Healthy Bread: How to Choose the Right Healthy Bread

Choosing a healthy bread should be easy, but it’s not. In fact, knowing what healthy breads to eat is a real challenge.

Should I choose bread with seeds?

What about ‘cracked wheat?’ That sure sounds healthy!

And then there’s ‘whole grain’ bread. But, is it really healthy bread?

Healthy bread, it’s a simple choice

The decision shouldn’t be all that difficult. But, the shelves are amass of cellophane-wrapped bewilderment!

And there’s definitely a lot of confusion with labelling claims these days. The more info they give us, the more confused we seem get!

Read the packaging to find a healthy bread

But, if you really want to get to the heart of a product’s contents, forget all about the front of pack claims, and go straight to the small print on the back.

Now, herein is your challenge! You must be able to make sense of what that’s all about…

1. Whole wheat bread

In an effort to eat well, many health conscious shoppers have been duped into thinking that a product stating ‘whole wheat’ was the best option.

However, a ‘whole wheat’ label is no guarantee that the bread is made from whole grains. Often it’s simply white bread with a little extra whole wheat added.

Deceiving, right?

Try looking for bread stating, ’100% whole wheat’ - this should also be the first ingredient listed, and the only flour mentioned in the ingredients.

2. Whole grain bread

A whole grain has three components: the bran, germ, and endosperm. For a grain to be considered whole it must have all three parts present.

During the processing stages, the bran and germ get stripped away. This is a problem because most of the nutrients, fibre, essential fats, and disease-fighting compounds are found here.

A true whole grain bread will be high in fibre, containing at least 3 grams per slice.

Find out if your bread contains a majority of whole grains by looking at the ingredients list. ‘Whole grain’ should be the first ingredient listed.

These names indicate whole grain products, in accordance with the US government:

  • Whole wheat bread
  • Whole wheat rolls
  • Whole wheat buns
  • Whole wheat flour
  • Cracked wheat
  • Crushed wheat
  • Graham flour
  • Entire wheat flour
  • Bromated whole wheat flour
  • Whole durum flour
  • Bulgur wheat

Is there a difference between whole grain and whole wheat bread?
Just to clarifywhole grain means that the grain flour used to prepare the product has not been refined, therefore nutrients are still intact.

Often when you see a product labelled ‘whole wheat,’ it means that the bread is 100% wheat flour, but not necessarily 100% whole grain flour.

3. Take care with multi grain and seeded breads

Breads containing mixed grains and seeds can appear to be a healthier option. While these are nutritious, adding to the nutritional value of the bread, many of them do fall short when compared to 100% whole wheat or whole grain bread.

This is mainly because they largely consist of white flour, with the grains and seeds making up only a small proportion.

4. Avoid white bread

This is an easy one. Simply put, it’s unhealthy! Your goal should be to get most of your carbohydrates from foods that are high in fibre, and as close to a whole food as possible.

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About Melanie
Melanie is a Registered Dietitian who started Dietriffic in March 2007. Her aim is to make good health attainable and sustainable, without guilt and torture, making her approach popular with those who desire a level-headed approach to good health. Have you got your copy of her free book yet?


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{ 39 comments… read them below or add one }

Lorie November 14, 2008 at 9:29 am

This was a great article. You’re right. Finding truly healthy bread is a challenge. I’m going to try to start baking my own bread.

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Melanie November 14, 2008 at 9:46 am

Hey Lorie,

Nice to hear from you again. If you find a good recipe I’d love to hear about it!! :-)

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Family Nutritionist November 14, 2008 at 11:38 am

It depends on how the bread is made, too. A soft-and-fluffy wholemeal/ whole wheat bread made from finely-ground flour is going to get that starch digested into sugar much more quickly than a denser loaf made from coarsely-ground flour. And blood-sugar spikes lead to carb cravings later on.

I’ve been using a bread machine for years. I’m about to pop in a new pumpernickel recipe and hope for the best.

Family Nutritionist’s last blog post..Omega-3 and genetic engineering

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Matt November 15, 2008 at 5:07 am

I usually go for WASA bread. It’s a whole grain bread with lot’s of fiber.

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Eric Hamm November 15, 2008 at 11:26 pm

Hey Mel, thanks so much for sharing this incredibly helpful/useful content with us. I’ve definitely been duped in the past with phrases like ‘wheat flour’ and ‘wheat bread’. But more recently we’ve been keeping our eyes out for ‘whole wheat’ and higher fiber contents.

