There are so many different bread varieties on our supermarket shelves here in Australia, which can make it difficult and confusing to know what is the healthiest bread. Whole grain, whole meal, rye, multigrain, sourdough, Turkish bread, oat bread, brown bread, Lebanese bread… What are the differences between them and which one should you shop for to get the most health benefits? Let us help take the guesswork out of buying bread.
Is bread healthy?
We get this question regularly and our answer is always YES! A high-fibre, wholegrain bread contains many important nutrients including B vitamins, carbohydrates, protein, whole grains and fibre, all of which are very beneficial for our general health and gut health. Here’s what to consider when you’re trying to choose a healthy bread.
These are important for reducing the risk of some chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, as well as helping to improve bowel health. Breads with at least 50% whole grains are good options.
Some breads contain high quantities of sodium. The average Australian adult consumes double the recommended intake of sodium and this high consumption is linked to high blood pressure and increased risk for heart disease and stroke. Breads with less than 400mg sodium per 100 g are a good option. Note that bread will always contain relatively high amounts of sodium, due to salt being needed in the bread making process.
The health benefits of fibre include improved digestive health, improved blood sugar and cholesterol levels, it keeps you fuller for longer, reduces risks of diabetes, bowel cancers and heart disease. Breads with 6 g or more per serve (2 slices) are a great choice.
What is the healthiest bread?
There is no one healthiest bread in Australia, but here are some of our favourites.
1. WHOLEGRAIN BREAD
This bread is made from wholemeal flour and contains whole grains which means all three layers of the grain are intact. It also contains three different types of fibre; soluble, insoluble and resistant starch. These are great for digestive health as well as reducing the risk of other chronic diseases. It is also a good source of carbohydrates, protein and nutrients such as iron, selenium, magnesium and B vitamins. The addition of these grains also makes it low-GI, which means it will keep you fuller for longer and help stabilise blood sugars.
2. WHOLEGRAIN SOURDOUGH
Sourdough bread is made a little differently to the average bread, as bakers use wild yeast (a culture made from flour and water) as a raising agent. Since sourdough bread is a fermented food, it is great for digestive health and may be easier for some people to digest. Pair this with whole grains and your gut bugs will be stoked! Whole grain sourdough varieties are also higher in fibre and nutrients.
The only con here is that it can often be more expensive.
3. RYE BREAD
The rye grain is ground into a flour and used for this bread. Rye bread is classified as a whole grain bread and is higher in fibre and nutrients than white bread. Opt for wholegrain rye where possible as it contains more fibre and nutrients.
Many dark rye varieties are made from wheat flour with added rye flour. These are lower in fibre and nutrients than wholegrain rye bread, so always be sure to read the packaging well.
4. WHOLEMEAL BREAD
Wholemeal flour is made by taking a whole grain and grounding it down into a flour. Wholemeal bread contains more vitamins and is higher in fibre than white bread. It is, however, higher-GI and lower in fibre and nutrients than wholegrain bread.
5. MULTIGRAIN BREAD
Multigrain bread is essentially white bread with added grains. It is lower in nutrients and fibre than wholegrain bread and has a higher GI.
6. SPELT BREAD
Spelt is a whole grain and this bread is made by grounding the grain into flour. Whole grain varieties use the entire grain which is higher in nutrients and fibre. It is lower in wheat fructans, so may be better tolerated by some individuals with IBS. Spelt is also higher in B vitamins, fibre and protein than some wheat flours. Opt for a whole grain spelt bread if possible.
It is also less accessible in many supermarkets and is more expensive than other options.