It’s no surprise there are many opinions (and options) when it comes to the “b” word. Don’t eat it, eat it in moderation, eat whole grain, whole wheat, multi-grain, flax bread, hemp bread, gluten free bread. Eat no bread. Eat a lot of bread. The lists continue. I recently had a client email me, explaining how overwhelmed he became when he approached the bread aisle. There, endless, packaged loaves stared back at him, screaming out whole grains, multi-grain, 12-grain, whole wheat, health nut, healthy grains. It was endless. Funny, how when you’re in Europe, you grab a baguette, a wedge of soft cheese, a bottle of wine, and you never think about what you’re eating, because you know it’s fresh. It was made with care.
Here, you can grab something that looks healthy and fresh, but much to your disappointment, it is as processed and full of “bad” ingredients as candy. Just to be clear, bread isn’t bad. Sure, there are other “carbs” you would be better off eating: cruciferous vegetables, brown rice, quinoa, barley, oatmeal and sweet potatoes, to name a few. But, let’s face it: bread tastes good and more likely than not, you are going to engage in a sandwich, a baguette or an english muffin (or, as I did this weekend, a thick, sesame bagel slathered with light cream cheese, peanut butter and honey. Pair that with a steaming cup of coffee and you will be in heaven. I promise.) Here are some tips when shopping for bread:
1. LOOK FOR 100% WHOLE WHEAT OR 100% WHOLE GRAIN
The first thing you should always do is read the ingredient list. That first ingredient should say 100% whole wheat, or something comparable. Steer clear of words like NATURAL WHOLE GRAIN or MADE WITH WHOLE GRAINS. This is just another way of saying that WHITE FLOUR is an active ingredient.
2. AVOID ENRICHED WHEAT FLOUR
Enriched wheat flour actually means “white” flour. Quite simply, most of the nutrients and minerals are milled out of the wheat kernel, and the manufacturer attempts to “enrich” the bread with those stripped nutrients by putting them back in.
3. MULTI-GRAIN DOES NOT ALWAYS MEAN GOOD GRAIN
A bread can say “multi-grain, “9 grain,” or “12 grain,” and most of those grains can still be unhealthy. Study the ingredient list. A short list is a better list.
4. WATCH THE SALT AND SUGAR CONTENT
A healthy slice of bread should be low in sodium and sugar, and have at least 2-3 grams of fiber per slice.
The most important thing is to READ THE INGREDIENT LIST. Period.
Despite the regular brand name breads, there are others, like Ezekial, which is healthier, as it’s made from sprouted grains (such as barley, spelt and wheat) and aren’t slammed with fillers. You can get gluten free versions as well.
What about Hemp? Though this has been pulled off shelves from time to time, the health effects of the hemp seed are obvious. Full of amino acids, fiber, protein, and omega-3s, it’s a great pick. In addition, there are no pesticides, yeast or sweeteners.
So, the next time you are in the store, branch out. Look for breads with flax or pumpkin seeds, high fiber, more protein and less ingredients. Or, if you really want to branch out, substitute a healthier grain entirely and notice the difference.
Want to make your own? Try this great, easy recipe:
Pumpkin Oat Bread
1 1/3 cup flour
1/2 cup quick cooking rolled oats
1 cup organic sugar (for those of you who use sugar substitutes, you can use splenda for baking)
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup egg whites or egg substitute
1 cup canned pumpkin (not pie mix)
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Spray a medium sized loaf pan with cooking spray. Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl (flour, oats, sugar, soda, cinnamon, and nutmeg). Add applesauce, egg whites, and pumpkin and mix until just combined. Pour into bread pan and bake for 40 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.