Bread is one of the most widely consumed items of food in the world. It can be paired with a boundless assortment of spreads and fillings. It is satisfying and delicious.
But despite its many assets, bread does not have the best reputation, especially in regards to key vitamins, minerals, and overall nutrition. Many people limit bread and other carbs in an effort to lose weight or live a balanced lifestyle, while some others cut it out altogether.
While dietary needs and restrictions may vary from individual to individual, there is generally no need to avoid eating bread.
Here is how you can choose the option that best suits your health and wellbeing.
Keeping an Eye Out for Additives
At its simplest form, bread is made from wheat flour, water, and yeast. However, if you read the label on most varieties sold at the supermarket, you will find they are made of an extensive list of ingredients.
Many manufacturers will add extra ingredients to bread in order to increase its shelf life or improve its taste. While there are many different types of bread made with all kinds of ingredients, learning to recognize unhealthy additives is very important.
Here are a few to keep an eye out for:
Sugars and Sweeteners
Unless a certain type of bread is supposed to be sweet, there should not be any sweeteners in bread! Sugar and high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) are often added to packaged bread to improve taste, but they also tend to add on extra calories.
Make sure to read the ingredients label and nutrition facts when buying bread to make sure you will not be consuming too much sugar.
If any partially hydrogenated oils are listed as one of the ingredients on a package of bread, put it down! These types of oils are often used by manufacturers to cut down on production costs. Regular consumption can increase levels of cholesterol in your body and lead to heart problems.
While salt can add flavor and texture to bread, many brands are made with an excessive amount to improve shelf life and increase flavor. Most Americans go well beyond the recommended amount of sodium per day, putting themselves at risk for high blood pressure and heart problems. It is important to make note of the sodium content of not just bread, but all packaged foods.
To make bread look more appealing to consumers, many manufacturers will add artificial coloring to their bread. After all, who can deny a perfectly warm brown slice of toast? Artificial coloring has been linked to cell damage and contamination, so you will want to put down that slice. Look out for caramel color and 2- or 4-methylimidazole (2- or 4-MEI) in ingredient lists.
As is the case with many packaged foods, bread is often made with harmful additives to prevent spoiling or make the product look attractive to shoppers. There are several of these compounds, many of which are hard to pronounce, to avoid. These are just a few:
- Potassium bromate
- Diacetyl Tartaric Acid Esters of Monoglycerides (DATEM)
- Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA)
Whole wheat or multigrain bread may seem healthy at first glance, however, these labels can be deceiving. To make sure that what is on the label is what you are actually getting, make sure to look at the ingredients list.
Ask yourself, what type of flour is this bread made of- whole-grain flour or white flour? What grains were used?
Type of Grains
When buying bread, make sure the first ingredient on the list is 100% whole wheat or grain flour. Avoid being fooled by these alternatives:
- Wheat flour
- Bleached flour
- Enriched bleached flour
Bread should have fiber to help keep you full and ease digestion, making it great for gut health. White bread only has around 0.8 grams of fiber per slice. When buying bread, aim for three to five grams of fiber per slice. Ezekiel bread and flax bread are good options.
Choose Healthy “Additives”
While healthy bread should not have any additives, this does not mean avoiding bread with extra ingredients. There are many additives that can make bread more nutritious and tasty. Here are a few:
- Flax seeds
- Sprouted grains
- Brown rice
- Raisins and dried fruits
- Nutritious herbs and spices such as cinnamon and anise
The Healthiest Bread: Top Choices
While there are hundreds of different types of bread to choose from, not all are created equal, but many great options are suitable for a healthy lifestyle. Here are a few great options for healthy bread:
Whole Wheat Bread
When in doubt, go for whole wheat bread. It is simple, classic, and full of fiber and protein. Remember to check the ingredient list to make sure it is made with 100 percent whole wheat flour.
Whole Grain Bread
This type of bread differs from whole wheat bread in that it is made from whole grains. A variety of grains keeps you feeling full for longer and adds extra nutrients to your diet. Make sure that whole grains are first on the ingredient list.
This bread is made from whole wheat flour and flaxseed flour. Flaxseeds are chock full of fiber, protein, and healthy omega-3 fatty acids. They can help lower cholesterol and improve heart health.
Like flaxseed bread, oat bread is made of both whole wheat flour and oat flour. Oats are made of a fiber called beta-glucan, which may help regulate blood sugar levels and ease digestion. Make sure that the brand you buy lists oats as one of the first ingredients. Many types of bread advertised as oat bread only contain a small number of oats.
If you want something different to change up your routine, try sourdough bread. This bread is made through a fermentation process, which packs it with heart and gut-healthy probiotics.
Sourdough can be made with both white and whole wheat flour, so make sure you choose whole wheat sourdough for maximum benefits.
While no one bread is superior to all others, you can make healthier choices by knowing what goes into your bread. Excessive carbohydrate intake is generally unhealthy, but you can still enjoy bread in moderation without compromising your wellness.
There are healthier types of bread out there, and incorporating more of these as opposed to relying on processed options can help you support your wellbeing.