The package claims that this loaf of bread is “enriched”, “whole-grain”, and “high fiber”, and yet the media keeps saying that bread is bad for me. So what’s the story? Is bread healthy or not?
That all depend on the bread.
World’s Healthiest Food has a compact article on grains, specifically those related to bread. It’s worth a quick read if you’re at all confused about the difference between whole grains and refined grains. Here’s an even quicker read:
Imagine a grain of brown rice, barley or oats. A “whole grain” still has its “germ” and “bran”, the parts of the seed where nutrients are stored.
Imagine stock standard white flour. This stuff has been processed (read: pulverised) to remove the bran and germ. The reason most packaged breads are “enriched” is because manufacturers synthetically put nutrients lost from the germ back into the bread.
What is the point of refining?
Whole grains are refined because the bran and germ can go rancid over time. This complicates storage and transport for food manufacturers.
How can I tell if I’m eating the healthy bread?
The easiest way is to bake your own bread using whole grain flour. If that is impractical, read the package closely, and look out for these dubious claims:
NOT Whole Grain
- “whole grain”
- “contains whole grain”
- “100% wheat”
- “made with whole wheat”
My personal favourite for packaged whole grain bread is Food For Life’s Ezekial 4:9 Sprouted Grain Bread (look for it in the freezer section).
- Link to whole grain bread recipes
- Link to more information on whole grains at Wikipedia
- Link to the Effects of Refining and Enrichment on Wheat and Rice on Wikipedia
- Link to Grain Storage Guide at Recipe Tips
- Link to I’m confused as to whether grains are good or bad for your health at World’s Healthiest Foods