According to a new study, white bread is healthier than previously thought. (igor.stevanovic|Shutterstock.com)

(Relaxnews) - The whole-grain craze kicked white bread into the ranks of junk food, but new research says to eat up and savor every pillowy bite due to the beneficial gut bacteria it promotes.

In a pilot study, a Spanish research team from the University of Oviedo in Spain concluded that the defamed staple encourages the growth of bacteria that actually protect against disease rather than causing it.

The team worked with 38 healthy adults and asked them about their diets. They also conducted stool sample analysis.

White bread provides hemicellulose and resistant starch, which encourages the spread of Lactobacillus.

Derived from Latin, the name means "acid-loving milk-bacterium" and has been associated with health benefits from fever symptom reduction to protecting against diseases such as salmonella.

Although Lactobacillus is sold as a nutritional supplement in pill or powder form, the ACS report says the best way to maintain a healthy balance of the bacteria is through diet.

The team's study found evidence that pectin, once thought to be beneficial, can reduce populations of beneficial bacteria. Pectin is a component of citrus fruit, so a slice of white bread should be considered a healthy balance to an orange, for example.

The study was published in the ACS Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry and received funding from the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation.

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