White bread has a fluffy texture you may prefer over dense whole grain bread, but white bread lacks many nutrients that unrefined bread provides. Eating refined grains, such as white bread, offers fewer nutrients than whole grain options. Over time, this may lead to nutrient deficiencies. ChooseMyPlate.gov recommends eating 6 ounces of total grains per day for a 2,000 calorie diet, at least 3 of these ounces should be whole grains.
When wheat is processed to form white flour, or refined flour, the germ and bran of the grain are lost. Unfortunately, this removes most of the dietary fiber from white flour. A slice of white bread gives you less than 1 gram of fiber while a slice of whole grain bread gives you about 2 grams. Your body needs dietary fiber to help regulate digestion and it can prevent both constipation and diarrhea. Fiber also plays a role in helping to manage your blood sugar, cholesterol and weight, according to MayoClinic.com.
In addition to fiber, many minerals are lost during the processing of white bread. Iron, which helps transport oxygen in your body and prevents anemia, is one essential mineral that is reduced during processing. However, some manufacturers do add iron to bread to account for the losses in a process called enrichment. Eating white bread instead of whole grain bread also means you'll get less of the essential minerals magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, copper and manganese. Over time, this lack of minerals may lead to nutrient deficiencies and health complications.
Fewer B Vitamins
During the refining of white flour to make white bread, many B vitamins are lost. The B complex vitamins play a role in growth, energy metabolism, protein and red blood cell production and helping to maintain healthy skin, digestive tract, immune system and nervous system. If you lack B vitamins, you may develop anemia, feel tired, lose your appetite, become depressed, get muscle cramps and feel numbness or tingling in your arms or legs, according to the American Cancer Society. White bread may or may not be enriched with certain B vitamins, but eating whole grain bread ensures you get these essential nutrients.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, whole grain bread contains more of two phytochemicals, or plant chemicals, called lutein and zeaxanthin, than white bread. These compounds are types of carotenoids that function as antioxidants in your body. According to the American Optometric Association, lutein and zeaxanthin help to protect your eyes from harmful wavelengths of blue light. These antioxidants also help to prevent damage to your retina caused by free radicals, which may reduce your risk of developing cataracts and macular degeneration.