I’ll have to send a link of this list to my wife so she’ll have an even better understanding of what things to look for. She’ll greatly appreciate it, I’m sure. :-) Eric.

Eric Hamm’s last blog post..Painting Your Picture Of Paradise | Community Insight

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Melanie November 17, 2008 at 9:12 am

Hey Family nutritionist,

Hope the pumpernickel bread turned out well!!

Hi Matt,

Is WASA the brand of bread? I don’t think we get it here.

Hey Eric,

You’re more than welcome! I’m glad it was useful info, I also know how confusing it can get sometimes!

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Family Nutritionist November 19, 2008 at 3:53 am

The problem with pumpernickel is it doesn’t rise the same as other breads. The dough is gooier. So I don’t have the water/yeast thing straight just yet. I’m getting closer. But I only make the bread once a week, so it takes a while.

Family Nutritionist’s last blog post..Melamine is still in our foods

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Melanie November 19, 2008 at 9:38 am

Hi James,

Yes, you’re right – in actual fact people in general believe bread is bad, it’s difficult to undo all the misinformation about carbs, it’s treated as fact that they are the enemy!! But, it’s more about moderation, isn’t it?

Hey Family nutritionist,

I hope you can get the recipe perfected!!! I’d love to try it out if you do :-)

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James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H. November 19, 2008 at 2:23 am

Great information. So many people still don’t know these facts.
Most type 2 diabetes thing all bread is bad, but not so. The whole grains are a healthy addition.
Thanks

James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H.’s last blog post..Holiday gifts that give back

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Leo November 19, 2008 at 9:58 pm

Great info, Melanie! While I’ve been avoiding bread altogether the last couple of weeks, when I do eat bread I prefer Ezekiel sprouted grain breads — they seem denser and even healthier than regular whole grain bread. What are your thoughts on sprouted grain breads?

Leo’s last blog post..Ask the Readers: Could You Give Up Email?

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Melanie November 20, 2008 at 2:50 pm

Hey Leo,

I’m certainly not against bread, but I have been cutting back myself lately, it just so difficult to find the right product.

I think the sprouted grain breads are wonderful, but I haven’t had the opportunity to try Ezekiel bread, since they don’t stock it in Australia.

Anyhow, if you’re going to eat bread at all, I think this is a great choice in terms of whole grains. The other thing I like about Ezekiel bread is the short ingredients list – a list as long as your arm is not a good sign!

I’m wondering why there are only 3 grams of fibre per slice – still good – but I did think there would be more.

Do you find one slice of this bread is as filling as 2 slices of ‘normal’ bread?

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Brandon October 17, 2009 at 11:14 pm

I have been buying Big Sky Bread recently. It has 5 ingredients, “FIVE”. And nothing I can’t pronounce, or sounds like it comes from the periodic table. The cinnamon raisin bread is incredible, but it does contain some honey- but that doesn’t bother me personally. As a side note, they also make an incredible granola, not in a box in the packaged section, in the bakery section bagged. However, all of their stuff has a shorter shelf life than preservative laden goods, so only buy as much as you will eat before your next grocery trip. If anyone can say if there is anything wrong with Big Sky Bread, please let me know.

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Nadine December 30, 2009 at 7:45 am

Hello Melanie,
this is a great article, so beneficial as am always lost when it come to bread! BUt still have a question: What is the difference of whole wheat and whole grain! you’ve mentioned it in the article but still unclear to me:”Often when you see a product labelled ‘whole wheat,’ it means that the bread is 100% wheat flour, but not necessarily 100% whole grain flour”. What are the grain in a bread other than the wheat? and which one is better the whole grain or whole wheat?
-Do i have to buy the 100% whole wheat (grain) bread ONLY?
or its ok if 100% is not there?
Thank you :)

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Nadine December 30, 2009 at 7:46 am

What about the HONEY in the bread? why its considered among the NASTIES?

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Lennie Lefler March 7, 2010 at 4:10 pm

Hi Nadine–I’m sure you’ve got this by now—but Honey is barely better than sugar—UNLESS–it’s RAW honey—which is a great–Health food!! BYE…

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Melissa May 23, 2013 at 2:32 am

I’ve been hearing honey is much better than sugar and yeast will take to it better as well. What, then, SHOULD you use instead? Agave? Stevia? How would you substitute other options in a bread recipe calling for honey or sugar?

