A minimally processed, plant based diet is really the important part of any healthy diet. It includes as much fruit and veg as you can handle, plenty of WHOLE grains and little bits of nuts/seeds, meat/fish and dairy. Bread seems to be the first food to go when some embarks on a new ‘health journey’, but there is a place for bread in a healthy diet!
What’s wrong with bread?
Nothing! We’ve come to fear carbs and grains in recent years but it’s important to understand the difference between quality whole grains the refined, processed grains which can contribute to ill health.
Whole grains include some of most of the grains outer husk. The brown bits. These outer parts have the most fibre, minerals and good fats. The inner germ is pale in colour and low in nutrients. Processed grains (like white bread, white flour, white rice, white pasta) are highly refined and only include that inner germ.
Our modern diets feature so much refined carbohydrates and it’s taking a toll on our health. These refined carbs play havoc with our energy levels and can leave us feeling bloated, constipated and unsatisfied after meals. If you rely on refined carbs too much, you’re increasing your risk of heart disease, weight gain and type 2 diabetes.
The benefits of a good bread
Switching to wholegrain versions (think dense grainy bread, wholemeal pasta, barley, oats, rye, freekeh and bulgur) is a good idea whatever your health goals are. They’re going to give you a much needed fibre and nutrient boost. In fact, a diet high in good quality (ie: minimally processed) whole grains is your ticket to reducing your risk of heart, type 2 diabetes and even cancer! They also make small serves more satisfying.
Many people who suffer bloating or discomfort eating bread find their symptoms disappear when they find a good bread and eat small serves. You really only need 1-2 slices a day. Many people who think they have a problem with wheat feel much better when they incorporate other grains into their day. You may not actually you’re sensitive to wheat, you could just be eating too much!
Slow and steady is the best way to make the switch to a healthy lifestyle. Finding a healthier bread is a great way to get the process started.
How to choose a healthy bread
A good, healthy bread is a dense, nutrient and fibre rich carbohydrate source. It’s a source of prebiotics (that feeds your good gut bacteria). It’ll fill you up and keep you full for longer. It’s easy to keep your portions small when you’re satisfied. One slice will do if you’ve got healthy toppings and a veggie side.
Worried about gluten? Check out my post with the facts.
Types of bread flour
Check out the ingredients list of your favourite loaf. Wheat flour is processed white flour. Wholemeal flour is white flour with some of the removed bran added back in. Multigrain bread is white flour with a handful of seeds added in to the bread mix. Wholegrain rye bread should be wholegrain rye flour, but sometimes there is just a token amount added to white wheat flour to give it some colour and flavour.
Read the ingredients list on your usual loaf and find out how much (%) is wholegrain or wholemeal flour. Even bread labelled as wholemeal bread can have as little as 10% wholemeal flour.
Which bread is best?
- You need to look at the ingredients list for a high proportion of wholemeal (or whole wheat) flour.
- There should also be some added wholegrains. Seeds are a bonus too.
- Sourdough varieties contains live cultures which is great for your gut health. It’s also more slowly digested, so it provides energy more steadily.
- Look for 7g of fibre (or more) per 100g this will help you see the amount of wholegrain really in it.
- Bread of has a lot of hidden salt. Look for less than 400mg of sodium per 100g.
- Chose a bread without the list of additives and preservatives. Most of these added to bread aren’t actually bad for you – but they do show you that particular loaf is highly processed and not what we’re looking for.
The best option is a locally made grainy, wholemeal sourdough (bonus points for added seeds) from your local bakery.
The healthiest breads tend to be on the end or on the bottom or top shelves in bread aisle – they won’t be the big name brands at eye-level in the middle. In Western Australia, the best supermarket breads are from the Bodhi’s Bakehouse brand. Other states will likely have another great locally made brand. Try IGA or an independent supermarket if the big chains don’t stock one. Of the name brands, Burgen’s range is very good and we like the Wholemeal & Seeds variety. Of the more mainstream, Helga’s Wholemeal Grain is a better choice than regular wholemeal but is still nice and soft.
From Baker’s Delight, the Cape Seed Loaf is wholemeal and wholegrain and has less sodium than their other grainy wholemeal, Country Grain Loaf.
Let me know in the comments if you find another good loaf that’s 100% wholegrain.
Sarah Moore is a mum, and university qualified Registered Nutritionist. She has 10 years’ experience working with families to improve their health and well-being. Sarah has a simplistic and practical approach to family nutrition and wants you to know that activated unicorn berries are not the answer to your health and wellness. You can find her on Facebook and Instagram for more healthy tips and tricks.