Monday, August 10, 2009

Bread: Not All Loaves Are Created Equal

I love bread. Who doesn't? I've recently been buying spelt bread from Whole Foods which I really like, but I've been uncertain as to whether or not it's a good choice, from a nutrition standpoint.

This month's issue of Vegetarian Times had a great article on tips for buying healthy bread. Here's a recap:

Choose 100% whole grain
Basically, you want to see the word "whole" as the first ingredient in the list: whole wheat, whole rye or whole oatmeal are all good bets.

Know how to spot refined white flour in disguise
Wheat flour is just a code name for white flour. Again, look for the word "whole." Also, anytime you see the word "enriched," know that you're getting white flour, incognito. "Enriching" is a nice way of saying that the flour is stripped of bran and germ to chemically add some B vitamins and iron. I can't say it enough: know the difference between "whole" and "enriched."

Watch out for partial promises
Breads that are "made with whole grains" contain some whole grain but are usually made with refined flour, as well. Same holds true with a "multigrain" label. This is where things can get confusing. Breads that say they are "whole wheat" may or may not be made with whole-grain wheat. I'll say it once more: read the label. Read it carefully.

Give it a squeeze
Ever noticed how, if you put the carton of milk on top of the white bread, it goes as flat as a pancake? There's a reason for that: manufacturers have a hard time making nourishing bread that's also soft and fluffy. So they rely on chemicals. The denser the bread, the closer you're getting to the whole grains that you need.

Double fiber isn't better
We ate the "Double Fiber" bread for a long time. I like the fact that it has a ton of fiber (6 grams per slice) but I don't like the sources of the fiber, which are: soy, oats, cellulose and inulin. These are called "restructured" foods; whole foods are always a more natural choice.

Bread with the fewest ingredients might not be the best choice
I always say: look for the foods with the shortest list of ingredients. But this doesn't have to be a hard and fast rule for bread. A good slice of bread can contain seeds, nuts, and flax.

Sprouted breads are best
When grains are sprouted, the starches are much easier to digest. Sprouted breads offer more essential amino acids, minerals and B vitamins than starndard whole-grain varieties. In fact, ounce for ounce, sprouts are the most nutritious of all goods. A sprouted grain has become, in effect, a vegetable.

In summary, if you want the best bread for your body, head to the sprouted section. You may have to try several varieties before you find one that agrees with your own personal palate, but it's definitely worth the effort.

And, just in case you're wondering, Ben won't even take a nibble off of anything that is whole-grain, let alone sprouted. He eats Sara Lee Whole Grain White, which is nothing short of white bread, sold with the promise of Enriched Bleached Flour. I may as well save my money and buy him straight white bread.

One last tip. When you're out shopping, here's a quick list of the "ideal" attributes of a slice of bread:

Calories: 80
Fiber 3 to 5 grams
Protein: 4 grams
Carbohydrates: 15 grams
Sodium: 125 milligrams
Sugar: 3 grams of less; listed after the 5th ingredient

1 comment:

ShoppingShelley said...

How about if I just chew on card board. I am sure it taste about the same and doesn't cost as much.

Thanks for the postings. You know I just like to mess with you!