Sunday, July 8, 2018

How to choose healthier bread

Is the bread you are eating healthy?  What does it matter?  Last weekend my daughters wanted to try a new sandwich shop advertising its signature sandwiches.  A big draw is that they use meat from the upstairs butcher shop. The meat is not only really fresh but also antibiotic free.  The greens are locally grown and also healthy.  So, I order a ham and cheese sandwich with lettuce, tomato, onion and ask for whole wheat bread.  No whole wheat.  I ask for multi-grain bread.  No multi-grain.  I finally ask, “Do you have any bread that is healthy?”  They responded they had rye bread.  Well, that could be healthy if it is whole grain rye, which is pretty hard to find.  But it was refined rye bread, so not really healthier than refined white bread.  The sandwich was good but could have been so much tastier and healthier with better bread choices.  Recently my husband and I stopped at a French bakery in Nova Scotia.  They had delicious bakery items, great blueberry scones and oat cakes.  But they also had a good assortment of ready made sandwiches for lunch.  Egg salad on a freshly baked whole wheat Kaiser roll.  Beef or ham on freshly baked whole wheat bread.  All bread freshly made in the bakery.  Not only were their scones and oat cakes delicious but the sandwiches were really a treat.  

How to choose healthier bread?
1. Choose “multi-grain” bread wisely– Doesn’t “multi-grain” sound healthy?  But if you look at the ingredients most “multi-grain” bread is a mixture of refined grains and little or no whole grain.  But there is multi-grain bread that has at least some whole grain flour in it.  Look at the ingredients and if all you see is “enriched” there is no whole grain.  But if you see at least some “whole” like whole wheat flour, then the bread has some of the benefits whole grains offer.  For people that hate whole grain bread, choosing a mutli-grain bread with at least some whole grain flour is a better option than just white bread.        
2.  WHOLE – is the key word.  Look at the ingredients and the first word you see should be WHOLE.  Such as whole wheat flour, whole rye flour, whole oats.  Why WHOLE?  Because that means the entire or whole grain has been used – the germ, endosperm and bran.  White bread uses just the endosperm and not the germ and bran which have the most vitamins, minerals and fiber.  If you want a different flavor to your whole grain bread, Dietitian Glassman recommends “scoping out ingredients like whole barley, brown rice, whole oats or whole flax for a different flavor, but all the same nutrients”.
a.       Whole grain breads provide:
                                                               i.      Antioxidants
                                                             ii.      Protein –
                                                           iii.      Fiber
                                                           iv.      Minerals such as iron, magnesium and many trace minerals like chromium
                                                             v.      Vitamins such as vitamin E, B vitamins
                                                           vi.      Phytochemicals – the healthy plant chemicals
                                                          vii.      Whole grains may help protect against obesity, stroke, heart disease, diabetes and even some cancers
 3.  100% Whole Grain – is the healthiest choice. 
a.       100% whole grain – means all the flour or grains in the bread are whole and provide all the vitamins, minerals and fiber in the grain.  You may see the “whole grain” stamp on the bread.  Or you may see the words:  “100% whole grain” on the package.  
Look for a Whole Grain stamp on the package
b.       Some foods are mostly refined but do have some whole grain.  For example, Ritz crackers has a “Baked with Whole Wheat” cracker.  Sounds like it would be 100% whole wheat but the first ingredient in these crackers is:  unbleached enriched flour.  It does have “whole grain wheat flour” so a healthier choice than crackers not providing any whole grain.  This would be a good snack cracker to serve kids after school or pack as a snack for work with some cheese slices.   And breads can say “whole grain” even if only 51% of the ingredients are whole grain.
c.       Make half your grains whole grain – MyPlate recommends half the grains you eat should be whole grain.  Try for whole grains at breakfast and lunch.  Then for dinner enjoy that sour dough or ciabatta bread. 
d.       Some whole grain bread options:  whole grain English muffins, whole grain bagels.  We like Dave’s Killer Bread.  Full of whole grains and it tastes good.  

  4. Avoid high fructose corn syrup – no reason for bread to contain this sweetener.  We always try to buy bread and other foods that do not contain high fructose corn syrup.
       5.   Fiber – look on the package to see how many grams of fiber per slice.  Fiber is so important to good health and many Americans are lacking fiber in their diet.  Whole grain breads are a great way to add some fiber to your day.  If you are new to adding fiber to your diet, start slowly.   Look for bread that provides at least 3 grams of fiber per slice.  Fiber is important to feeding the healthy bacteria in your gut so improves gut health.  The U.S. Dietary Guidelines recommend adults get about 25 grams of fiber a day.  

1.       Brown bread is whole grain – not really.  So many students in my class say they look for brown bread as that is healthy.  Just because food manufacturers dye the bread brown, doesn’t make it any healthier than white bread.  
2.       Wheat bread – almost all bread is “wheat” bread.  White bread is made from enriched wheat flour.  Wheat doesn’t make it healthy or whole grain.  If the first ingredient is “wheat flour” or “enriched bleached flour” the bread is mostly white flour and not whole grain.
3.       Rye bread – most people think rye bread is healthier than white bread.  Not true.  Students ask me if you can buy whole grain rye bread.  I went to our local grocery store and looked at every package of rye bread.  Not one had any whole rye flour in the ingredients.  So, don’t be fooled by Russian rye, Jewish Rye, Dark Rye or Extra Sour Rye as all have the first ingredient as unbleached enriched flour.  Since most rye breads are from enriched flour, they usually don’t have more than 1 gram of fiber per slice.  I did find a whole rye bread at World Market.  It was very dark rye, 100% whole grain rye and imported from Germany. 
4.       Multi-grain, Seven Grain, 100% natural – all sound healthy but you have to read the ingredients to see if any of the grains are whole grain.  As WebMD notes, “Oroweat’s seven-grain and 12-grain breads, for example, list “unbleached enriched flour” as their first ingredient.  Nature’s Pride 100% Natural Honey Wheat bread, likewise, is mainly made with “wheat flour”, not whole wheat.” 

The following are considered whole grain:
·         Oatmeal
·         Whole corn
·         Whole wheat, wheat berries, stoneground whole wheat
·         Whole rye
·         Bulgur
·         Brown rice
·         Whole grain barley
·         Buckwheat
·         Quinoa
·         Whole wheat Couscous 

If you would like to know more about choosing healthier bread, read the WebMD article:  “The Best Bread: Tips for Buying Breads”.   If you want to read more about whole grains, go to “Whole Grains 101”.
Enjoy some buckwheat pancakes

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