Does toasting your bread make it healthier?

If you’re unwell or have digestive problems, toasting bread is a wise choice.

Toasting bread doesn’t kill nutrients or lower its nutritional value. Vitamins and minerals are still within the bread. And clinical dietitian Melanie Jones confirms that toasting bread does not change its calorie content.

The difference is in digestibility.

Nutritional site mindbodygreen.com says toasting breaks down the complex carbohydrate starch as the bread’s water level decreases, making it easier to digest. It takes longer for our bodies to break down complex carbs. The same breakdown process leaves toasted bread with a slightly lower glycemic index (GI), says Dr Jess Cording.

Lifestyle experts pmcaonline.org say this makes toast a better choice for diabetics, as it may not raise their blood sugar levels as much. But it’s marginal and the choice of bread is more important than whether it is crisp and browner.

“I most often find myself recommending sprouted-grain bread,” says Dr Cording. “The sprouting process breaks down the grains’ starches, making them easier to digest because they are, essentially, predigested when you eat them.”

Medical site medicalnewstoday.com says toast is useful for people with digestive issues and can help reduce heartburn. It agrees that the choice of bread is important.

“Wholewheat bread is more healthful than white bread but is high in fibre and can be difficult for some people to eat.

“If a person has trouble digesting wholewheat toast, the first step is to try it plain without butter. For additional flavour, choose fruit jellies over creamy spreads, such as nut butter.

“Thin slices of plain, white toast without spreads may be the best option for some people.

“Those with an intolerance to wheat or gluten can choose a wheat-free or gluten-free bread option.”

If you don’t have digestive issues, tipdsandtricks.co advises that foods that are easier to digest are filling for a shorter time.

“Most people’s stomachs and intestines function a lot better if they have to work a little harder, because this causes better digestion and bowel movements … If you decide to toast a slice of bread, it’s best to go for wholegrain bread. Your intestines will be put to work and you’ll feel full for longer.”

The bottom line is that there is not enough difference in the nutritional value between toast and fresh bread to warrant choosing one over the other.

Just make sure you don’t burn your toast.

Dr Cording explains: “When foods are heated to high temperatures, a potentially carcinogenic compound called acrylamide forms from the starches and amino acids (arginine) present in food.”

If your bread is at all charred “there’s more of a chance that some acrylamide was formed”, she says. So, make sure your bread is toasted until golden brown at most, rather than dark brown or even black. 

If you’re worried about your weight, it’s the topping applied, such as butter or jams, that matters.

How many calories for toppings on one slice of toast?

  • plain toast: 85 calories
  • five grams of butter: 116. But 5g is around what a tiny hotel package of butter holds; you most likely use way more at home
  • jam: 125
  • hummus: 131
  • honey: 136
  • cream cheese: 145
  • avocado: 145
  • Nutella: 164
  • cheese: 184
  • peanut butter: 205
  • fried egg: 281

Best uses of toast

Against diarrhoea and upset stomachs
Toast adds bulk to your stool, making it more likely you will have a normal bowel movement. It is the ‘T’ in the anti-diarrhoea diet BRAT, which comprises bananas, rice, apple sauce and toast. These plain foods supply energy and nutrition without upsetting the stomach because they are easier to break down.

Against nausea
Milk toast helps stop vomiting. “Using one cup of milk, one piece of toast, and butter, you can create an acid absorbing and stomach coating treatment,” says lorecentral.org. Just don’t go for this tactic if you have stomach flu, which reacts badly with dairy products.

Morning energy
Toasted bread contains starch, a proven energy source. Hence our urge to consume it for breakfast when we’re looking for a kickstart. 

What happens when you toast bread?

Toasting a slice of fresh bread initiates a series of biochemical reactions. When bread is subjected to the heat of a toaster, the moisture inside evaporates, and the surface acquires a delightful golden hue due to a chemical process known as the Maillard Reaction. This reduction in moisture and the application of heat fundamentally alter the bread’s texture, making it crunchy instead of fluffy. The reduced water content also makes toast a little lighter than bread.

How much toast do you eat in a normal week? Do you find toast easier on the tummy than bread? Share your thoughts below.

Also read: How to make sure sandwiches are not boring

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