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There are so many varieties of bread lining supermarket shelves these days, it can be hard to figure out which is the best to buy. This guide will help you discover the healthiest bread available today, what to consider when buying bread, and what types of bread to avoid!
One of the questions I get asked most often is: do you eat bread?
And people are usually surprised when I say that bread is one of my favorite things to eat. Of course, I eat bread! I love the smell of fresh bread in the morning, whole grains, and all of the ways you can use bread in recipes.
Bread has gotten a really bad reputation because of various diet fads: no-carb, gluten-free, paleo, etc. It’s been vilified as the cause for everything from weight gain, to inflammation, to diabetes, to digestion issues… the list could go on.
The truth is, most bread is usually processed, high in sugar, and high in simple carbohydrates – which can cause weight gain, heart disease, and other issues. Also, the main problem with wheat (unless you have celiac disease or severe gluten sensitivity that has been diagnosed) is that we eat too much of it as a society in general.
Eating white bread, white crackers, white pasta, white rice (anything with white flour) is the equivalent of taking a spoonful of sugar and dissolving it in your mouth. This is because when you eat a grain that has been refined into flour, your body quickly metabolizes it like sugar (any grain pulverized into a fine flour has a high glycemic index – as much as sugar), and this causes your insulin to spike. This can make you gain weight and contributes to diabetes and inflammation.
But there are types of bread that can actually be really good for you and won’t cause all of these problems! So how are you supposed to figure out which bread is the healthiest? And how can you avoid bread that looks healthy but actually isn’t?
That’s where this post comes in!
This is your guide to the healthiest bread on the market.
I’m going to help you find the best choices for bread, and help you understand the many marketing labels on the different types of bread you’ll see at your local grocery store. You’ll learn whether labels like “whole-grain bread,” “multigrain bread,” “12 grain,” “whole-wheat bread,” or “all-natural” really mean anything, and what to look for when buying bread. Read on for my list of the healthiest bread to buy!
How To Choose The Healthiest Bread
Healthiest Bread Characteristics
- Sprouted grains (sprouted wheat or other whole grain products are one of the first ingredients you should look for)
- No added sugar / no added sweeteners on the ingredients list (less than 2g sugar per slice)
- No high-fructose corn syrup
- At least 2 grams of fiber per serving
- No more than 100 calories per slice
- No ingredients you can’t pronounce – if you can’t pronounce it, it is likely a preservative or stabilizer that is not necessary in bread
- Healthy fats, such as olive oil, or avocado oil
- Organic healthy bread is always a good choice, if available
- Some breads add flax seeds for added omega-3 fatty acids, and fiber
Ingredient List To AVOID When Buying Bread
- Anything with “enriched,” “bleached,” or “unbleached” as part of the first ingredient. “Enriched wheat” essentially means “White Flour”. Be wary of “wheat” or even “100% whole wheat” — some breads will have this as an ingredient but aren’t truly made with whole-grain flour, and are still highly processed and refined.
- Anything with less than 2g fiber per serving
- Anything with raisins, dried fruits, cinnamon, banana, honey, or vanilla listed on the packaging
- Dough conditioners (like azodicarbonamide, DATEM, monoglycerides, diglycerides, sodium stearoyl lactylate): these are just chemicals added to the bread to make the bread making process faster and scalable to big batches. They’re not necessary for real bread, and if these ingredients are on the label, it’s a good sign that the bread isn’t truly healthy.
- GMO ingredients like soybean oil and corn oil (honestly, these are just not necessary to make bread)
- Preservatives (like calcium propionate) or stabilizers like maltodextrin: bread isn’t supposed to be able to last on the counter for 1-2 weeks without getting hard and moldy. If you see any ingredients you can’t pronounce, it’s likely a preservative so put the bread down and find another option.
- Added sugar: If your bread has yeast, it will likely have a tiny bit of honey or sugar because you need sugar to activate yeast. That being said, anything over 2 grams per slice is unnecessary. Watch out for high fructose corn syrup, any kind of syrup or artificial sweeteners added to bread. This is especially true for light breads.
- Artificial flavors and coloring: Caramel coloring is often added to fake “wheat” breads to make them seem more brown. If you see this on the label, avoid that bread!
What Is The Healthiest Bread?
The healthiest bread to eat is Sprouted-Wheat and Sprouted-Grain Breads!
