The bread aisle at your local grocery store is a very confusing place. Between all of the choices including whole grain, enriched, ancient grains etc… how do you know what to choose? I am decoding the bread aisle to hopefully help you make choices best for your health.
White or Enriched Bread:
The main ingredient in enriched bread is refined, white flour. To produce white flour, manufacturers remove the outer coating — also known as the bran — and the germ of the kernel. The inside of the kernel is then ground into fine flour. Bread manufacturers replace many of the nutrients lost during milling when preparing the dough for enriched bread so that it contains the same nutrients as those in whole-wheat bread, but they do not replace the fiber lost during milling.
Sourdough is a better choice than white/enriched bread as it has a lower glycemic index meaning that it doesn’t spike blood sugar as dramatically. Sourdough bread contains the bacteria Lactobacillus in a higher proportion to yeast than do other breads. More Lactobacillus means higher production of lactic acid, which means easier digestion.
Whole Wheat/Whole Grain:
Both are good choices. The word “whole” is what you want to look for on the label. It means the bread was made using the entire kernel, which offers the most nutritional value. Whole wheat means that the bread is made from the entire wheat kernel. Whole grain means that the bread can be made of any whole-grain kernel. That grain may be wheat or it could be another grain like spelt, oats, or barley. The bread might even be made using a mixture of different whole grains.
The “whole wheat” label means the wheat in that product hasn’t been refined so healthy components like endosperm and bran are left intact. Unrefined products also have many more nutrients like B vitamins and trace metals like iron, zinc, and copper.
Don’t be confused by “100 percent wheat”—that only means it’s completely made of wheat, but not necessarily unprocessed.
Multigrain sounds super healthy, but this word alone (without the word “whole” attached) can be misleading. If you don’t see the word “whole” on the package, it means the bread might not be made from the entire kernel. Something can be multigrain and still be processed, bleached, or refined in a way that removes any real nutritional value.
If you’re not sure, check the ingredient list to see if the first ingredient is a whole grain and ensure there are more than 3 grams or more of fiber per serving.
The flax seed is a nutrient powerhouse. It’s technically not a grain but has similar vitamin and minerals to grains but has far superior amounts of fiber, antioxidants, and Omega-3 fatty acids than do grains.
Its combination of healthy fat and high fiber content make it a great food for weight loss and maintenance — many dieters have found that flax seed has been a key to keeping them feeling satisfied.
Ancient grain crops come from seeds that have been around for thousands of years and as such are free of hybridization and GMO manipulation.
Ancient grains include amaranth, buckwheat, kamut, millet, quinoa, spelt and more. Benefits of some of these include more protein, folate, magnesium, selenium, B vitamins, iron, phosphorus, fibre, and calcium that wheat. In addition, quinoa is gluten free and amaranth is a complete form of vegetable protein.
Still confused? To simplify this list, choose whole grain whenever possible. Regardless of flax, ancient or wheat, “whole” is what will do your body best. You can go a step further by determining what benefits of each is what your own body needs.