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Selecting Healthy Breads are Best

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Patricia A. Woodbury RN, MSN

Americans like their breads. The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that at least half of your breads and other grain-based foods, including cereals and energy bars, should be whole grain. Whole-grain breads you find in supermarkets differ by the relative amount of whole grain, the sodium content and the amount of added sugars.

Whole grains comprise the entire grain seed. That is the bran (outer layer, containing fiber, antioxidants and B vitamins) the endosperm (middle layer, consisting primarily of starchy carbohydrates), and the germ (inner core containing B vitamins, minerals and some protein). In contrast, refined grains are milled and sorted to mostly retain just the endosperm of the original seed. Refined grains generally contain less fiber and fewer nutrients than the whole grains.

Diets rich in whole grains are associated with a variety of health benefits. The fiber in whole grains cause the body to digest more slowly, leading to feelings of prolonged fullness and a more even rises in blood sugar.

Dr. Alice Lichtenstein, DSc, director of Tuft’s Nutrition Laboratory suggests reading the label on the bread. The first ingredient of a whole-grain bread should be whole grain. Multigrain or seven grain means the bread contains more than one type of grain and not necessarily whole grain. Look for whole wheat or whole grain and if you see 100% whole grain wheat, that is a good sign.

Select the bread, with equivalent serving sizes, and choose the lowest sodium content. Bread and rolls can contribute to a significant sugar to the diet, so if it tastes sweet, it is probably high in added sugar.

The ratio of fiber to total carbohydrate in a serving of bread is a good indicator of the overall healthfulness of whole-grain products. Use the “10 to 1 rule” to identify healthier breads. Using the Nutrition Facts label, identify the grams of total carbohydrate and fiber per serving. Divide the total carbohydrates by 10. Is there at least that much fiber per serving? If so, the food meets the 10:1 standard for healthy grain-based foods. For example, consider a whole-grain roll with 25 carbohydrates per serving. Divide by 10: that equals 2.5. If the roll has at least 2.5 grams of fiber per serving, then it meets the 10:1 rule.

Breads and rolls fill the better part of an aisle in some supermarkets. Learn to make smart choices. Choose one you think you may like and try it. If you do not like it try another one. You will find a whole-grain bread, or maybe a whole variety of whole-grain breads that you like.

Source: Tufts University, Health & Nutrition Letter, February 2018.