If you look at just about any bread package today, every brand features, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Guide Pyramid. What the packages fail to mention is that some bread is better for you than others. Nor do they explain that those six to eleven recommended servings are tiny: just 1/2-cup of pasta or rice or one modest slice of bread. You would use up four servings on just one bagel from Dunkin' Donuts.
Healthier bread contains whole grains and not too much sodium. Whole grains are not just richer in vitamins, minerals and fiber. In addition, they contain phytochemicals that may help cut the risk of heart disease and cancer.
Following is a guide to help you pick out the healthiest breads and wade through the tricky claims for the others.
100 Percent Reliable Bread
If the label does not say, "100 percent" whole wheat, chances are the bread has more white than whole-grain flour. Do not be fooled by claims like "natural whole grain goodness" (Roman Meal Honey Wheat Berry) or "made with natural whole grain" (Oroweat Bran'nola). In each case, the first ingredient is white flour. One exception: The Pepperidge Farm line of Natural Whole Grain breads say "rich in whole grain". If you check the label, you will see that whole-wheat flour is the first ingredient, making this claim true.
Wheat is White
Refined white flour is what remains after the nutrient-packed germ and bran are milled out of the wheat kernel. Labels seldom call it "white" flour. Instead, they will refer to it as "enriched wheat flour", which means the manufacturer has restored a handful of the vitamins and minerals that went out with the bran and germ.
Pepperidge Farm Farmhouse Hearty Slices Harvest 7-Grain Bread does indeed contain seven grains, though it contains less than two percent of all but one of them -- the white flour. Oroweat (or Arnold) 12 Grain Bread is also essentially white bread. Ditto for Roman Meal 12 Grain, although the label has the nerve to explain "How Roman Meal Helps You Get Your Recommended Servings of Whole Grain". On the other hand, some multi-grain breads are mostly whole-grain. Among them: Rubschlager Sunflower Multi-Grain and five Pepperidge Farm Natural Whole Grain breads: 9 Grain, Crunchy Grains, German Dark Wheat, Multi-Grain and Roasted Grains and Herbs.
Light Equals Slight
What gives light breads fewer calories than regular breads? More air, added fiber and/or thinner slices. That also gives them less fat. Pepperidge Farm Light Style breads have half the fat of other breads, but a slice of most (non-light) bread has only about a gram of fat to start with.
Health Claims Debut
The big print on the front of Bestfoods (called Oroweat in the West, Brownberry in the Midwest and Arnold in the East), says, "May reduce the risk of heart disease". The small print says, "Diets rich in whole-grain foods and other plant foods and low in total fat, saturated fat and cholesterol, may help reduce the risk of heart disease and certain cancers". Food labels cannot toss around words like heart disease and cancer lightly. For a food to make this claim, the Food and Drug Administration insists that it be at least 51 percent whole-grain, have at least 1.7 grams of fiber in a typical slice and be low in fat.
Like many other foods that carry a health claim, the bread cannot be high in sodium. High is an amount over 480mg per serving. Lifeworks bread is a bit deceiving as well. The label gives one the belief the bread contains more fiber and protein because the label uses two slices as a serving while most other breads use one slice. In addition, there is too little soy in the bread to help lower cholesterol. The only real advantage is the extra calcium. In spite of all this, the bread is worth eating if you eat white or wheat bread.
Okay, what are the best breads to eat? Following are listed the top choices in four different categories.
White and Part Whole-Wheat Bread
- Roman Meal Dakota Wheat (1.5 ounce) Calories per slice: 40, Sodium, 100mg, fiber, 3grams.
- Oroweat Honey Wheat Berry: Calories per slice, 90, Sodium, 170mg, fiber, 2 grams.
- Rubschlager Stone-Ground Honey Wheat (1.5 ounce). Calories, 90, Sodium, 180mg, fiber, 2 grams.
- Pepperidge Farm Very Thin Wheat (0.5 ounce) Calories per slice, 40, Sodium, 70gm, fiber, 1 gram.
- Pepperidge Farm Natural Whole Grain 9 Grain Calories per slice, 90, Sodium, 140mg, fiber, 3 grams.
- Pepperidge Farm Natural Whole Grain German Dark Wheat, Calories per slice, 90, Sodium, 140, fiber, 3 grams.
- Rubschlager European Style Whole Grain, Calories per slice, 70, Sodium, 140mg, fiber, 3 grams.
- Brownberry Natural Grain 12 Grain (1.5 ounce), Calories per slice, 90, Sodium, 150, fiber, 3 grams.
- Pepperidge Farm Natural Whole Grain Crunchy Grains or Multi-Grain, Calories per slice, 90, Sodium, 150mg, fiber 3 grams.
- EarthGrains Honey Whole Grains (1.5 ounce), Calories per slice, 110, Sodium, 180mg, fiber 3 grams.
- Oroweat Master's Best Winter Wheat, Calories per slice, 90, Sodium, 12mg, fiber 2 grams.
- Pepperidge Farm Natural Whole Grain Roasted Grain and Herbs, Calories per slice, 90, Sodium, 120mg, fiber 2 grams.
- Rubschlager Sunflower Multi-Grain, Calories per slice, 70, Sodium, 120, fiber, 2 grams.
Pumpernickel and Rye
- Rubschlager 100% Rye Rye-Ola Sunflower, Calories per slice, 110, Sodium, 190mg, fiber, 3 grams.
- Rubschlager 100% Rye Rye-Ola Rye (1.5 ounce), Calories per slice, 100, Sodium, 200mg, fiber 3 grams.
- Rubschlager 100% Rye Rye-Ola Pumpernickel (1.5 ounce), Calories per slice, 100, Sodium, 200mg, fiber 3 grams.
- Rubschlager Danish Style Pumpernickel, Calories per slice, 70, Sodium, 140mg, fiber, 2 grams.
- Rubschlager Westphalian Style Pumpernickel, Calories per slice, 70, Sodium, 140mg, fiber, 2 grams.
Only one oat bread comes out on top: Brownberry Natural Oatnut (1.5 ounce), Calories per slice, 90, sodium, 150mg, fiber, 3 grams.
Sprouted whole grain bread - Enzymes produced during sprouting make grains easier to digest. Use for quick open-faced sandwiches.
Did You Know?
- In 1920, 70 percent of the population baked their own bread.
- In 1933, prohibition ended and a loaf of bread cost only 5 cents.
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