What to look for when buying bread
With so much fear and misunderstanding about carbs, the humble loaf is getting a bad wrap (see what I did there). Bread can form a healthy part of a balanced diet providing fibre, protein and nutrients such as calcium, phosphorous, potassium, iron and magnesium, thiamine (B1), riboflavin (B2), pantothenic acid, inosotol, folic acid and vitamin B6. Contrary to popular belief bread is not fattening and including a couple of slices a day can help us to feel full and satisfied. Not all bread however is created equally. Some bread is more processed than others which means it loses valuable nutrients and fibre. Commercial bread can often be high in sodium, added sugar, preservatives and artificial additives and so label reading is important.
Check out my tips below when buying bread.
White – how good/bad is it for the family? What if it’s the only bread your kids will eat?
White bread is the most heavily processed of all the breads. It is usually made from wheat (or rice when it is gluten free) that has had the germ and bran removed. This reduces the fibre content, B- vitamins, vitamin E, zinc, iron, magnesium and phosphorus. Because white bread is less nutritious it is fortified with additional synthetic vitamins such as B vitamins, folic acid and iodine so it does provide some beneficial nutrients for growing children.
White bread is low in fibre and contains about 30 -50% of the fibre and nutrients found in wholemeal or grain bread. An average slice of white bread provides around 1g of fibre compared to a wholegrain slice which contains around 4g of fibre (sometimes more). Because of the low fibre content white bread tends to have the highest GI (glycaemic index) out of all the breads. This means it releases sugar into the bloodstream more quickly. Some bread has added sugar, brioche type white bread being the highest in sugar.
White bread is the least nutritious bread.
Tip – If choosing white bread opt for a sourdough bread. Sough dour bread is made from a fermented dough which reduces the phytic acid content making the nutrients easier to absorb. The lactic acid in sour dough results in a lower GI meaning it doesn’t have such rapid spikes in blood sugar like traditional white bread.
'Healthy' white – these all have added extras, like omega 3, are they worth it and the extra money?
These are often heavily processed breads so you still need to watch the sugar, salt, preservative and additive content as with all breads.
White bread that is promoted as ‘healthy’ can often be marketing hype so you need to do your homework however if white bread is all that a family member will eat then these breads can be beneficial. Omega 3’s are often deficient in many diets so including them in a bread can be beneficial as they are required for healthy brain development.
If you are opting for white bread then the addition of added fibre is a winner as this will help to keep you feeling fuller for longer and help to slow the release of sugar into the bloodstream.
Wholemeal – what’s the different in benefits between wholemeal and wholegrain?
Wholemeal breads can be misleading as they sound really healthy but can often be heavily processed. This type of bread is made from wholegrains which are milled to a fine texture. Wholegrain bread contains all the components of the grain, meaning that wholemeal foods contain the same nutrients as the wholegrain. When choosing wholemeal bread it is important to check the label. Some wholemeal breads contains a mixture of wholemeal and refined white flour, so they may not be as high in fibre and other nutrients as you may think. Read the ingredients list to find out.
If you’re buying wholemeal bread read the label and compare brands. Wholemeal will be higher in fibre than white bread. Look for a minimum of 3g of fibre per slice.
Wholegrain bread contains the entire grain which consists of the rich outer layer called the bran, the middle, starchy layer or endosperm and the germ which is the nutrient-rich inner core.
Wholegrain bread also contains three different types of fibre, soluble fibre, insoluble fibre and resistant starch which is good for our gut and heart health and keeps us feeling fuller for longer.
Wholegrain bread is a rich source of thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, protein, iron, selenium, magnesium and vitamin E.
Wholegrain is my top choice as an everyday bread.
Rye bread is made with flour from the rye grain which is typically denser and stronger in flavour than wheat. Rye is classified as a wholegrain bread and can be light or dark in colour depending on the type of flour. Rye bread is nutrient dense containing nutrients such as manganese, phosphorus, magnesium, iron, complex carbohydrates and protein. Rye bread tends to be lower in gluten than wheat so may be a better option for those that find gluten difficult to digest. Rye bread should be avoided for those that are celiac or have a gluten allergy.
A good choice for consumers wanting a high-fibre, lower-GI bread
Low carb bread – is it worth getting specialised low carb bread?
There is a wide variety of low carb breads with many containing nasty additives so always read the labels. Low carb breads are often higher in protein, nuts and seeds which have additional health benefits such as additional fibre, nutrients and good fats.
Low carb can be beneficial if you are watching your carb intake such as those that are prediabetic or looking for weight management assistance.
My top pick breads
Aldi Bakers Life 85% low carb bread.
An impressive 25.6g of protein and 11.6g fibre per 100g!
Burgen All varieties tend to be a good option such as wholegrain and oats, Soy and linseed. Available from leading supermarkets and grocers.
13.5g of protein and 6.8g of fibre per100g
Bills Free from nasty additives. Again his is a good brand to choose. Available from Woolworths, Harris farm.
Organic Sourdough spelt bread
8.5g of protein and 3.83g per100g
Gluten free Naturis Organic Breads No artificial additives and low sodium. Available from healthfood stores, some delis and Harris Farm
5.2g of protein and 2.9g of fibre per100g
WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN BREAD
High fibre. Look for a minimum of 3g per slice.
Ingredients such as added wholegrains, seeds or oats for added fibre and a lower GI
Choosing a lower GI read can help maintain blood sugar levels and energy levels for longer
Check sodium content. Look for breads that contain less than 500mg of sodium per 100g.
Minimally processed e.g. preservatives, additives
Compare labels to ensure you really are getting the health benefits – not just marketing hype