Bread: is it healthy? What types?

Bread: is it healthy? What types?

on Saturday, 21 January 2017. posted in nutrition

We all love a slice of bread, but with so many types and a whole lot of nutritional myths out there, I thought I would put this together- including some tips, health benefits and what types are better for you. 

Firstly, bread is not fattening. Just don’t over eat it! Any food in excess is going to make you gain weight okay, and of course what you put on top of your bread has to be considered too. Your butter, avocado, honey, jams, nut butters are all pretty high in calories, so use these more sparingly when you decide to use them. But a couple of pieces of wholegrain bread for breakfast or lunch can certainly be part of a healthy diet.

Here’s why:

Many studies have linked people who sensibly consume wholegrains, including wholegrain breads, with a reduced risk of diabetes and heart disease, plus they can show improvements in blood cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar control. Studies have also found that wholegrains can help people lose or control their weight, especially when they eat them in place of refined-wheat  products (more processed products like muffins, pizza, pasta, focaccias, cakes etc). So always look for bread made from 100 percent wholegrains (guide below).

Bread contains a moderate amount of carbs, but what goes unnoticed is that it also contains a good amount of protein. Your average 2 slices of bread will give you around 25 carbs, and around 6-10 grams of protein (depending on type). This is a great balance of macro nutrients, also considering that bread teams perfectly with some eggs or lean protein in a sandwich, providing even more protein for an even more balanced meal.

Then there is the fibre content. Grain foods (which includes bread) provide more fibre to us than any other food. 10 serves of vegetables would give us enough fibre for the day, but that can be hard to get in. So your 5 serves of veggies a day plus around 4-6 serves of wholegrains will easily give you enough fibre to keep you healthy, regular, reduce the risk of bowel disease and cancer.

Fibre in wholegrains also is beneficial for the role it plays in our gut health as a pre-biotic, which ‘feeds’ the good bacteria (probiotics) in our bowels. These micro-organisms together are showing to have a massive impact on good health

Bread is also full of micro nutrients, providing a significant amount of B group vitamins (folate, niacin and thiamin), and is also high in minerals such as iron, zinc, magnesium, phosphorus, manganese and is FULL of antioxidants.

I will give you the low down on each type of bread:

What types are best for me?

Flat breads/wraps/rolls:

Including: Focaccias, Panini’s, pizza bases, Mexican wraps, Lebanese bread wraps, souvlaki wraps, dense rolls. These are usually much denser carbohydrate options, some of these containing more carbohydrates than four slices of bread! Apart from the thin wraps called ‘mountain bread’. Always read and compare labels.

White bread:

Lots of it at the supermarket! But when it comes to nutritional value, you can generally do a lot better. Most importantly, it doesn't have as much fibre as other breads as it is made from refined wheat (more processed)

High-fibre White Bread

Adding this in as some kids just won't eat wholegrain breads! This is where high-fibre white bread can help. With added fibre from legumes, it has more benefits than white bread, but still doesn’t have the amount of vitamins and minerals of wholegrain.

Wholemeal bread:    

While it is brown bread, you can still choose better – the bran and wheat-germ (containing fibre and nutrients) is often removed during the baking process of most packaged wholemeal breads. This removes some of its nutritional value, but it will still contain more fibre than white bread. 

Multi-grain bread:

'Multigrain' is simply white bread with some different types of grain in the loaf!  So most of the bread is still refined and has had the bran and wheat-germ removed. If you like multigrain bread, try to find multigrain loaves that are 100% wholegrain – and not refined. Multigrain bread is still a step up from white bread because it is lower GI.

Wholegrain bread:

WINNER: wholegrain bread has grains and often seeds added to ground wholegrain flour for extra nutritional value, fibre and lower GI. Wholegrain breads (including rye and sourdough) are much less processed and have up to four times the fibre of white breads, making them one of the most nutritious options. Wholegrain breads are low GI because the seeds and grains take longer to digest, giving you longer lasting energy and keeping you full for longer.

Sourdough bread:

WINNER: Proper sourdough bread bakes and rises for up to 18 hours, giving it a great flavour, plus this fermentation process increases the content of beneficial bacteria in the bread which is great for gut health. It is also low GI.  Like all breads, vitamins, minerals and fibre levels vary depending on the flour used – So make sure to look at the labels and ingredient lists checking for wholegrains and 'Sourdough'- as this is one of your best bread options!  This is compared to most commercially produced breads, which only keep some of their original nutrient content after all the processing they undergo.

Wholegrain sourdough can also be much easier to digest than other wheat breads. This is because the baking time is much longer. It is a long, slow fermentation process - resulting in pre-digestion of the starches in the grains, and the protein Gluten being broken down more- making it easier and more pleasant for you to digest.

So you see, bread is quite healthy! It shouldn’t be that surprising really – grains are plant foods too. Unless you have celiac disease or another type of gluten intolerance or sensitivity, there’s no reason to avoid bread. No doubt we eat too much refined wheat, usually in the form of cakes, cookies, muffins, pizza and other foods loaded with added sugar and/or fat. Cutting down on these heavily processed wheat products and including some 100 precent wholegrain products will lead towards a healthy diet, as it is nutritious and can be teamed with other healthy foods to create healthy, balanced meals that we really enjoy. 

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