Dieters are often advised not to eat bread. While it’s conventional wisdom that breads are naturally high in carbohydrates (most breads are actually high in complex carbohydrates), this isn’t always true. The right bread can be healthy and filling, while serving a helpful purpose in many diets. Unfortunately, many store-bought types of bread — and unfortunately many types of fresh bread from bakeries — can do more harm than good in trying to stay healthy.
Truth in Advertising
The first thing to keep in mind is that labels are often deceptive. Advertisers keep track of market trends, so companies often will use less-than-honest practices in their labeling. Most consumers trying to make healthier choices tend to think of “white” bread as unhealthy and “wheat” bread as healthy. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth: most common store breads in white or wheat varieties use the same amount of milled flour (almost always the primary ingredient), meaning the effect on one’s health is almost exactly the same.
Checking the Label for Red Flags
The easiest way to spot a problem is simply to look at the label more carefully. Whole grain breads, for example, are healthy, but it’s important to check that breads labeled “whole grain” lists whole grain as the primary ingredient. In the United States, “whole wheat flour” must be listed as a primary or secondary ingredient just to have all the components of the grain, not simply the endosperm, giving it slightly higher flour content. But if the label doesn’t indicate “whole grain” as a primary ingredient, the difference is less pronounced.
According to Berkel Sales and Service, a supplier of commercial vacuum sealers, even if fiber is added back in, it’s never the same as using the whole grain, which often contains nutrients that can be lost during the milling process. Usually 100 percent whole grain brands state it fairly openly on their labeling.
Rye and Other Breads that Look Whole Grain
According to Berkel Sales and Service, Rye and Pumpernickel are often thought of as whole grain breads because of the rye, and historically, that was once true. However, the modern versions found in stores (and even in bakeries, if you don’t check in advance with your baker) are mostly changed through flavorings, and actual rye can be fairly low on an ingredients list. Like the above example with whole wheat, checking the first three items in the ingredients list, which is in order of prevalence, is the easiest way to know what your bread is really made of.
Two Commonly Whole Grain Breads to Consider
Sprouted grain bread is made from grains that have been allowed to sprout. This moisture substantially changes the milling process, producing a sort of sticky dough that is then baked. Another worthwhile whole grain bread to consider is flax bread. Flax breads are often gluten-free, but this varies based on the ingredients.
Certain whole grain breads are not only not bad for dieters to eat, they have other advantages to use on a regular basis. In the first place, whole grain breads are higher in fiber, which, as well as being more filling than typical bread, helps to regulate digestion. Keep these tips in mind the next time you’re in the bread aisle or making a trip to your local bakery.