. No junk. No processed junk. (no white potatoes, no bread, no sugar either). I found I had to limit bananas…because they spiked my blood sugar and if I ate a few they’d make me gain weight(your mileage may vary here..but many people find the same thing).

      • Nick

        While I agree that this diet could work for her and reduce her cravings, I do not believe that the specifics of what you have suggested are good ideas.

        For example: 5 raw bananas have approximately 400 calories, 100 grams of simple carbs, and 60 grams of sugar. 100 grams of simple carbs (high GI) will cause a large blood sugar increase and subsequently a large amount will be stored as fat.

        With the potatoes, fruits and vegetables it sounds like you are getting too many simple carbs/sugars. The benefit is that there is plenty of fiber in those foods so you will be full. Please note that if you are eating high carb but low calorie you will likely lose weight but at the expense of gaining body fat.

        Just so you know, the scientifically accepted rate of weight gain/loss is eating 500 calories per day above/under your current diet. This will lead to 1 pound gain/loss over a week. You physically can’t lose that kind of weight in one day unless it was water.

        Carol, I have a few suggestions for you. As the article says, cut wheat out of your diet. Aim to consume more protein and fiber as this will fill you up. Complex carbs are also important. Let me know if you have any questions!

    • ahmad

      Just chill

  • Tony Phylactou

    Excellent article.Thanks for the information Jim

    • Hi Tony and thanks for your positive comments. I think the way white bread affects blood sugar is such and important topic with obesity levels rising so dramatically.

  • Steve Downing

    It’s great to read an article which advocates the high fat, high protein, low carb diet. Why does it seem so difficult for people to believe that fat is not the enemy that it is portrayed to be? We have had many hundreds of thousands of years eating meat, of which most would have been red, with our available carbs being in the form of seasonal fruits, nuts and whatever we could forage for. Indeed obesity isn’t the only modern disease that is rising dramatically. Cancer was once never heard of and most of us knows somebody who has died from that. Diabetes is again a modern disease which is on the rise. We don’t have to look too far back to see a healthier population. Lets ditch the carbs, grab ourselves a steak and gorge ourselves on what mother nature has been providing for us millions of years.

    • Cole

      So are you saying that bread or even carbs in general caused cancer and obesity? That’s a little ignorant. Sure I do agree that eating a diet with plenty of protein and healthy fats is important but adding grains doesn’t automatically cause you to gain weight. It’s as simple as calories consumed vs calories burned. If it fits within a reasonable macronutrient range in your diet, and you’re eating within your caloric needs it would be impossible to gain fat. People who are obese are mostly people who are either addicted to food and overeat or people who lack self control and overeat.

  • Fred Howard

    Jim, this is such a great article!
    Seven years ago after being scolded by my doctor I slowly changed my eating habits. I cut out all dairy products, red meat, egg yolk, fast food, candy-chips, “almost everything processed by man”. My diet consists of fish, chicken, fruits, vegetables, and mixed nut’s. A typical lunch would be a lean turkey breast on whole grain wheat. But I’ve struggled the last few years ‘knowing’ that two pieces of bread every day has kept me 10-15lbs (gut) overweight from where I think I need to be. Just recently I changed my diet once again ….no more bread or processed wheat products! This will be the first winter ever that I have not gained more weight but lost all the extra!

    • Hi Fred and thanks for your comments. Your diet sounds quite healthy but as you’ve found bread, even whole wheat bread can be uniquely fattening. This companion page has how the wheat grain itself has been changed over recent decades and just how this affects weight gain – https://healthambition.com/white-bread-vs-brown-bread/

      All the best.

  • HI,

    I agree. I recommend completely cutting it out , for a diet. because it can be addictive. I lost 20lbs into 2 weeks after making a diet for my body that included not eating grains.

  • Debby

    I agree with eliminating bread, after being advised to cut it out some years ago I lost a considerable amount of weight and managed to maintain that weight loss for some years, however, after gradually turning to frequent “bread fixes” my weight has returned to my previous “high” . Over the last two weeks I have eliminated all bread and pasta and have lost 6 pounds.m It works for me so I will certainly resume my good habit.

