Ask the Diva: Is White Bread Lower in Gluten?

A reader's doctor suggests that she's better off eating white bread than whole grain bread made with wheat gluten. Here's why this advice makes no sense.

Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS
2-minute read


Q. "My mom's doctor told her not to buy whole wheat breads because they contain a lot of wheat gluten. He advised her to look instead for breads that have wheat gluten as far down the ingredients list as she can find. Basically, he's saying that wheat gluten is worse than white flour and that our first priority should be to minimize the gluten content of the bread.  Can you help me out here?"

A. I'm afraid that this doctor's advice makes absolutely no sense.  If your mother has a gluten sensitivity or intolerance, then she should not be eating wheat bread of any kind, no matter where (or whether) "wheat gluten" appears in the ingredient list.  Assuming she does not have a gluten sensitivity, she is better off eating whole wheat bread than white bread. Finally, the position of gluten in the ingredient list tells you nothing about the gluten content of the bread. Let me explain why.

Gluten is the protein in wheat that gives bread dough its strength and elasticity, allowing it to form air pockets and rise. Whole grain flours contain less gluten than refined white flour, which is why whole grain breads tend to be a lot heavier and denser. To compensate for this, bakers sometimes add additional gluten to whole wheat bread doughs. White bread that doesn't list gluten in the ingredients may have more gluten than whole wheat bread that does.  But, as I said, unless you have a gluten sensitivity, this is irrelevant.

See also: Gluten-Free Diets


Meanwhile, whole wheat bread offers several advantages: it contains more fiber and other nutrients and is more slowly digested and absorbed, which is better for your blood sugar levels. This is not license to eat more bread, however. As I explained in The Truth About Whole Grains, the amount of grain-based foods you eat matters more than whether they are whole or refined!

See also: When it White Bread Preferable to Whole Wheat?

About the Author

Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS

Monica Reinagel is a board-certified licensed nutritionist, author, and the creator of one of iTunes' most highly ranked health and fitness podcasts. Her advice is regularly featured on the TODAY show, Dr. Oz, NPR, and in the nation's leading newspapers, magazines, and websites. Do you have a nutrition question? Call the Nutrition Diva listener line at 443-961-6206. Your question could be featured on the show.