CONTRIBUTOR Jillian Morgan, RD, LD, CDE
UPPER CRUST: You want to know: Wheat, whole-grain, sprouted, sourdough, seven-grain, homemade—any way you slice it, “good-for-you” loaves are everywhere. Of all the bread options available these days, which are healthiest and why? Are there any that I should avoid?
THE DIETITIAN SAYS: “Most well-known types of bread have one commonality: they’re made from flour,” says Roper St. Francis Healthcare affiliated dietitian Jillian Morgan. “What differs is the amount of the grain included in that flour, other added ingredients and the length of the fermentation process.” Grains have three parts: endosperm (containing protein and starch), germ (with fat, protein and vitamins) and bran (for fiber). “The more of the grain that’s used, the more nutrient-dense the bread will be.”
Let’s explore the options:
White bread is baked with refined flour, which only uses the endosperm and therefore lacks the fiber, fat and vitamins naturally found in wheat grains. Beyond just Wonder Bread, sourdough, ciabatta, focaccia and baguette also fit this category.
Whole-wheat bread contains unrefined flour,which incorporates the entire grain for more nutrients and fiber. Only products that specifically state they contain 100-percent whole wheat use all whole-wheat flour.
Whole grain or multigrain bread is simply made from more than one grain and may include both refined and unrefined flour.
Sprouted grain bread uses whole grain that has been allowed to sprout (or germinate) before being milled into flour. Sprouting breaks down some of the grain’s starch, which reduces its impact on blood sugar.
Homemade or local bakery bread usually boasts the freshest ingredients, resulting in less manufactured additives to prevent the loaves from going bad (just know they won’t keep as long as their grocery-store counterparts). Our bodies often absorb nutrients best and break them down more easily when we consume foods in their most natural form.
The takeaway: “Because it contains a lower glycemic load (meaning it won’t cause as great a blood-sugar spike as more refined options), I recommend sprouted grain bread on a regular basis,” says Morgan. “However, since we know deprivation does not create a healthy relationship with food, I also encourage people to enjoy whichever bread they like. Just make sure you do so in amounts that make you feel well.” If you’ve only ever eaten one kind of bread, the dietitian also encourages mixing things up with a new type of loaf.