    • Hi Debby and thanks for your comments.

      I think it’s very difficult to lose weight without cutting simple carbohydrates that raise insulin and convert so easily to stored triglycerides. I’ve written more about this in another article here – https://healthambition.com/cutting-carbs-lose-weight/

      All the best.

  • Emma

    Hi I have lost 2 stone over 9 months mainly due to cutting out bread from my diet and eating lots of veg and eggs. The most significant point that relates to this article is that for most of my life I have suffered from hypoglycaemia. Since stopping eating bread this has completely stopped. It has returned more recently and at the moment my assumption is that as I am at my target weight and I now don’t have enough reserves when excersizing. I would strongly recommend if you want to loose weight cut out bread – but be patient, as I lost 1-2lbs a month, but I know it will never go back on!

    • Hi Emma and thanks for your comments. This is great advice. Both cutting the bread and increasing your vegetable and healthy protein intake. It’s not about starving yourself, just replacing fattening foods like bread with healthier options.

      All the best.

  • Aimee

    Hi, this is probably a stupid question, but does this include cutting out pasta and rice also? And should I cut out white potatoes? A friend told me potatoes were ok to eat instead of bread?

    Thanks

  • Helen

    Where would a diabetic stand in regards to cutting out carb? I’ve lost over a stone, very gradually since July, and it’s helped my sugar control. I’d like to lose another stone to get in line with the doctor’s recommendations, but the idea of messing up my sugar levels in the process is less than appealing.
    I’m type one diabetic, and was diagnosed when I was 11; about 15 years ago. Any advice on this?

  • Nicola Bishop

    I decided on a whim to cut out bread last Sunday and have lost 3lb. I have been fighting a loosing weight battle for 13 years.

  • Hank Fregia

    I’ve been overweight all my life and tried so many things. Different things work for different people and I was lucky enough to find one that worked for me. I lost 22 pounds in one month without any exercise and it has been a life changer. I’m a little embarrased to post my before and after photos here but if anyone actually cares to hear what I’ve been doing then I’d be happy to help in any way. Just shoot me an email at [email protected] and I’ll show you my before and after photos, and tell you about how things are going for me with the stuff I’ve tried. I wish someone would have helped me out when I was struggling to find a solution so if I can help you then it would make my day

  • Jeff Trigger

    Not that anyone is still checking up on this article, but a few weeks ago, I discovered that I have Shingles. 1 round of Valtrex didn’t stop the blisters from forming. My doctor decided to do a full medical checkup. Point blank, I was told that my health sucks. Super high blood pressure, 28 pounds overweight, and an overly high white blood cell count. His opinion is that my lack of good nutrition and poor exercise habits led to the Shingles. He put me on a diet that cut out bread, pasta, beer (which sucks because I’m a homebrewer), potatoes, soda, and sweets. Basically, I was told to chow down on vegetables and fruits, with lean meats. The first couple of days on that diet sucked. I had sugar cravings, and I was irritable, beyond all belief. By the 4th day, I felt a lot better, my sugar wasn’t spiking, and by adding some light workouts, I’ve already dropped 7 pounds in about 10 days. My energy level seems more constant, not spiking after a meal, only to fall dead about an hour later. It takes more food to feel full, but I feel full longer. I have to say, dropping grain and simple sugar has made a significant change. I still have some weight to lose, and hopefully some BP to drop, but yeah, this article seems to be exactly what happened to me.

  • Rick

    Added sugar in our foods have also increased a ton in the last century. I think it has more to do with that than carbs. I hate when people say carbs is the problem. There are plenty of carbs in a ton of food that don’t have the added sugar and those don’t do the same thing to your body as carbs that have added sugar. Sugar is a carb but carbs not equal to sugar. Added sugar is known to be the problem not just “carbs”.