Standing in the bread aisle can be daunting. There are hundreds of bags of bread just staring at you with their enticing marketing ploys…whole wheat, extra fiber, no preservatives, and on and on. But which one is truly healthy for you and your family? Here are a few tips.
Whole Wheat vs. Whole Grains:
Whole grain has the entire kernel of the grain from the bran to the endosperm to the germ. Whole wheat has the bran and germ removed during the refining process and is left containing only the endosperm. Unfortunately, the majority of vitamins and fiber are contained in the wheat bran and wheat germ that is shed during the refining process.
Whole grain is lower in fat than whole wheat. It also contains all of the fiber, iron and B vitamins that nature intended because it does not go through a refining process. In fact, the refining process strips away half of the vitamins, calcium, iron and fiber from whole wheat products.
Whole grain and whole wheat look very similar. Most people cannot tell the difference between the two without tasting them. Generally, whole wheat loaves will be lighter in texture, almost as light as a loaf of bread made with bleached flour. Whole grain has a more dense texture than whole wheat does, and whole grain bread often tastes richer.
When reading labels, look for whole wheat flour as the first ingredient or a statement that it is made with 100% whole grain. If two ingredients are listed as grain products but only the second is listed as whole grain, the entire product may contain between 1% and 49% whole grain. The Whole Grain Council makes it even easier for you by putting their whole grain stamp on whole grain products. So read the labels and look for the whole grain stamp to pick the healthiest products.
When shopping for bread, also be aware of the hidden ingredients such as high fructose corn syrup, a high sugar content, caramel coloring. These are often hiding along with other ingredients as preservatives that you can’t pronounce.
Gluten free breads are often a good choice. They often use whole grains such as quinoa, buckwheat, millet, amaranth, teff, sorghum, and rice. But check their labels as well to see they are 100% whole grain and preservative free.
Examples of Whole Grain Products:
Barley – Hulled and Dehulled (not Pearl)
Common refined non-whole grain products include:
Pasta (non-whole wheat varieties)
What about Sprouted Grain Breads?
These are the best choice for your family! But not often available when eating out or away from home. For your health you may choose to keep your bread to a minimum when eating at restaurants.
Here is a little about sprouted grains: When grains, seeds and nuts are germinated, their nutritional content changes and, as they are generally not cooked, they retain their natural plant enzymes. These enzymes are beneficial for helping the digestion of the seeds and nuts in the digestive tract. As well as retaining the enzymes, they also retain the nutrients that would otherwise be destroyed by cooking. Sprouted grains, seeds and nuts also encourage the growth of good bacteria, help to keep the colon clean, and are high in protective antioxidants.
Sprouting grains increases many of the grains’ key nutrients, including B vitamins, vitamin C, folate, fiber, and essential amino acids often lacking in grains, such as lysine. Sprouted grains may also be less allergenic to those with grain protein sensitivities.
Sprouted grain breads are significantly higher in protein, vitamins and enzymes, and the complex starches are converted into natural sugars. They are also low on the Glycemic Index (GI), so they are digested more slowly by the body, keeping the blood sugar levels stable for longer, making you feel more satisfied. It is interesting to note that the more highly processed a food is, the higher GI it is. A loaf of white bread is significantly higher GI than a loaf of sprouted grain bread.
The pace of research is quickening, with studies documenting a wide range of health benefits for different sprouted grains. Here are just a few:
Sprouted brown rice fights diabetes.
Sprouted buckwheat protects against fatty liver disease.
Cardiovascular risk reduced by sprouted brown rice.
Sprouted brown rice decreases depression and fatigue in nursing mothers.
Decreased blood pressure linked to sprouted barley.
For the full studies on each of these.. http://www.wholegrainscouncil.org/whole-grains-101/health-benefits-of-sprouted-grains.
A good brand that is readily available to most grocery stores is Food for Life’s Ezekiel Breads. Our family uses this bread, tortillas and other products. It’s delicious. For sprouted breads, you must store them in the refrigerator or freezer since the food is alive.
Consider making this change in your pantry. Your body will thank you!
As a summary…
- Whole Wheat doesn’t mean healthy & has stripped away much of the grain’s nutrition
- Whole Grain uses the entire kernel allowing it to be more nutritious
- Gluten Free breads are a great option
- Some store bought breads often hide unhealthy and toxic ingredients
- Sprouted Grains are best and hold the most nutrition