The healthiest types of bread and the differences you need to know about
With so many choices of bread on the supermarket shelves, it’s hard to know what is the best to choose.
There are different grains used, and some are highly processed resulting in the removal of many nutrients. There are also specialty breads available for specific medical conditions e.g. gluten free bread for coeliac disease sufferers.
When choosing the healthiest bread for you, you need to consider the taste (what do you actually want to eat), the amount of nutrients in the bread (fibre, vitamins and minerals) and the glycaemic index, or GI. Here we outline the different types of breads to help you decide.
White bread is made from wheat grains that have important bits removed, including the ‘peel’, known as the wheat bran. The process of taking this away removes many of the nutrients, including fibre, vitamins and minerals, so white bread is generally the least valuable in terms of nutrition. It also has a higher GI, which means the carbohydrate in the bread is broken down quickly, can result in a blood sugar spike and short-lived energy.
If you’re buying white bread for a fussy eater or it’s the only bread you like, there are white breads available with added fibre, vitamins and minerals, and these are a healthier choice than regular white bread.
Wholemeal bread is made from whole grains of wheat that have been finely ground. Because the outside of the wheat grain is ground and included in the bread, it has more fibre, vitamins and minerals than white bread. Wholemeal bread has a higher GI that wholegrain breads though, due to the grinding process.
Multigrain bread is usually made from white bread flour, with grains added to it. So you’re getting some of those nutritional benefits. Because of the added grains, this bread does have more fibre and a lower GI than wholemeal bread.
Different to multigrain bread, wholegrain bread is made using a wholemeal flour plus the added whole grains, packing a big nutrient punch. It also has a low GI giving you longer lasting energy. Wholegrains are important not only for the fibre they provide, but regular consumption has been linked to improved heart and bowel health.
Made from rye (instead of wheat), this bread has more fibre, vitamins and minerals than white bread. It is a good choice if you need to eat wheat-free. Wholegrain Rye is the best choice in this bread.
This usually has a heavier, denser texture. Some have a lower fibre content than regular wheat bread, so buying ones with added seeds is a good idea. Unless you have a diagnosed gluten allergy (Coeliac disease) or gluten intolerance, this bread is not healthier for you than other wholegrain breads.
Sourdough bread can be made from white or wholemeal flours, and uses fermentation of yeast (known as the ‘starter’) to give it a slightly sour taste. It also has a more chewy texture and has a low GI because of the acidity produced by the starter used to make it.
Sourdough also contains prebiotics, fibre that helps healthy gut bacteria thrive. Your gut health is an important factor in your overall health, so this is another great thing about sourdough. Wholegrain sourdough is the healthiest, most nutritious choice in this type of bread.
Prepared by Kara Vogt – Accredited Practicing Dietitian