Best thing since sliced bread

In a little light relief from news of Labour donation scandals and blasphemous teddy bears, Tory Baroness Gardner of Parks gave an interview to Radio 5 Live this morning about sliced bread.

It’s too thick, she thinks. “In central London you can hardly buy a thin or medium-sliced loaf of bread and any sandwich that you buy in any supermarket is now made with thick bread.” And such expanding slices of bread are leading to expanding waistlines, she believes.

She felt so strongly on the issue she asked the question in the Lords:

[Should] there be more pressure from the Food Standards Agency, or one of the many departments the Minister speaks about, to take us back to normal-sized bread instead of these super-sized sandwiches[?]

Much to her credit, Labour’s Baroness Royall said that doing anything of the kind would leave the government open to charges of nanny statism.

More importantly, it’s hard to blame obesity on bread. It’s low in fat and sugar, and even thick bread only clocks in at around 100 calories a slice. If Baroness Gardner’s waist is suffering from supermarket sandwiches, it’s more likely to be the butter, mayo and bacon that are piling on the pounds rather than the innocent starchy white.

And by blaming bread, the Baroness is contributing to a modern idée fixe that somehow carbs are bad for you. Earlier in the year the Food Standards Agency reported that barely a tenth of us understand that carbohydrates should actually make up a third of all we eat. Misunderstandings of the Atkins diet – where dieters eliminate carbohydrates entirely from their food intake in the hope of bumping their bodies into a chemical imbalance called ketosis, where the liver starts converting fatty deposits into useable energy – have led to a widespread belief that somehow carbs are fattening.

The truth couldn’t be further away. All the healthy eating advice suggests that between them, fruit and veg, and starchy foods like cereal, rice, pasta and yes – bread, should account for two thirds of our food input. Wholegrain is better than bleached white bread, but even white bread has its place in our diets.

Top of the Food Standards Agency’s top tips for healthy eating is base your meals on starchy foods, since they are a good source of energy and the main source of a range of nutrients in our diet. As well as starch, these foods contain fibre, calcium, iron and B vitamins. For more information, see the “eatwell plate.”

So the Baroness can go back to butties, even those made with thick slices, safe in the knowledge that bread is good for you.

  • Alex Foster is clinically obese.
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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • passing tory 30th Nov '07 - 2:37pm

    I feel I should apologise for the Tory peer if this story is reported accurately. Bread is of course largely made up of sugars, albeit in the form of starch.

    Although, if you can’t be slightly eccentric when you are a peer of the realm, then what’s the point 🙂

  • Steven Ronald 30th Nov '07 - 3:52pm

    What a charming little article – good work Alex Foster.

  • No.5 – “Eating too much of these foods is bad for you”

    Which surely is the point of the expression “too much”?

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