The Real Deal with Toasted Bread: Benefits and Dangers
Toasting the bread is not rocket science. But toasting the bread can do something to the bread beyond making it hot and crusty. It has its benefits and dangers to the health that one must be aware of, although bread tastes great toasted or untoasted.
Benefits of Toasted Bread
It can alter the glycemic content of the bread and thereby lower sugar levels.
Bread undeniably has a bad rep for being a delicious carb. It's touted as food diabetics cannot eat because it contains a lot of sugar. But toasting can change everything.
According to a new report, on a biochemical level, a range of chemical reactions take place when fresh bread loses its moisture and turns brown while being toasted. This is known as the Maillard reaction.
The Maillard reaction explains why the bread turns darker, and its taste turns more intricate when toasted. It also explains why it smells better (for some!), and the texture differs.
However, toasting bread can do so much more.
Jess Cording, M.S., R.D., CDN, INHC, claims that toasted bread technically has a slightly lower glycemic index (GI) because those aforementioned chemical reactions have already broken down the carbs.
Another benefit to toasting is that while it can alter its taste, it retains the vitamins and nutrients of bread.
"The biggest myth my patients believe is that toasting bread kills nutrients, but toasting bread doesn't kill nutrients or lower its nutritional value. Vitamins and minerals are still within the bread," explains Niket Sonpal, M.D., associate program director of Internal Medicine Residency at Brookdale University Hospital and Medical Center.
It also becomes easier to digest.
Cording explains that when you toast bread, a chemical reaction causes the starches to change, and the water level of the bread to lower because of the heat. Overall, this makes the bread easier to digest.
Dangers of Toasted Bread
Toasted bread, however, can be dangerous if it is somehow burnt.
When toasted bread is already bitter, it is best not to eat it.
"There are many health issues related to burnt bread," Sonpal said.
Cording concurred. She said, when foods are heated to high temperatures, a potentially carcinogenic compound called acrylamide can form from starches and amino acids (arginine). Carcinogenic means cancerous.
Having a slice or two or burnt toast is no cause to fret, though. A doctor once said that "if we were dealing with something like salmonella, a single exposure can make you very ill. With chemicals in food, it's a lifetime exposure."
This just means that having the occasional burnt toast cannot do much, but to prefer it that way for a lifetime is asking for trouble.
Eating too much bread, though - regardless if toasted or untoasted, is linked to some grave concerns. Bread is found to cause bloating, more hunger pangs, and higher sugar levels. Toasting cannot do much about that, even if it can lower the glycemic index a bit.