Hype or Healthy? Ezekiel Bread and Whey Protein

Last week I mentioned two popular food items: chia pudding and bulletproof coffee. Now I’m wondering how many of you actually Googled the recipes or perhaps tried these items? I’ll admit — I haven’t tried either yet, but the chia pudding actually sounds pretty appealing to me. Are chia pudding and bulletproof coffee here to stay? Only time will tell. In the meantime, here are a few other “trendy” foods that you may have come across.

Ezekiel bread
Mention the words “bread” and “diabetes” in the same sentence, and you’re sure to raise a few eyebrows. (You’ll probably hear a few strong opinions, as well.) I’m not going to get into the issue of bread here, but I did want to mention a few things about Ezekiel bread, which is a sprouted whole-grain bread manufactured by the company Food For Life. Why the biblical name? If you’re familiar with scripture, you’ll come across this passage: “Take unto thee wheat, and barley, and beans, and lentils and millet, and spelt and put them in one vessel…” Ezekiel 4:9.

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Ezekiel bread consists of six grains plus legumes. The website claims that this bread is better than other breads because it contains high-quality protein (from the combination of sprouted grains and legumes), has increased amounts of C and B vitamins, is a great source of fiber, and has “increased digestibility.” One slice of Ezekiel bread has the following nutrition stats:

80 calories
0.5 grams of fat
0 grams of saturated and trans fat
15 grams of carbohydrate
3 grams of fiber
4 grams of protein
75 milligrams of sodium

Almost all of the ingredients are organic, and there is no added sugar. Does this bread have an advantage over other breads? Possibly. According to the Whole Grains Council, various sprouted grains may have a beneficial effect on blood pressure, may reduce diabetes and heart disease risk, and may protect against fatty liver disease, and the sprouting process may reduce common allergens in the grains. The bread apparently also has a low glycemic index, which means it’s less likely to cause spikes in blood sugar compared to other more refined breads. Food For Life has other bread products, as well.

Verdict. It’s hard to argue that there’s anything “wrong” with this bread — there are no preservatives or other potentially harmful ingredients that many people worry about. The carbohydrate in this bread isn’t processed or refined. It does, however, contain gluten. Be prepared to pay more for this bread. You will likely need to keep it in the refrigerator or freezer (unless you gobble it up quickly) because of the lack of preservatives. Also, remember that this bread still contains carbohydrate. Find out how it affects your own blood sugar by checking your levels before and after eating the bread.

Whey protein
I wrote about whey protein back in July of 2011, and I still get questions about it from readers. Briefly, whey protein is one of two main proteins found in milk. Compared to other types of protein in food, whey protein is thought to be better absorbed. Its branched-chain amino acids help to build and maintain muscle mass, and it also contains leucine, an amino acid thought to help reduce the loss of muscle due to aging.

Whey protein has been in the news lately, thanks to a study published in the journal Diabetologia. In this study of 15 people with well-controlled Type 2 diabetes, the subjects were given either 50 grams of whey protein or a placebo (inactive treatment), and then fed a high-glycemic index meal of bread and jelly. The results? The folks who consumed the whey protein had a 28% reduction in blood sugar, and a greater insulin and GLP-1 (a hormone that increases insulin secretion) response. The researchers are thinking about doing a larger-scale study to learn more about how whey protein affects diabetes control.

Verdict. This is certainly interesting research, but it’s a small study. However, whey protein has been linked to other health benefits, such as decreased appetite, lower triglyceride (a type of blood fat) and cholesterol levels, and lower blood pressure. A lot of people have asked me if it’s safe to take whey protein. My answer is to first check with your doctor before you take any kind of protein supplement, especially if you have kidney disease. Remember, too, that there can be too much of a good thing. If you take whey protein, do so in moderation (about 20–50 grams per day, max). Also, keep in mind that if you have a milk allergy, you should be very careful about taking whey, as you might be allergic to it.

I’m curious to know what you consider to be a food trend, and which, if any, you’ve actually tried. Let us know!