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Bread: A “Bad Carb” or Part Of A Healthy Diet?

by | November 3, 2019

A long-time staple in homes around the world, bread seems to go with just about everything! From quick on-the-go meals like sandwiches to more elaborate dishes such as french toast, this is a food as versatile as it is popular. Oh, and did we mention it’s delicious?

Whether it’s slathered with nut butter and topped with banana slices or piled high with avocado, veggies and herbs, it can be nearly impossible to resist.

That said, it’s got a pretty controversial reputation. While some say it’s part of a healthy breakfast, others condemn it, lumping it in with sugary cereals, donuts, and other not-so-great-for-you carb sources.

avocado on bread
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A Little History On Bread

Bread can be packed full of fiber, flavor, and nutrition — and has been fueling humans for over 30,000 years!

That said, the way in which technology, lifestyle, and culture have evolved over time has changed how we get most of our food — bread inclusive. Because of this, people are likely to flock to the grocery store or bakery to get their local and not-so-local loaves, but to they still pack a valuable nutritional punch?

Read & Research The Ingredients

When reading the ingredients on bread these days, you’re likely stumble across a few things you can’t pronounce, let alone recognize. You will often see much more than just the four traditional ingredients of flour, salt, yeast, & water. Products such as soybean oil, monoglycerides, and DATEM are increasingly prevalent in packaged bread products.

Suffice it to say not all bread is created equal, and many of the ingredients lists are enough to leave most of us feeling unsure.

Aside from the worries around (perhaps unnecessary) additives, there’s the flour to consider. Many loaves pass up hearty whole grain flour for bleached, refined or enriched flours which aren’t the best option when it comes to our health. These ingredients can cause a spike in our blood sugar, lead to weight gain, or even promote diet related ailments such as type 2 diabetes.

sourdough bread healthy eating
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Choosing A Better Loaf

To help you avoid all these less-than-ideal results, many nutrition experts recommend that you bring yourself back to the basics. Search for loaves that are as close to the traditional four-ingredient recipe as possible, and ask how the bread is baked. Be sure flours are unbleached and not refined or enriched. The idea is to keep the grain as close to how it was harvested as possible with the least amount of processing — which can make the difference between bread being hinderance and help.

In fact, whole grains are one of the things included in the 6 foods Michael Greger, M.D. recommends eating every day for a long life. Things like oatmeal, rice, amaranth, buckwheat, quinoa, cooked pasta, corn kernels, ready-to-eat cereal, tortillas, bread, bagels or even English muffins are all endorsed by the plant-based diet expert, so looks like your toast stays!

You might just want to make it whole wheat.

bread whole grains
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The Trick You “Knead” To Know

True whole grains are nutrient-dense and satiate your hunger for longer. But also be aware of packaging keywords like multigrain, whole grain and whole wheat. They show up on nearly every package of bread these days, but may not be truly representative of what’s inside.

So, how do you break through the jargon? Well, one route recommended by Dr Gregor is to examine the nutrition facts to ensure a ratio of carbs to fiber equal to or less than five-to-one or, in other words, to follow what he calls the “five-to-one fiber rule.” When the fiber is higher, it’s reasonable to assume that the wheatgerm and bran are still included in your bread, making it a true whole-grain option.

baking bread healthy eating
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All Said On Bread

Bread can play an important role in your diet, but those focused on health should pay close attention to the kind of bread they are putting in your body.

Remember to read ingredients, don’t give into gimmicks, use the 5:1 rule by dividing carbs and fiber, and don’t be afraid to ask questions!

Follow these simple steps, and — for those without special dietary restrictions — there shouldn’t be any reason to give bread the boot.

What are some great bread brands have you found in your local grocery? Leave a comment below and keep the conversation going!

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