Who doesn’t love bread? In most households bread has always been a dietary staple, it is a good source of carbohydrate and is low in fat. It is no secret that wholemeal is better for our health than white bread. However, a visit to the supermarket will confirm that these are not the only two choices available. So how does wholemeal, wholegrain and multigrain compare? And what about sourdough, rye, high fibre white, low GI, and gluten-free? With so many choices of bread available, it’s hard to know which is best for our health, so below we try and list the benefits of each.
White Bread v Wholemeal
The process of grinding the grains down in the processing white and wholemeal breads results in them having a higher gylcaemic index (GI) than wholegrain bread. This increase in GI levels means that glucose is released into the blood stream more quickly. Foods with a higher GI can cause blood sugar spikes that have been associated with type 2 diabetes. Eating foods with a lower GI will help you feel fuller for longer periods of time which ultimately will mean you will eat fewer calories.
White bread is originally made from wheat but it has the germ and bran removed, which ultimately reduces its fiber content, the amount of B group vitamins, vitamin E and minerals such as iron, zinc, magnesium and phosphorus. Wholemeal bread is made from whole grains that are then milled to a fine texture, this gives the bread its’ brown appearance. It has more fiber than white bread and contains more vitamins and minerals but it does have a higher GI than wholegrain breads.
You will see white breads advertised as “High Fiber.” These breads have had fiber added to them which certainly makes it a better choice than regular white for children who seem to shy away from brown breads.
Wholegrain bread is made of a very dense wholemeal flour base and includes a lot of grain and seeds.
It has an abundant source of carbohydrates, protein, unsaturated (good) fats, vitamins and minerals and healthy fats as well as three types of fibre: soluble, insoluble and resistant starch. Diets high in whole grains are linked to a reduced risk of health conditions such as obesity, heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers. The increased fibre ensures that we feel fuller, helps prevent constipation and feeds the “good” gut bacteria which provides many health benefits. Wholegrain bread has a low GI.
Multigrain bread is often made from white flour with some added grains. However, even though it is made from white flour, multigrain breads tend to have more fibre and a lower GI than white bread.
Rye bread has a heavy texture due to a lower gluten content, however, it is not gluten free. Wholegrain rye with added grains has a higher fibre and vitamin content than light rye and has a lower GI, as does rye sourdough. Wholegrain rye is a good choice for our health and even light rye is better than white.
Sourdough bread has a high acidity level and therefore has a lower GI. The levels of fibre, vitamins and minerals will often vary depending on the flour used, obviously wholegrain sourdough would be the preferred option. Look out for authentic sourdough, as some are faux sourdough and contain yeast. Authentic sourdough takes an extended time to produce which contributes to an acidic and chewy bread, two features that lower the GI. A good sourdough bread should have a chewy texture with the absence of yeast. A wholewheat flour or rye wholemeal with grains and seeds would be a preferable choice.
Gluten free breads are made from an alternative grain to wheat, which eliminates the wheat protein gluten. Gluten free breads will often have had a lower fibre content and higher GI than their wheat-containing counterparts, although, there are now some on the market with added seeds.These breads are best for people with a gluten intolerance such as coeliac disease, but there are no additional health benefits, so for the rest of us sticking to the whole grain variety is a healthy choice.