In recent years, bread has been considered the enemy of nutrition, whether one is dieting or even for people who are trying to be healthy and save calories. But is the attempt to avoid bread of all types necessary or is it just an unsupported nutritional trend?
The difficulty of choosing the right bread is increasing and the problem is more apparent when there’s such a huge variety of breads at the bakery or the supermarket. There’s rye, spelled, flax, caraway, mixed grains, sunflower or simply wholemeal bread.
Then there are all the ads about “more nutritious,” “healthier” and “more satisfying” breads that confuse already puzzled customers. So here are explanations of all the terms you hear including wholewheat flour, “light” bread and sourdough.
Why is it better to eat wholemeal bread?
Wholemeal flour is flour that has been ground from all parts of the wheat grain, including its husk (the fibrous bran) and the wheatgerm from the inner seed. These sprouts are rich in vitamins and minerals such as magnesium, zinc and iron; the husk is rich in dietary fiber.
Dietary fiber is known to help the digestive process. Proper, smooth digestion may prevent colon cancer, make one feel satiated and help balance sugar levels in diabetics.
In fact, there are studies that show that eating products made from whole flour and rice compared to white may prevent or delay the onset of diabetes.
What’s the difference between bread made from regular flour and dark wheat flour?
White flour is ground from a grain of wheat without the germ and the husk so this flour is essentially starch which is a simple carbohydrate without any nutritional value.
Bread made from wholemeal flour can be ground from different types of grains such as wheat, rye or spelled kernels, etc. In order to get the highest nutritional value from the kernel, look for the note in the list of ingredients: whole flour milled from the whole kernel. This assures consumers that the milling process uses a traditional method and the flour is minimally processed.
The different seeds of grains have different nutritional qualities and it’s important to vary the types of bread we choose and eat.
What is “light” bread and is it less fattening than regular bread?
“Light” bread is bread in which the caloric values per 100g are about 170-190 cal compared to 220-250 cal for 100g of regular white bread.
Light bread is airier and usually richer in gluten protein with added yeast and water. There are light breads made from whole flour and some made from white flour. Some people find light bread less satisfying, so they eat more and then don’t save calories.
Low-carb bread made from flours derived from flax or almonds is now available. These breads are mainly suitable for people who want to reduce the number of carbs in their diet.
Which bread is really good for us?
Not all brown bread is made from whole wheat. The brown color is sometimes achieved by adding caramel coloring. It’s best to buy bread which we know the nutritional components in it. For bread to be considered wholemeal it must contain over 50% wholemeal flour.
The amount of dietary fiber also shows us the bread’s quality: about 9-10 grams of fiber per 100 grams is a sufficient amount of fiber. Sometimes wholemeal bread contains nuts or sunflower seeds which are healthier fats even though they add calories, yet vegetable oil just increases the caloric value of the bread.
What other products contain wholemeal flour?
Today you can find wholemeal flours, pasta, crackers, pita bread, breakfast cereals and wholemeal couscous. You should definitely add these products to your daily menu.
Note that some processed foods have too much salt, fat, and flavorings which can obscure the nutritional quality of the flour. You can buy different types of wholemeal flour for making homemade bread.
What’s sourdough bread?
Sourdough is a mixture created by the joint activity of wild yeasts and acidophilus bacteria which is good bacteria for our digestive system. It consists of flour and water which makes the dough rise.
The difference between industrialized yeast in regular bread and sourdough is the amount of yeast, and also sourdough is better for the digestive system since it relieves bloating, gas and general pain. Sourdough is grown from a ready-made base mixture.
Michal Sukman is a clinical dietician at Maccabi Health Services.