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Melissa May 23, 2013 at 2:35 am

I’ve been hearing honey is much better than sugar and that yeast will take to it better as well. What, then, SHOULD you use instead? Agave? Stevia? How would you substitute other options in a bread recipe calling for honey or sugar?

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Heather January 13, 2010 at 5:25 pm

Is Natures Own a Healthy brand 100% whole grain? Can anyone recommend some actual bread brands?

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Arjun Pokhrel October 2, 2010 at 5:56 am

Hi Melanie,

I am gald to get that article from you which i am looking for long to find out which bread is healthy option.

I am going to use this information form next shopping.

Many thanks for article.

Reply

Melanie October 4, 2010 at 6:18 pm

Hey Arjun,
I’m glad you found this article. I hope it helps. Let me know if you’ve any further queries.

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JK December 27, 2010 at 6:16 pm

“–product has not been refined, therefore nutrients are still in tack.”

Did you mean intact ?

Reply

Melanie December 31, 2010 at 4:20 pm

JK,
Yes, I did. Thank you for pointing that out. I’ve update it now with the correct spelling :-)

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suellyn May 19, 2011 at 2:46 pm

Can you list some brand names please? Thanks for the information.

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Melanie May 25, 2011 at 9:39 am

Hi Suellyn,
Are you living in the US? It’s difficult to list brand names to suit everyone, but perhaps I can list a few.

Reply

Melissa April 25, 2012 at 4:50 pm

Pepperidge Farm whole grain – 15 grain hearty texture bread. Is this a good choice?

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Melanie April 28, 2012 at 9:34 pm

Hi Melissa,
I’m not familiar with the brand, but had a quick look online.

It seems to be a very good choice since it contains 100% whole wheat flour, no trans fats or high fructose corn syrup, 4g fibre per slice, etc.

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Jane June 2, 2012 at 3:22 am

Hey…
I was just wondering if you could tell me how to lose weight….
Just a little to tip to plan my diet maybe…?
Or some basic form of exercise…?

Thanks a lot…
Jane :>

Reply

Melanie June 2, 2012 at 10:22 pm

Hi Jane,
Eggs for breakfast, lots of water. Since you can’t run, what about pilates or swimming as a form of exercise? :-)

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Jane June 5, 2012 at 2:45 am

I’ll sure try it… Thanks for the advice…:)

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Jane June 2, 2012 at 3:25 am

oh and by the way…i cant run or use my foot for any form of exercise…i need to let it rest till the end-of-the-year…
regards, Jane

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Luisa July 13, 2012 at 2:40 am

I am curious on your thoughts about sprouted grain vs whole grain bread. Everything I have read seems to indicate that it is even better as far as the nutritional value is concerned as well easier to digest. Definitely thanks for clarifying the difference between whole wheat and whole grain.

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Melanie July 31, 2012 at 1:07 pm

Hi Luisa,
It seems that if you are buying a commercial product there is probably very little difference between flours made from whole grain and those made from a sprouted grain. The different types of grains used, such as lentil, millet or soy, would make the biggest difference. But then again, heavy processing will lead to a loss of nutrients and fibre.

If you want to purchase this type of bread, go for one which states “sprouted grains” rather than “sprouted grain flour.”

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Norma September 3, 2012 at 3:43 pm

Why is whole wheat bread listed as one of the five things you should never eat?

Reply

Don October 29, 2012 at 12:00 pm

Hi Melanie, Is Potatoe bread or sourdough bread a healthy choice

Thanks

Don

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Melanie November 16, 2012 at 1:43 pm

Hi Don, My recent article on healthy carbs may be of use in answering that query.

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Vino Pillay June 5, 2013 at 6:09 am

Hi Melanie

My name is Vino and I am from Johannesburg, South Africa where commercialised bread is “big business” but I suppose it’s like that in most countries?
I have 2 healthy “growing-by-the-hour” teenagers and as a working mom bread is one of the staple diets at home when they get home from school. I also had a surgical procedure recently that forces me to change my diet habits ie no fat, spicy, rich or oily foods allowed. I would love nothing better than to bake my own bread but I don’t have a cooking crumbling clue on where to start. HELP!! Vino.
Do any of you have a step by step recipe on how to make healthy wholesome bread

Reply

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