Sprouted grains are actually, technically, vegetables or legumes. To begin the sprouting process, you soak the entire grain in water until it begins to sprout into a little plant. These sprouts are then ground up to make bread. Also, when grains are sprouted, starches and proteins are converted into smaller molecules that are easier to digest.
That means sprouted bread offers more key nutrients like essential amino acids, iron, minerals, and B vitamins than standard whole-grain or even 100% whole wheat varieties. Sprouting grains also decreases their carb content, which means that sprouted breads can help with blood sugar control. They can also be a good source of protein – one slice of bread can contain up to 5 grams of protein!
My two personal favorite sprouted grain loaves of bread are the Ezekiel Bread – 4:9 Sprouted Flax Bread, and the Silver Hills Bakery Little Big Bread. There are no preservatives in these loaves of bread, so I freeze them and take out slices as I need them.
This type of bread is available in most health food stores and conventional grocery stores in the freezer section. But there are other great options too – so you should be able to find at least one of the loaves of bread in the list below at your local grocery store!
Top 12 Healthiest Bread Brands You Can Buy (Sprouted Grains and Gluten-Free Breads)
The Healthiest Sprouted Grain or Flax Breads
- Ezekiel 4:9 Sprouted Grain Bread – Food for Life – All varieties except their Cinnamon Raisin bread are good options.
- Manna Organics – I recommend the Sunseed, Multigrain, Millet Rice, or Whole Rye Bread
- Alvarado St. Bakery – All varieties except their Cinnamon Raisin bread
- Silver Hills Sprouted Bakery – All varieties. The little big bread variety is the lowest calorie option.
- Dave’s Killer Breads – No high fructose corn syrup, no artificial ingredients, no artificial preservatives. Organic and non-GMO, with 5 grams of fiber per slice. I recommend any of their sprouted breads that have less than 2 grams of sugar per serving. Some of their varieties are also low in calories and have only about 60 calories per slice.
- Trader Joe’s Brand Sprouted Breads – Any of their sprouted wholegrain breads except their Cinnamon Raisin bread
- Angelic Bakehouse Breads and Wraps – All breads and wraps are made with sprouted whole grains and are great to buy.
- Healthy Joy Bakes Omega Power Bread – Two slices of this bread literally have 18g protein and 8g fiber total. The bread is made with flaxseeds, so it has that flax-gummy texture after chewing.
The Best Gluten-Free Loaves of Bread
- Happy Camper’s – Made with a mix of gluten-free flours, this bread is both organic, high in protein, high in fiber and gluten free. All varieties are a healthy choice for bread!
- Food For Life Gluten-Free – Brown Rice Bread, Rice Almond Bread, Rice Millet Bread or Exotic Black Rice Bread
- Note: I haven’t found a good almond flour bread yet that tastes like traditional bread, but almond flour bread could also be a good option for those who are gluten free.
The Worst Popular Bread Brands To Buy
Take a look at the ingredients lists in these popular bread brands. DO NOT BUY THESE, or brands like these. They are the equivalent to just eating refined grains and sugar!
Sara Lee Classic 100% Whole Wheat Bread: Whole wheat flour, water, wheat gluten, sugar, yeast, soybean oil, salt, molasses, wheat bran, calcium propionate (preservative), datem, monoglycerides, calcium sulfate, cellulose gum, monocalcium phosphate, cornstarch, soy lecithin, citric acid, grain vinegar, potassium iodate
Pepperidge Farm 100% Whole Wheat Bread: Whole Wheat Flour, Water, Wheat Berries, Wheat Gluten, Sugar, Yeast, Sugarcane Fiber, Honey, Unsulphured Molasses, Contains 2 Percent or Less of: Soybean Oil, Wheat, Nonfat Milk (Adds a Trivial Amount of Cholesterol), Lower Sodium Natural Sea Salt, Calcium Propionate and Sorbic Acid to Retard Spoilage, Salt, Distilled Monoglycerides, DATEM (Dough Conditioner), Chicory Root Fiber, Soy Lecithin.
