Bread has been consumed in some form by people for ages – you could say it's a staple of human culture as a whole. Though bread has played a major role in our collective culinary history, it's a much maligned food form by various healthy folk. But it isn't all bad for you! Whether you're enjoying buns, biscuits or rolls, we have some tips and basic information for choosing the healthiest bread:
In the past – and indeed, in many European countries today – bread was made fresh daily either at home or by a local baker. This is because after more than one day, the bread became as hard as a rock and inedible. Back then, the dough typically contained only four basic ingredients: flour, water, yeast and salt. But today, most people don't make their own bread due to lack of time and patience. Instead, we buy it at the grocery store and expect it to stay fresh for up to two weeks. However, this means that extra ingredients are added to keep the bread soft, edible and mold-free. Here's what to look for when grocery shopping so you can buy the healthiest bread:
- Look for whole grains. Your bread should say "100 percent whole grains" and the first ingredient listed should be "100 percent whole-wheat flour." The words "made with whole grains" don't mean much. Whole-grain bread is better for you than whole-wheat bread because of the variety of grains included.
- It's also good to look for actual grains or pieces of grain in the bread, rather than just on top. This is also helpful when you're eating out or ordering from a deli and don't have the benefit of seeing the label.
- Double-fiber breads aren't necessarily better. The extra fiber is added from soy, cellulose or oats. There's no evidence that this is either harmful or beneficial. But, whole foods, rather than those reconstructed from various parts, are usually seen as better options in any food scenario.
- You should avoid anything that says "enriched" – this means that it's refined white flour, not really wheat flour.
- If you're trying to restrict your intake of carbs, pay attention to the serving size listed and the weight of the bread. This varies according to brand but can throw some people off if they don't read carefully.
- Avoid breads that have trans fats, hydrogenated oils or vegetable shortening.
- Don't purchase breads made with dyes, high sugar content and high-fructose corn syrup.
- If you try to avoid wheat due to Celiac's disease or low-gluten tolerance, there are many non-wheat options on the market so you can still enjoy bread.
- Sprouted breads are an emerging trend because they're actually better for you. It's a bit complicated, but breads made with sprouted grains are easier to digest and have more B vitamins, amino acids and minerals because sprouting converts the proteins and starches into more digestible, smaller molecules.