4 Ground Rules for Choosing Healthy Bread [Bread miniseries part 1/4]

Bread - Sliced

photo: GrainMaker.com

Bread is a staple of the western world, something many of us consume daily, if not several times a day. There is nothing quite like the scent of a freshly baked loaf. The pleasure of a warm slice of bread and a dab of butter is no doubt heaven for some.

But buying bread in the supermarket is a different story. With hundreds of options, nutrition and ingredient lists that nobody understands, bread becomes a burdon.

In this series of posts, we’ll try to help you learn how to make the best choices.

What you need to know:

You can make bread at home with just four ingredients: flour, water, yeast, and salt. If you do it right, the result is exquisite.

Bakers who have mastered the proper technique produce batches of bread that are so delectable you want to eat them without adding anything. The problem: zero shelf life. These breads don’t last the night. They go hard in 24 hours, and within 72 start to grow mold.

In French cities, there is an elegant solution – boulangeries (bakeries) are situated in almost every block , and denizen can walk down in their PJs early in the morning to pick up a fresh baguette or two for the day. The next morning, another fresh baguette.

But in the US, where many families shop just once or twice a week and bread is made in far away factories, we need a long shelf life,  as in weeks. In addition, the techniques used in small bakery batches don’t work well for large scale bread manufacturing facilities.

For these reasons, many additives are found in bread. They help raise the dough faster, improve the crumb (texture), and keep the bread nice and soft for a very long time. Perfect for a supermarket economy.

From a nutrition perspective,  a fresh loaf of bread is not necessarily a sound choice. In many cases, it is made with refined flour, lacking the nutrients and fiber of whole grain bread. So don’t confuse tasty fresh bread with healthier bread options.

So how do you choose a bread that will be both tasty and healthy, with minimum additives?

What to do at the supermarket:

Here are our ground rules for choosing healthy bread:

  1. The first ingredient should be a whole grain flour. (Usually from wheat).
  2. The bread should be 100% whole grain.
  3. The fiber count should be 2 or more grams per ounce. sometimes that’s one slice, but not always.
  4. It should have a short ingredient list.

In upcoming posts we will provide more specificity.

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  • Home Cooked Healthy

    Would love to find a great bread recipe that doesn’t include wheat, rice or sugars. On the search for the “holy grail” of breads for my family. Tried many recipes but no sure winner yet.

  • http://twitter.com/HomeCookHealthy Angela Sage

    Would love to find a great bread recipe that doesn’t include wheat, rice or sugars. On the search for the “holy grail” of breads for my family. Tried many recipes but no sure winner yet.

    • Anon

      I’m sorry to say that I don’t have an actual recipe, but have you considered/tried Spelt flour?

  • sickofsickofoodies

    Why do you conclude bread is only about fiber? There is more to nutrition science than loading up with fiber and taking a big dump twice or three times a day. This ridiculous blog gets screwier and screwier. It’s almost as if you’ve shit your brains out from too much fiber. Go fooducate yourself.

    • BigDumpr

      Their fiber comment was only a single sentence out of an entire article.

  • malachite2

    I make my own bread and it doesn’t get stale overnight. Depends on how you store it.

    • j in va

      My bread lasts in a sealed container for 2-3 days with no problem. It only has wheat flour, yeast, sugar, salt and olive oil.

  • http://www.sixpackdr.com/ six pack secrets

    Good enough! While eating various foods we have to ensure the freshness of it so that it can’t harm us anyhow because attacked by food poison suffers a lot. So, your suggested option is a better choice for breakfast to start the day with a healthy piece. Thanks!

  • LindasDietDelites

    These are great instructions on how to pick breads in large supermarket situations, but for the healthiest options, you should consider some of the super healthy breads normally not found in supermarkets as well. There are bakeries making breads with ingredients that result in carb counts that are significantly lower, carb counts 100% derived from fiber, and in many cases ingredients that are wheat free, gluten free, etc. Bakeries such as Healthwise Bakery, Julian Bakery, and more.

  • http://www.facebook.com/heather.dartmusingo Heather Dart Musingo

    Homemade bread can last a week, just wait for it to cool completely, bag it, and put it in the fridge. My family has not purchased sandwich bread for months now…even my 4 yr old has his PB&J’s on mommy’s homemade bread. :)

  • Tony

    I make 8 large loafs of bread every 2 weeks. Its not easy, but the bread is marvelous. It is made basically from 60% whole wheat flour and 12 cups or 40% all purpose flour along with honey, cooked wheat berries, 6 tablespoons of butter, salt, milk, 2 tablespoons of ground flax seed, and 2 cups semolina flour. It is started one day with an hour and a half of work, and finished the second day with about 5 hours of work. When finished, I keep one loaf for the day and the rest is cooled, wrapped in plastic wrap then wrapped again in aluminum foil and frozen. It keeps for 6 months, but never makes it past two weeks. Why so much work… it is truly devine. Look on line for “Italian wheat berry bread with biga and soaker”. Tony

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