Ever wonder how to buy bread? It’s just a simple food staple, but the choices can be overwhelming. What points should be considered? A recent family conversation revealed to me the confusion on how to buy bread. It’s not just an issue of rye versus wheat or white versus whole grain. Grocery shoppers encounter a far more complex array of bread terms such as enriched, 100% whole grain, high fiber, and gluten-free.
Knowing a few facts about what these terms mean is crucial for the savvy bread shopper. Check out some of the key factors to consider when you buy your next loaf of bread.
Whole grain bread or 100% grain, does it matter when you buy bread?
These terms mean the entire grain kernel was used to make the bread, as opposed to just part of the kernel. More specifically, the bread was made from all parts of the grain kernel: the nutrient dense bran and germ of the grain, as well as the less nutrient dense middle endosperm. As a result, the fiber and nutrient content of the bread is generally higher. Both whole grain bread and 100% grain translate to a healthy option for the consumer.
Enriched white bread (refined flour)
Enriched white bread is made from the less nutrient rich endosperm. US government regulation also requires that only some of the nutrients found in whole grain bread be added back into enriched white bread. These nutrients include some B-complex vitamins; however, fiber, magnesium, zinc, vitamin E, and chromium are not typically added in to the enriched product. So, opt for whole grain or 100% grain when you buy bread. You are getting more nutrition bang for your buck.
Wheat bread, brown bread, stone ground
These breads are not necessarily made from a whole grain, and consequently are not guaranteed to be a nutritious option. You must check the label to determine whether the bread is made from a whole grain or an enriched flour.
Most whole grain breads will yield more fiber than white enriched products. Fiber is an important element of a healthy diet, so look for a minimum of 2 grams of fiber per slice. Many whole grain breads may have as much as 5 grams of fiber.
Bread can be a significant source of sodium. If this is an issue for you, check out the nutrition fact label for this information. Sliced packaged bread typically ranges from about 150 mg to several hundred mg of sodium per slice.
Calories are an important factor when you buy bread
Calorie content per slice of bread varies widely. Many varieties of sliced bread range from 70-120 calories per slice. Check the nutrition information to ensure that the bread of your choice aligns with your caloric requirements.
Other label deciphering tricks for how to buy bread
Look at the list of ingredients. The most prevalent ingredient is listed first, and the least prevalent ingredient is listed at the end. If you are looking for a healthy whole grain bread, you would most likely see “whole or 100% wheat” noted first on the list of ingredients. A less nutritionally desirable bread might list 100% whole wheat, followed by enriched wheat and other ingredients.
A word about gluten
Gluten is protein which some individuals are sensitive to, or must avoid due to celiac disease. It has become popular to avoid or decrease gluten, but it is not necessary for everyone to do so. When medically required, gluten must be avoided in order to prevent damage to the gut.
A word about high fructose corn syrup
High fructose corn syrup is used as a sweetener in food items, and it has been highly criticized in the past few years. Whatever the final scientific findings on high fructose corn syrup may be, there are many breads on the market free of this ingredient. Read your labels and find a bread that uses an alternate sweetener if this concerns you.
Do you have a healthy favorite store brand bread you can recommend?