It's the best friend of PB&J, the reason you're often full before a meal and the must-have carb option if you're stuck on a deserted island. Bread: it comes in several varieties and options, but when you're stuck in a grocery aisle with a shelf of options, which one is deserving of your bucks for nutrition and health?
"Our society is so afraid of carbs these days, and in particular, bread," says Calgary-based registered dietitian Ali Campbell. "It’s not that North Americans are eating too many carbs, we are eating too many simple carbohydrates. Here’s the deal: complex carbohydrates like whole grains, legumes, vegetables and rice are the good carbs we want to have in our diet, and we want to limit the simple carbohydrates, which are the refined and processed items such as candy and white bread."
Complex carbohydrates are not that complicated either, Campbell says. They are full of fibre, contain essential vitamins and minerals that nourish our bodies and have many health benefits, like decreasing the risk of colon cancer.
Labels like "whole wheat" and "whole grain" are often blamed for the confusion associated with buying bread. But Campbell says it is crucial to understand the difference between these two.
"To be considered whole grain, the food must contain the three main parts of the kernel, including the bran, endosperm and germ," she says. "Whole wheat flours are processed in a way that during the milling process they remove the germ portion of the kernel. As a result, nutrients are stripped from the kernel and you get a product that is less nutrient dense than a whole grain product."
She says when you are shopping for store-bought bread, pay attention to the ingredients list as opposed to the fancy labelling on the bag. She has also come up with a cheatsheet for shopping for your dough:
- Look for pure sprouted grains bread that is not milled. If you cannot find one then look for whole grain on the ingredient list.
- Find a bread that has at least 3 grams of fibre
- Find a bread that has at least 4 grams of protein
- 1 gram of sugar
- 0 grams trans fat and 0 grams saturated fat
- < 180 mg of sodium.. shoot for under 150 if possible
- < 110 kcals per slice
In our summer bread series, this week we bring you the best and worst store-bought breads by brands. For this list, Campbell has ranked popular store-bought breads by sugar, carb and calories content, as well as if the bread is dietitian approved (by her).