Ultimate bread buying breakdown
Deciphering all of the breads: white, wheat, and novelty-
Marisa Crespo, our thoughtful writer and editor at Nutrition4 Kids, is always trying to engage readers with her energetic articles. She has her bachelor's degree in Nutrition and is interested in the psychology of eating as well as plant-based lifestyles. On her free time she enjoys creative writing, exploring parks and cities, and having a […]
Which breads are healthiest– how you can tell.
The bread aisle is filled with products ranging from enriched white loaves to rustic rye, sprouted spelt and a dozen varieties of wheat breads. But there's a lot more to finding a healthy choice your family will enjoy.
It Starts with the Whole Grain
When a bread label says "whole grain" or "whole wheat" it means that it was made with the entire grain kernel. Grain kernels, or "berries," are rich in fiber and complex carbohydrates (from the bran shell), B vitamins, and some minerals. Whole grains breads have the least amount of processing and most amount of naturally occurring nutrients compared to other breads.
What if it's just "wheat"?
If you look closely, some breads will be labeled as "whole wheat" while the one next to it just says "wheat." What's the difference? A plain "wheat" label usually indicates that the bread is made with processed wheat. There may be some whole wheat flour used, but honey wheat, for example, usually doesn't have any whole grains. The way to tell is to look at the label and see how much "dietary fiber" is in the bread. If you compare it to the whole wheat, you can tell whether it's processed. It may still contain some fiber and nutrients, mostly by "enriching" the flour which adds back in some nutrients lost during processing.
Any bread that is labeled "white" is the most processed bread option. White bread's smooth texture (mouthfeel) comes from the bleached white flour it's made from. It has no fiber or natural nutrients in it, since the bran fiber and most of the natural nutrients are stripped away during processing. Some nutrients are artificially added back to the flour and labeled as "enriched flour."
White flour is categorized as a refined (processed) carbohydrate like many pastas and kid's cereals. Since you benefit most from complex carbohydrates and fiber, you may want to choose whole grain varieties when possible.
These last breads are not as common as the whole wheat, honey wheat, and white breads; however, they are increasingly becoming popular choices in supermarkets.
- Multigrain: a bread that contains multiple grains (For example: wheat, oat, flax, and barley). Multigrain does not mean it is whole grain by default. The grains used can still be refined, so make sure to check the labels before buying.
- Sprouted grains: the grains are harvested while they are young. That gives them more nutrients and less starch, making digestion and absorption easier. While these breads are rich in fiber and complex carbohydrates, they can be more expensive than regular whole grain breads.
- Light or Diet Breads: these breads usually have added fiber or artificial sweeteners to help reduce the amount of calories per slice. These breads can also be more processed than a standard whole grain bread. Depending on your gut's sensitivity, they can cause bloating and cramps for some people.
- Gluten-free breads: these breads do not contain wheat or other gluten containing grains. Gluten-free breads often use highly refined flours and fillers to hold the bread together (gluten is what gives bread it's dough consistency). The nutrition of these breads are often comparable to white bread. If you are gluten-free, check labels and try to choose breads with the most whole grains in them.
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