I'm a dietitian and I love bread. Here's why

While recent low-carb crazes have put bread on the back-burner for some, there's a lot that good about a high quality loaf.

Andy De Santis, RD 4 minute read June 14, 2021
bread bad for you

Is bread bad or good for you? It's important to choose well. Getty

I’m a registered dietitian who loves bread.

I enjoy it with nut butter, eggs — actually, I enjoy it with just about anything. And I am not alone in my affection for this household staple. According to Statista, retail sales of bread in Canada will total US $3.53 billion dollars from 2013 to 2022, with bagels being the bread product of choice.

And while various low-carb crazes have put bread on the back-burner for some, there’s a lot that’s good about a high-quality loaf — note that the “high-quality” part. So if you were hoping for an article that bashes bread, this one won’t be for you.

Is your favourite bread whole grain?
Grains are essentially the seeds of plants and bread is most commonly made from the wheat grain. Grains contain three components: the bran, the germ and the endosperm. Each part of the grain contributes unique nutritional value ranging from vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fibre. When all three components are present, you have a whole grain, which is the most nutrient dense version.

But how do you know if your favourite bread is whole grain?

First of all, let’s start with how you know it isn’t whole grain. Just because a type of bread claims to be multigrain doesn’t necessarily mean it’s whole grain — the same goes for whole wheat. To be sure, check the list of ingredients. If it says, whole grain, whole wheat flour or whole grain whole wheat flour including the germ, then your bread is 100 per cent whole grain. If it says anything else, including just whole wheat, it isn’t 100 per cent whole grain.

That’s because in Canada whole wheat flour may have much of the germ removed (one of the three components of a whole grain) and therefore “whole wheat” does not actually not mean the same thing as “whole grain”.

What’s the big deal about sprouted bread?
Sprouted grain bread has become increasingly popular over the years as an alternative to bread made with white flour or whole grain flour.

Basically, sprouted grains grow a sprout before they are used to make bread flour, and although there is no officially regulated definition, the Oldways Whole Grains Council recognizes them as whole grains.

But is sprouted grain bread better for you than the standard whole grain bread?

A recent review out of the journal Nutrients suggests that the sprouting process increases the availability to the body of various vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, although the extent to which this actually matters for your health will require more research and consideration.

White bread
Objectively speaking, whole grain bread varieties are more nutrient dense that their white counterparts. One could argue as well that the more bread you eat, the more this distinction matters, but that does not mean you need to feel guilty about enjoying white bread.

The reality is that bread in and of itself is only one of a wide number of foods which comprise your diet and determine your health and nutrition status. Whether it’s whole grain or not, the inclusion or exclusion of bread will not dictate your overall health — no matter what you read online to the contrary.

Also, there are a large number of fibre added white bread products (even Wonder bread) that have some of the benefits of a whole grain bread but also maintain the characteristics of white bread that people enjoy. Keep that in mind and enjoy your bread guilt free.

And if you don’t believe you can achieve a healthy balanced dietary pattern while enjoying bread — because you can — that’s where working more closely with a dietitian can help.

Andy is a registered dietitian and author who has operated a private practice in Toronto since 2015. He spends his free time eating, writing and talking about kale @AndyTheRD. He can be reached at AndyTheRD.com.

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