Whole-Grain Breads- from Experience Life

Hype: Read the packages in the bread aisle and it’s easy to think you’ve hit the nutrient jackpot. Every label features words like “whole,” “multi-grain,” “oats,” “natural” and “fiber.” For generations raised on white bread, the mere hint of brownness and texture may be enough to signal wholesomeness.

Reality: When it comes to bread, you can’t judge a loaf by its wrapper — or its color. Nor can you assume that even a healthy bread is going to be healthy in any and all quantities.

First, read the fine print. Check the first few ingredients of most mass-market-brand breads and you’re likely to find “enriched flour,” meaning it’s made mostly of refined white flour — the same stuff in Wonder Bread.

“Just because it says ‘made with whole grain’ doesn’t mean it’s good for you,” says Michael Aziz, MD, author of The Perfect 10 Diet (Cumberland House, 2010). Also, make sure your whole-grain bread doesn’t contain added ingredients such as high-fructose corn syrup, molasses, artificial flavors, trans fats or industrial, unhealthy oils (soybean and cottonseed, for example, which are used because they are cheap, not healthy).

Keep in mind, too, that even the best whole-grain bread products require moderation. “Whole wheat has become a get-out-of-carb-jail-free card,” says John La Puma, MD, author of ChefMD's Big Book of Culinary Medicine (Crown, 2008). People tend to think that when they choose a whole-wheat product, they can eat it with impunity. “Some whole-wheat bagels are the size of tricycle tires,” he notes.

La Puma suggests that people strive to replace some of their grains with nonstarchy vegetables and legumes. When we do choose whole grains, he recommends eating a moderate serving (one slice of regular-size bread, for example) and pairing it with a healthy protein, such as nut butter, to slow digestion. A healthy serving of whole grains equals one slice of whole-grain bread, 1 cup of whole-grain cereal or a half cup of brown rice.

Better choice: Although many nutrition experts recommend eating bread sparingly, you don’t have to give it up completely. If you want to stick with conventional products, look for a loaf with fewer than five ingredients. Look at fiber and protein next, Ward advises. “You want 4 to 5 grams of fiber and some protein in each slice.” If you’re willing to sacrifice smooth, fluffy texture for a heartier, chewier one, Ward suggests opting for specialty breads made with sprouted grains and seeds. She likes them because “the sprouting process makes them more digestible and higher in key nutrients, like protein, than other breads.” Breads containing seeds also tend to satisfy hunger longer.


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