Udi’s Gluten Free Whole Grain Bread: Udi’s Best Blend (Tapioca & Potato Starch, Brown Rice & Teff Flour, Modified Tapioca Starch), Water, Non-GMO Vegetable Oil (Canola or Sunflower or Safflower), Egg Whites, Evaporated Cane Juice, Tapioca Maltodextrin, Tapioca Syrup, Yeast, Flax Seed, Zantham Gum, Salt, Baking Powder, Cultured Corn Syrup Solids (Natural Mold Inhibitor), Dry Molasses, Enzymes
Nature’s Own 100% Whole Wheat Bread: Stone ground whole wheat flour, water, yeast, brown sugar, wheat gluten, contains 2% or less of each of the following: salt, dough conditioners (contains one or more of the following: sodium stearoyl lactylate, calcium stearoyl lactylate, monoglycerides, mono- and diglycerides, distilled monoglycerides, calcium peroxide, calcium iodate, datem, ethoxylated mono- and diglycerides, enzymes, ascorbic acid), soybean oil, vinegar, cultured wheat flour, monocalcium phosphate, ammonium sulfate, citric acid, sodium citrate, soy lecithin, natamycin (to retard spoilage).
Why Are Whole Grains Important?
What is a whole grain? A “whole grain” means that the entire grain is still intact.
The grain is made up of 3 parts: the germ, endosperm, and bran. The bran is the outer layer of the grain, and it’s where most of the nutrients are! The bran and germ together contain protein, vitamins, minerals and fiber. The endosperm, on the other hand, is basically refined starch. That’s why whole grains are higher in fiber than white grains, because processed white grains have removed the bran and germ.
Whole grains are important because they have a variety of health benefits including reducing the risk of heart disease and diabetes.
Is Sourdough Bread Healthy?
Sourdough is healthier than white bread. It is made through a fermentation process which uses both bacteria and yeast to help make the dough rise. Fermentation creates an enzyme called phytase, which helps to lower phytate levels in the bread. This is important because phytates in bread bind to other minerals like iron and zinc, and impair their absorption in the body.
Additionally, sourdough contains prebiotics that helps keep your gut bacteria in balance, and makes the bread more easily digestible. Prebiotics are “food” for probiotics, which are healthy bacteria – and the two together promote gut health. Consuming sourdough, especially whole wheat sourdough, is also less likely to spike your blood sugar levels, because it is digested more slowly than traditional bread.
Is Rye Bread Healthy?
Rye bread when made at home, or store-bought made without preservatives, and added sugars, is a healthy alternative to white bread. It is usually made with rye flour, and wholemeal flour, both are less processed than white flour. Rye grain bread is darker in color and has a sour and earthy flavor. It also tends to have more fiber, and micronutrients, including B vitamins. It is also more filling than regular bread, and is less likely to cause your blood sugar to spike.
Is Pita Bread Healthy?
Most traditional pita bread is made with white flour, so it’s not healthy and is more of a refined grain. But whole wheat or even sprouted wheat pita bread is a healthy choice and will act similarly to sprouted wheat bread in your body. One whole pita bread is typically higher in calories than 1 slice of sprouted wheat bread, so keep that in mind when you’re planning your meals.
What Is The Healthiest Bread At Subway?
To be quite honest, none of the breads at Subway are truly whole grain breads. All of them are made with refined grains, and aren’t the healthiest option. However, if you are at Subway there are still better choices you can make! The healthiest bread at Subway is likely the 9-grain Wheat. It’s the lowest in calories at 180 calories, has 4 grams of fiber and 8 grams of protein.
Can I Eat Bread And Still Lose Weight?
The main issues when it comes to bread and weight loss are due to refined grains and portion control. If you’re eating 4 servings of white grains / white bread per day, it will be very difficult to lose weight because that bread is just converted to sugar in your body. And, eating too much sugar contributes to weight gain. However, if you choose sprouted wheat bread and stick to 2 slices per day (max), along with a balanced diet with lots of fresh produce, you can absolutely eat bread and still lose weight!
What Is The Healthiest Bread For Weight Loss?
Any sprouted wheat bread will be the best bread for weight loss. Ezekiel / Food For Life Bread or Dave’s Killer breads are pretty widely available, so I would recommend those to start! I wouldn’t necessarily choose gluten-free bread for weight loss specifically unless you have a diagnosed allergy to gluten.
If you ever forget these particular bread brands, just remember to look for: sprouted grains, no preservatives or dough conditioners, and no ingredients you can’t pronounce. Another great rule of thumb to keep in mind: if the bread is in the freezer section it’s a good sign that it’s healthy. I hope this helps you navigate the ever-confusing bread aisle at the grocery store!