Do you know:
In the Bible, bread has been referred to as the “Staff Of Life” literally and served for ages.
Isn’t it ironic how these days, a healthier and “cleaner” bread would contain more whole grains and be darker in colour, less processed and have a desirable high-fibre content?
There are countless loaves that claim to be “healthy” because they contain whole grains and pack fibre, but in reality, they sneak in high amounts of sodium, sugar, and refined flours.
As a nutrition consultant, I have seen scores of patients and heard testimonies from friends and relatives that swore that they lost the most weight when they swore off the bread.
Poor bread. So loved. So hated. So often talked about and so misunderstood. But ditching carbs like bread could result in serious consequences.
Bread Nutrition Facts
An average slice, or ounce, of bread, contains around:
• 80 calories.
• 15 grams of carbohydrates (about the same amount in a small serving of fruit).
• 3 grams of protein.
How to Choose a Healthy Bread
The best bread for you depends on your own particular needs.
The good news is that you can avoid purchasing the wrong kind of bread by simply reading the nutrition and ingredients labels. To help you make the right choice, we tapped the bread shopping tips.
To choose a healthy bread, look for brands that have:
1. The first ingredient should be 100% whole-grain or sprouted flours and avoid slices of bread that have “wheat flour”—this is just another code name for white flour.
2. Seeing high fructose corn syrup, honey, sugar, and other sweeteners at the top of the ingredients list is a red flag.
3. Ideally, they should be at the end of the list because that means they’re the least important ingredients, and therefore, there’s less of it.
4. Stick to loaves with no more than five grams of sugar per slice.
5. Try to avoid gluten-free bread that is made from corn or rice starch. These loaves have a low fiber content and often have fat and sugar added to boost their flavour.
6. Seek slices of bread that have at least two to three grams of fiber and three to five grams of protein per slice.
7. No added sweeteners
Now that you know how to pick a healthy loaf of bread, here’s the list of popular bread varieties, so you can decide which slide is right for you.
⁃ Ezekiel bread is an amazing choice for vegetarians because it’s made from wheat, barley, beans, lentils, millet, and spelt. When these six grains and legumes are sprouted and combined, they create a complete protein similar to that found in milk and eggs.
⁃ Essentially what you’re getting is bread made with grain that was allowed to sprout prior to grinding. The outcome is quite nutritious. It’s also high-quality, containing all nine essential amino acids (and 18 total).
⁃ The sprouting process increases the amount and bio-availability of vitamins, like vitamin C, and minerals, like folate and lysine, so Ezekiel bread is a bonafide nutritional powerhouse.
⁃ Sprouted grains are more easily tolerated by people with grain protein sensitivities, may help fight diabetes, protect against fatty liver disease, and reduce your risk for cardiovascular issues.
Buying Tip: The Sprouted Grain Ezekiel bread is that it doesn’t have any added sugar, which is a rarity among many slices of bread.
⁃ Flax bread, which is made primarily from whole-grain flours and flax seeds, is one of the healthiest slices of bread you can eat.
⁃ This is because Flax bread contains an excellent source of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), an omega-3 fatty acid found in plant foods that promote good heart health, as well as compounds called lignans that may help protect against certain cancers.
⁃ For heart-healthy Omega-3 fatty acids typically the best source. So it’s a no-brainer flaxseed bread is a great alternative to your regular loaf.
⁃ Research shows flax seed and flax bread can reduce your risk of heart disease, cancer, stroke, and diabetes to boot.
⁃ What’s more, flax seeds boast compounds called lignans that can act as antioxidants in your body and may help protect against certain cancers,
Buying Tip: Be sure to look for flax slices of bread made with minimal ingredients, such as whole-wheat and/or sprouted whole-grain flours, yeast, water, salt, and sprouted organic whole flax seeds.
⁃ Rye closely resembles wheat but is usually darker and denser.
⁃ Traditional rye bread is only made from rye flour and does not contain any wheat flour, whereas most modern rye bread is made from a combination of the two. Rye loaves also typically have caraway seeds baked into them.
⁃ When compared to wheat, rye is often considered more nutritious. In fact, studies show that rye bread may lead to greater fullness and have less of an impact on blood sugar than wheat bread.
⁃ One study in 12 healthy adults found that those who ate whole-grain rye bread released significantly less insulin, a hormone that regulates blood sugar, than those who ate white-wheat bread.
⁃ Rye’s ability to lower your body’s insulin response is likely due to its high soluble fiber content.
Buying Tip: The healthiest rye bread are made from 100% whole-grain sprouted rye flour, in addition to other sprouted grain flours. Sprouted rye bread is high in soluble fiber, which helps slow your digestion of carbs and decrease your body’s insulin response.
⁃ Oats have always been touted as one of the healthiest sources of good carbs. They’re slow-digesting and make you feel fuller longer.
⁃ Oat bread made from oats and whole-grain flour boasts the fiber beta-glucan, which may help lower cholesterol and has been linked to a number of health benefits.
