Few things in this world are as delicious and inviting as a warm, freshly-baked loaf of bread. You know the type: a baguette from your favorite bakery or a crusty round loaf filled with piping hot chili. Cue the hunger pangs! But with endless choices available, how do you know the best bread for you?
The Argument for Health
From the start, it is important to understand the right bread may provide several health benefits. For starters, bread can be a great source of natural whole grains. By definition, whole grains are unrefined and still contain everything in the original kernel, including bran, germ, and endosperm, according to the United States Department of Agriculture.1
So, what is a whole grain, then? According to the Whole Grain Council, whole grains “include grains like wheat, corn, rice, oats, barley, quinoa, sorghum, spelt, and rye.”2
Even popcorn is considered a whole grain!
With so many options, getting the daily recommended amount of whole grains is easy. Depending on your age, the recommended serving size of whole grains is different, but for adults, between 9 and 11 daily servings is great, and between 6 and 9 servings for children.3 To put this in perspective, one slice of whole grain bread equals one serving of whole grains.4
Remember the Food Pyramid? Well, it’s still being used today, and the health benefits provided by the “Grains” section (yes, still the base of the Pyramid!) are just as powerful today as you may remember from your school days. When you get your whole grains through items such as whole-wheat bread, you’re giving your body loads of fiber. Fiber is one of those super-nutrients that helps with everything from lowering your cholesterol to controlling blood sugar levels, and it aids in balancing a healthy weight.5
The Best & Healthiest Bread for You
If you’re like most people, you don’t just like bread, you love bread. Sandwiches, breadsticks, as an appetizer, or with your soup, bread is the perfect companion for snacks and meals. But, all bread is not created equal, especially when it comes to your health. While white bread may be light and fluffy, it isn’t exactly packed with nutrients, so take a look at the great breads below and give one of them a shot.
Whole Grain Bread
Unless you have a gluten allergy or sensitivity, whole grain bread is a great option when it comes to breads that many consider healthy. Don’t be fooled by other breads that look like whole grain bread. Just because a bread is brown doesn’t mean it packs the same nutrients and punch that whole grain bread does. Many breads are actually dyed brown using sugars or molasses to get that “healthy brown” look. That’s why it is always important to look at the ingredients list or ask your baker what is in the bread. Whole grain bread should list “whole grains” as one of the first three ingredients.
Rye bread is bread that is made with flour produced from rye grain (as opposed to flour produced from wheat, for example). Commonly used as sandwich bread, and famously on Reuben sandwiches, rye bread has been linked to lower blood sugar levels.6
Another benefit of rye bread is that it contains resistant starch. This resistant starch is a type of carbohydrate that functions like fiber, leaving you feeling fuller and more satisfied after eating than other breads.
If a loaf of sourdough bread makes you dream of Paris nights and the Eiffel Tower, you’re in good company! Just because sourdough bread is white doesn’t put it in the same league as white bread. A quality sourdough bread is packed with qualities that, like rye bread, may help lower blood sugar in the body.7
Not only that, but sourdough uses active wild yeast strains, lactic acid, and bacterias when it is baked. These factors give sourdough its unique, tangy flavor, and the wild yeast actually makes sourdough bread a probiotic. Pair sourdough’s probiotic benefits with the crunchy-crusty outside and the chewy delicious inside, and you’ve got a recipe for one healthy bread!
Irish Soda Bread (aka Irish Brown Bread)
A classic staple on the breakfast table in Ireland, Irish Soda bread, also called brown bread, is ripe with nutrition and healthy qualities. The secret to Irish soda bread’s health appeal is its use of whole wheat flour and low-fat buttermilk. The buttermilk gives it density, which leaves you feeling full. And one serving of Irish soda bread contains only 70 calories and 0 grams of saturated fat.8
Another great benefit of Irish soda bread is that anyone can make it. If you follow this easy recipe, you’ll be munching on this healthy loaf in no time.
Irish Soda Bread Recipe
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
2 cups low fat buttermilk
- Preheat your oven to 400 F and line or lightly grease a nonstick baking sheet.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the dry ingredients. Gently the whisk dry ingredients together.
- Add in the buttermilk. With a rubber spatula, gently fold (don’t stir) the ingredients together until everything is just moistened.
- Fold the dough onto your baking sheet and form it into a round loaf. Dust a bit of all-purpose flour on the top of the loaf (optional) and cut a large “X” about four inches across and ½ inch deep into the top of the loaf.
- Bake for 30 minutes or until the bread is firm and golden brown.
Slice and enjoy!
Different breads all have their own time and place: Some are better for sandwiches, and others are begging to be toasted and topped with tomato and mozzarella. Whatever the reason, be sure to check the ingredients list before digging into that next loaf.
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