Why bread is not your enemy

Many mixed alternative baked breads presented as samples for sale on rustic wooden table in professional bakery: pistachio, beetroot, tomatoes, lavender, sea salt, coal, sweet potato, wholegrains

Image: derepente/Bigstock.com

In recent times, our carb-obsessed culture has given bread a bad name. As dietitians, we often hear of people cutting bread out of their diets to help with weight loss and diabetes. The truth is that not all carbs are bad. Bread is worthy of an advocate. It’s high time this humble and familiar food gets the recognition it deserves.

Bread is a wholegrain food

Bread has been a nourishing staple in many countries for centuries. So why are we now so quick to victimise it? Bread can be a significant source of wholegrains and provides many health benefits. Wholegrain foods are a source of fibre for keeping bowels regular, maintaining good blood sugar control and keeping cholesterol under your doctor’s radar. However, not all breads are a source of wholegrains.

Choosing to eat refined, light, fluffy breads will actually be low in fibre and naturally occurring vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. And don’t be fooled by the ‘high fibre/low GI’ versions of white bread; they’re void of wholegrain content too!

Which bread is best?

Look for breads which are dark in colour, dense in texture, and contain visible wholegrains—for example, soy, linseed, dark rye, or spelt sourdough with sunflower seeds. Avoid the fluffy white and wholemeal kind! A good rule of thumb is—if you can stand on your bread without it flattening into a pancake, that’s the bread for you!

Here are six top breads you should try:

Wholegrain bread—the best choice! This bread contains wholegrains and seeds which are slowly digested providing long-lasting energy. In this type of bread, the darker in colour the better!

Sourdough—this is a fermented type of bread which lowers the glycaemic index (GI). This one is commonly available at cafes, so great for when you’re out and about. Again, look for something dark e.g. wholemeal or rye for added fibre.

Pumpernickel—a heavy, dark European bread made from wholegrains or rye packed together. This bread has a very low GI.

Sprouted grain bread—check out the health food shops for this speciality bread. With no added flour or salt, this type of bread is the densest you will find. It’s naturally sweet tasting and extremely filling, one slice and you’ll be stuffed!

Lebanese bread—the wholemeal variety is best. Be sure to take care with your portion sizes. As this bread is dense, one round can provide as many calories as four slices of regular bread. Tip: cut horizontally and use as wraps or buy in smaller individual pita size.

Wholegrain wraps—these are made from various wholegrains such as wheat, barley, corn, rye or oats. Wraps are thinner sheets and are often a lighter way to enjoy bread. Our favourite is the Barley wraps as these pack a whopping 8.6g of fibre per wrap.

Bread and weight gain

It is important to choose good quality breads for weight control. If you choose a bread packed with wholegrains and loaded with fibre, you will feel fuller for longer and therefore won’t feel the need to overeat at other meals or snack as much in between. If you are looking to shed a few kilos or simply prevent gaining any, cutting out bread is not a great solution. We are all human—as soon as we deprive ourselves of any one food, it’s all we can think about. This usually results in overindulgence when you finally wear down.

Bread is not your enemy! When it comes to bread, the culprit is often what you put on it and how much you eat. Anything in large quantities is not good for you, so watch your portions. Stick to two slices at a meal!

Spreads and other toppings can add a load of fat and calories which are more likely to contribute to weight gain. Consider the usual suspects—butter, jam, cream cheese, Nutella, processed meats, mayo. What do these things all have in common? They are processed foods that contain high amounts of saturated fat and/or sugar. Instead of slathering your wholesome bread with spreads that can clog your arteries and promote inflammation in the body, try these traditional wholefood toppings:

  • Smashed avocado
  • Extra virgin olive oil and garlic rub
  • Hommus and sliced tomato
  • Natural nut butters e.g. peanut, almond or ABC spread
  • Extra virgin olive oil and a generous sprinkle of zataar
  • Ricotta cheese and blueberries (for something sweet)

Choosing the right bread is much more important than banishing bread from your menu entirely. Wholegrain varieties help to fill you up, give you energy and guard against heart disease, cancer, and type 2 diabetes.

So let’s hear it for bread!

Sue Radd is an Advanced Accredited Practising Dietitian and one of Australia’s leading nutritionists and health communicators. Her most recent book Food as Medicine: Eating for Your Best Health received the Gourmand World Cookbook Award for Best Health and Nutrition Book in the world for 2016.

Category: Physical Health

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