⁃ Oats are also richer in protein than wheat (about twice the amount), which is obviously beneficial if you’re trying to build and repair muscles; they have a bevvy of vitamins, like vitamin E, and nutrients, like iron and calcium.
⁃ Oat bread is typically made from a combination of oats, whole-wheat flour, yeast, water, and salt.
Buying Tip: However, just because bread has “oats” or “oatmeal” on its label doesn’t mean that it’s healthy. Some oat bread only has a small number of oats and are mostly made of refined flours, added sugar and oils. To find a more nutritious oat bread, look for one that lists oats and whole-wheat flour as the first two ingredients.
Whole wheat bread
⁃ White bread lovers can feel good in knowing that, similar to whole-wheat bread, white whole-wheat bread is also made with whole grains.
⁃ The difference between them is that white whole-wheat bread is made from white wheat, bringing it a milder flavour, fluffier texture and lighter colour. The whole wheat bread we’re used to seeing is made from red wheat, contributing a darker colour and coarser texture.
⁃, Unlike white whole-wheat bread, basic white bread is made from refined grains and is more highly processed, thereby stripping away some important parts of the grain and their related nutrients.
⁃ Whole wheat is one kind of whole grain, so all whole wheat is whole grain, but not all whole grain is whole wheat
Buying Tip: You must choose 100% whole wheat bread. Whole wheat (in its original, non-enriched form) is a very good source of dietary fiber, manganese, and magnesium. Just know for something to be whole wheat, the product has to be made from the entire wheat kernel.
Whole grain bread
⁃ A whole grain is an entire seed — the bran, the endosperm and the germ. Whole grains contain key nutrients that offer bread with benefits including B vitamins and trace minerals (iron, zinc, copper and magnesium).
⁃ Whole-grain foods are a healthy choice because they contain a bounty of nutrients, fiber, and healthy plant compounds naturally found in the grain.
⁃ The fiber content of whole-grain bread helps to keep you satiated for a longer period of time, so ditching bread at your meal could mean giving in to a mid-meal snack attack of foods that are less nutritional and higher in calories.
Buying Tip: Be sure to flip your package over and look for whole grains as a first ingredient on the ingredient list. Look for products that list the first ingredient as “whole wheat,” “whole oats,” or a similar whole grain. And to clarify, whole grains can mean it has one of many types of healthy grains included in the product, while whole wheat labels the specific grain that’s being used.
⁃ Just like whole wheat and whole grain are different, so too are multigrain and whole-grain bread.
⁃ The term “multi” means many – so your multigrain bread may contain many different types of grains, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that any of these are whole grains.
⁃ Multigrain—like 7- or 12-grain bread—means the food has more than one type of grain, although they might not all be whole grains.
Buying Tip: You should be looking for bread wearing a label that shows a whole grain or whole wheat as a first ingredient. “Wheat flour” as a first ingredient is not the same and could be void of value.
⁃ Gluten is a protein found in grains that help make the dough in bread more elastic.
⁃ Gluten-free bread is void of wheat, rye, and barley. Four other starches are used in their place—cornstarch, rice flour, tapioca starch, and potato flour.
⁃ This is obviously the go-to for men and women with Celiac disease or those with gluten allergies. But if you don’t have either, don’t buy it.
⁃ A gluten-free diet consists of stripped foods, meaning you’re eating products void of a lot of nutrients. Plus, on average, gluten-free products are 242% more expensive than regular products.
Buying Tip: Gluten-free whole grains and flours that can be eaten include Amaranth, Arrowroot, Buckwheat, Corn and cornmeal, Flax, Brown and wild rice, Quinoa, Millet, Sorghum. Avoid Gluten-free flours: rice, soy, corn, potato, bean.
⁃ Sourdough bread is made through a fermentation process that relies on naturally occurring yeast and bacteria to make the bread rise and boosts its digestibility, improves the availability of certain nutrients, and lowers its blood sugar effects.
⁃ It’s more labour-intensive to make sourdough bread. There’s longer rise time, and that increases the lactic acid and creates an ideal pH for the enzyme phytase. This enzyme breaks down phytates—which bind to minerals, like iron, zinc, and manganese, slowing their absorption) more effectively than other bread.
⁃ Fermentation helps reduce the number of phytates, also known as phytic acid, that binds to certain minerals and impairs their absorption.
⁃ Sourdough may also be easier to digest than other bread, possibly due to its prebiotics, as well as the probiotics created during the fermentation process.
⁃ Finally, sourdough bread is thought to have a low glycemic index (GI), a measure of the impact a food has on blood sugar.
Buying Tip: Sourdough can be made with both whole-wheat and white flours. While each provides the benefits associated with fermentation, whole-wheat sourdough has more fiber, iron, and other nutrients.
Some bread will provide more fiber than others, and some are lighter in colour.
Whichever you choose, remember that the calories you end up with maybe more of a reflection of what you put on your bread, like butter, mayo and thick fillings, since the company bread keeps may be more of a calorie culprit than the bread itself.
That said, bread can be enjoyed in moderation — as part of a balanced diet that includes a variety of other nutritious foods.
By Priyanshi Bhatnagar