White or Wheat?

By: Bethany Richardson


When it comes to bread, the ubiquitous question has always been: white or wheat?  While white bread reigned supreme for many years, whole wheat bread has surpassed it in popularity.  This is mostly due to wheat bread’s higher levels of whole grain, and subsequently fiber, which is an important element in a healthy diet.  However, whole wheat bread often leaves something to be desired in terms of flavor.  Devin Peterson, a professor at the University of Minnesota who focuses on flavor chemistry, recently published a study in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry on the differences in flavor generation due to baking between white and whole wheat bread.  Because of more Maillard reaction-generated flavor compounds, white bread contains more potato, caramel, and corn chip-type odor compounds; however, the whole wheat bread possesses more earthy, cucumber, and malty characteristics.  Peterson concluded that the compound ferulic acid in whole wheat bread is responsible for blocking the formation of some of the more pleasing aroma compounds that are found in white bread.  With further research, baking ingredients and processes could be modified in order to improve the flavor profile of whole wheat bread without sacrificing the healthful benefits it provides.

I can personally see the impact of these findings; I generally purchase whole wheat bread because I know that it is healthier for me, and on a general basis I am pretty content with it.  However, there are some situations when the flavor of whole wheat simply will not suffice. To me, there’s just something about a grilled cheese sandwich made with white bread that nothing else can truly match. 

What are your thoughts? Let us know in the comments below!

Influence of Endogenous Ferulic Acid in Whole Wheat Flour on Bread Crust Aroma
Marlene R. Moskowitz, Qing Bin, Ryan J. Elias, and Devin G. Peterson
Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 2012 60 (45), 11245-11252
Photo credit: http://www.zmescience.com/research/bread-lasts-two-months-without-chemicals-microwave-techniques-0423432/

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  1. Many of us that know about the benefit of having wheat bread versus white bread would prefer wheat. Wheat is considered to contain more nutrition as mentioned, the whole grain and fiber. Wheat has a mild taste to it and that would not affect my choice because how my body would benefit from it. I get my parents to switch to wheat bread as well with no problem.

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