It’s been known now for a while that whole wheat bread is a generally healthier alternative to white bread, due to its higher fiber content and naturally slower digesting carbohydrates. You can look in any major grocery store and find aisles upon aisles of all kinds of “whole wheat” bread with fancy names like “seven grain,” “100% natural” or grain and nut,” but it’s important to be a smart shopper when it comes to bread, as many types aren’t nearly as healthy as you may think.
The thing about major bread brands is that most are made with enriched bleached flour, because of its low-budget cost and variability. This, however, is not whole wheat, even if the packaging says so. Enriched bleached flour is the same primary ingredient in wonderbread, and all the white breads you’re trying to avoid. It’s a simple carbohydrate and therefore faster digesting, which is not what you’re looking for. Here are a few simple ways to double check that you’re getting the real deal with whole wheat bread.
- Just because the bread looks brown and high in fiber doesn’t mean it’s whole wheat. There are all types of food dyes and tricks to make you think you’re buying the real thing. Always check the package.
- Be careful of words like “diet” and “light,” as they’re just key words to catch your attention. Frequently, these breads are just enriched bleached flour-based products pumped with extra doses of fiber, or with serving sizes altered to make you think you’re eating healthy.
- The first ingredient in the ingredients list should be “whole wheat flour.” If it’s “wheat flour” or “enriched wheat flour,” you’re not getting the full health benefits from whole wheat bread.
- A lot of bread products contain high levels of sodium to both add flavor and counteract the yeast activity. When it comes to the sweet spot, look for breads with 200 or less mg of sodium per slice.
This is an example of nutritional facts from a good whole wheat bread source: (courtesy of WebMD)
4 grams of fiber per 2-slice serving (or similar).
100% whole wheat flour as the first ingredient on the label.
Less than 401 mg sodium per 2-slice serving,
1 gram saturated fat or less per 2-slice serving (most have zero saturated fat).
With bread and many other mass-produced products, you have to be alert and careful to not fall into the traps of good marketing and advertising. Whole wheat bread can be an excellent healthy alternative to white bread when it comes to eating healthy, and a way to show you that you don't necessarily need to sacrifice good food for fitness. With these tips, you’ll be able to differentiate and make sure you’re getting the real deal in the bread aisle.