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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, May 4, 2006

Ultragrain, the other white bread: Market hasn't caught up

By Amy Tousman

Q. I just tried bread that looks and tastes like white bread, but claims to be whole wheat. Is it?

A. You are referring to bread made from a new kind of flour called ultragrain.

Whole-wheat breads are usually made from "red wheat" flour. The new white-wheat breads use a special variety called "hard white wheat" that produces flour with a lighter color and milder taste that appeals to white-bread lovers.

Ultragrain flour has the same amount of fiber and nutrients as traditional whole-wheat flour.

In theory, this sounds like a good idea, a way to make white-bread lovers think they are eating whole grain.

But there's a major drawback: None of the "white whole-wheat" products currently on the market are made with 100 percent ultragrain flour. Most contain only 30 percent to 50 percent. The rest of the flour is the same refined wheat flour used in regular white bread.

In evaluating the nutritional value of these products, you need to use the same standards as with whole-grain breads. The terms "multigrain," "9 grain" or "wheat" bread do not guarantee that a food is a good source of whole grains.

If whole grain is what you're looking for, the first ingredient on the label must say "whole wheat flour." If the first ingredient on a product's label is "wheat flour" or "enriched wheat flour," you're not getting whole grains. These flours are actually highly refined "white flour."

If a label also lists high fructose corn syrup, it has sugar added (also not a whole grain).

Always check the portion sizes listed on the food label under "Nutrition Facts." While many products list the nutrition information for 1 slice of bread on the labels, some list 2 slices as a serving. For example, Country Hearth Healthy White Bread lists an impressive-sounding 4 grams of fiber, but that's only if you eat 2 slices. True whole-grain breads would give you 3 or 4 grams of fiber in just 1 slice.

While the new white whole-wheat breads are an improvement over traditional white bread, they are not as healthy as whole-grain products. Products that are 100 percent ultragrain will eventually be on the market. Those will be considered whole grains and will offer consumers a healthy alternative to traditional brown whole-wheat bread. Until then, whole grain breads should be your first choice.

Amy Tousman is a registered dietitian with the Health Education Center of Straub Clinic and Hospital. Hawai'i experts in traditional medicine, naturopathic medicine and diet take turns writing the Prescriptions column. Send your questions to: Prescriptions, Island Life, The Advertiser, P.O. Box 3110, Honolulu, HI 96802; fax 535-8170; e-mail islandlife@honoluluadvertiser .com. This column is not intended to provide medical advice.