What Type of Bread Should I Eat?

Legend has it that bread was originally discovered by accident. In Egypt, supposedly around 8,000 BC, someone left remnants from beer brewing out in the sun (because yes, Egyptians were actually skilled brewers!) Later in the day, they found the accidental dough rise into bread after hours baking in the Egyptian sun.

Today, bread is made by no accident. Aisles at the grocery store are devoted to bread in its myriad forms – bagels, tortillas, and loaves galore. However, bread often gets a bad rap; many people are wary of the potential effects of gluten along with sugars, corn syrup and artificial flavors that are finding their way into everyday bread.

How can you make the best choices for your health when navigating the long bread aisle? We’re covering all that and more in today’s blog.

 

What are the healthier types of bread?

 Because diet culture often heralds that carbs are “bad,” it’s important that you hear this loud and clear: carbohydrates are a healthy and necessary part of your diet. You can get carbohydrates from plenty of sources – beans, fruits, veggies, rice, and more. For many folks, however, bread is a consistent source of carbs, and this is a good thing for health! Carbohydrates supply us with energy, provide our body with the sustenance to power its glucose-hungry systems, and allow us to move through the day.

That said, not all breads are created equal. When breads use whole grains, we see the health benefits. Whole grains can provide a good source of fiber, vitamins (especially B vitamins), and other minerals like iron, magnesium, and selenium.

The fiber in whole grain breads can help regulate blood sugar and type 2 diabetes, reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, manage weight, and decrease the chances of developing colon cancer.

Check out the blog here for more information on whole grains! Foods with whole grains will have the following label on them:

In addition to whole grains, sprouted breads can provide enhanced health benefits. Sprouted loaves use whole grain seeds that have just begun to sprout. Research has shown that this germination process increases the amount of available vitamins, minerals, proteins, and antioxidants in sprouted bread as compared to whole grain bread.

If you go searching for a sprouted loaf, know that they are typically found in the freezer aisle to maintain their freshness.

With whole grain bread or sprouted breads, you’ll typically find that they have higher protein and fiber concentrations, too. Generally, you want breads that have around 2-5 grams of fiber per slice (or more), and a similar amount of protein. These both complement the level of carbohydrates in the bread, allowing your body to process the influx of carbs more effectively with less of a blood sugar spike.

In short, when selecting breads at the grocery store:

  • Look for the whole grain label on the box or bag
  • Consider sprouted bread options in the freezer aisle for even greater levels of nutrients
  • Aim for 2-5 grams of protein and fiber

 

What are red flags I should look for on bread’s nutrition labels?

 There are some important signs to avoid when considering which bread is best for you. The first has to do with sugar. Many breads – particularly highly processed, white breads – are chock full of sugar in its various forms. On the nutrition label, you might see this as sucrose, fructose, corn syrup, sugar, glucose, and more. Some sugar in bread is okay, but a good rule of thumb is avoiding bread with more than 5 grams of sugar per slice.

A helpful hack to keep in mind: ingredients on a nutrition label are generally ordered based on the weight of each ingredient in the food. Ingredients that are closer to the beginning of the ingredient list will maintain a higher percentage of that food. If sugar is listed early, chances are good that the bread may be excessively high in sugar.

Additionally, sodium can pack foods with flavor; consequently, we see many processed foods stuffed with excess salt! Bread typically follows this trend, and it’s important to watch out for excess sodium which can increase your blood pressure and lead to hypertension. Aim for breads with about 160 milligrams of sodium or less per slice. 

Generally speaking, white bread, brioche, potato bread, pita, ciabatta, and other specialty breads will be higher in sugar and salt. As mentioned earlier, always opt for the whole grain options when you can.

In short, watch out for:

  • More than 5 grams of sugar per slice or serving
  • No more than about 160 mg of sodium per slice

 

What are alternatives if I’m gluten free? (Or trying to lower my gluten intake?)

If you’re gluten free or are considering reducing the amount of gluten in your diet, there are still options for you as well. Gluten intolerance occurs with any foods including wheat flour. Opting for breads and tortillas which use corn flour, almond flour, chickpea flour, or coconut flour instead of the typical all-purpose flour are good options. These are generally still found in the bread aisle, and there are sprouted options, too, for gluten free folks. You want to ensure the label says that the food is a gluten free product, as some breads that use flour substitutes are still processed in facilities containing gluten. BUT please note that gluten free does not mean it won’t spike blood sugar levels, so opt for breads made with lower carb flours like coconut or almond flour if you’re pre-diabetic/diabetic.

All in all, bread is a staple source of carbs for many people. Choosing the right types of bread can boost your health – not harm it, as some people try to purport. Next time you’re at the grocery store, opt for whole grain or sprouted breads to ramp up your protein, fiber, and carb intake!

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