Just how do you go about choosing the best bread for a low calorie diet? Which bread is best for weight loss? Calories count but there is so much more to keep in mind when purchasing bread. Aside from calories, you want to look for whole grains, dietary fiber, and bread that has not had too much sugar added. Are you purchasing the best bread for your weight loss success when you shop?
A while ago I wrote about the importance of whole grains for weight loss. If you are conscientious about including whole grains in your diet, you may not have found it difficult to include oatmeal or brown rice instead of white. But when it comes to whole wheat and bread it becomes quite a bit more complicated.
As a whole grain, whole wheat will provide you with a more complete array of nutrients than bread made with enriched all-purpose flour or bread flour (not whole grains). This means you will also be getting more dietary fiber because whole wheat is made from the bran as well as the germ of whole kernels of wheat. Bread flour and all-purpose flour are made from just the inner part of the wheat kernel (the germ).
WHY DOES THIS MATTER?
Knowing the difference between whole-wheat flour and bread flour or all-purpose flour makes it easier to understand why whole wheat is a better choice. What’s more is that you will also be less likely to be mislead by the term whole grains on a package label.
The presence of “whole grains” in bread means better nutrition. But the presence of simply “grains” does not automatically make a particular bread a good choice. Most bread is made from grains.
First of all, how many WHOLE grains are present? The Whole Grains Council suggests getting 48 grams of whole grains each day. However, scientists have not yet determined how many whole grains would be best. It’s also clear that some people need to avoid certain grains entirely (for example, those with gluten intolerance, celiac disease, or wheat allergy).
If you can eat wheat bread without health challenges then I recommend you seek bread with labels saying 100% whole wheat or 100% whole grain. The next best way is to look at the first ingredient in the list on the back of a package. If it lists a whole grain as the first ingredient then you will know you are getting a minimum of 50 percent whole grain by weight.
Something else to keep in mind is that whole grains and dietary fiber are not the one and the same. Eight grams of whole grain will generally have less than one gram of dietary fiber. (The recommended amount of dietary fiber for young women is 25 grams per day. For women over the age of 50, the recommendation is 21 grams per day.)
Finding a suitable whole wheat bread when grocery shopping is not easy. I often see package labels with misleading statements. These statements are included to get your attention but may or may not provide you with the information you need to make a good choice.
WHOLE WHEAT FLOUR AND BREAD MAKING
Wheat flour is the preferred choice for bread making because it is a good source of proteins that form gluten when mixed with liquids. The formation of gluten is necessary to provide the structure and elasticity of bread dough when making yeast leavened breads.
Evidently, flour can be milled from a variety of foods including corn, rice, beans (legumes), nuts, and even some fruits and vegetables. But not all flours contain the right kind of proteins to make the gluten necessary for leavened bread. For this reason wheat bread (both white and whole wheat) is by far the most commonly found bread on grocery store shelves in the United States.
Yeast breads made with primarily whole wheat will typically make heavier more compact bread than the bread made primarily from bread flour or all-purpose flour. In an effort to come up with a suitable compromise with respect to taste, texture, nutrition, and safety, commercially made bread is often a complex formulation of ingredients.
When you combine the difficulty of making leavened bread that remains shelf stable and fresh for a period of time with the need to provide reasonably good nutrition, you may begin to see why the formulation for commercial breads can be so complex. So what should you buy?
PURCHASING WHOLE WHEAT BREAD
What is best for you will depend on your particular needs. I’d like to show you some products labels to alert you to the kinds of things you might want to watch for when buying whole wheat bread. The products I will be sharing are for illustration only and may or may not be a good choice for you.
HyVee Wheat Muffins (see photo earlier)
If nothing other than the word “wheat” bread is on the package the product is NOT a whole wheat bread. It may or may not have any whole grains and that will mean less nutrition, including less dietary fiber (unless additional fiber called functional fiber has been added). The calorie count will vary. Just because a wheat bread has a low calorie count does not make it a good choice. You can do much better.
Pepperidge Farm 100% Natural 9 Grain Bread is an interesting example of a product that sounds like it would be a healthy choice but is it? It may or may not be depending on YOUR needs. Let’s take a closer look.
First of all the word “Natural” is not regulated. It is often included on food package covers because it sounds good but it may or may not be relevant. Without regulation what exactly does natural mean? Who knows? So I would suggest you ignore that.
Second, this bread is a “whole grain bread” with 9 different grains. BUT what you need to know is that the presence of different grains does not mean all of these grains are whole grains. We’ll take a look at the ingredient list to see what’s included.
Third, the bread has 3 grams of dietary fiber per slice. That’s good but it does suggest that the bread was made with added fiber of some kind. A bit of added fiber is fine. A lot of added fiber may or may not be good.
O.K. let’s take a look at the labels on the back of the package. What I see is that this bread might be a reasonably good choice if calories were not a factor. But the nutrition is not as good as it seems and at 100 calories a slice, I feel you can do better.
I believe, a slice of bread typically has far more calories then it needs these days. Back in the 1970s, a typical slice of bread had only 70 calories. Now all too often a slice has from 90-140 calories and occasionally more! Some of the added calories come from sugar and some from added protein.
Each slice of bread in this package has 3 grams of sugar! That’s a lot. After all, 4 grams would be about 1 tsp. of sugar. Do you really need a little less than one tsp. of sugar per slice?
Four grams of protein per slice is good but the higher amount than usual suggests some of the protein has been added from an additional ingredient. I see whey (a dairy source) listed in the ingredients as the likely source.
Whole wheat flour is listed as the first ingredient in the list so that means you would be getting at least 50% or more of whole grain. But none of the other 8 grains seem to be whole. If they were they would be listed as “whole” then the name of the particular grain. (This is true in the United States; in other countries regulations may not require this designation.)
Overall I would say this bread is not the best choice for most people but it could be worse. But if you are watching your caloric intake I would suggest you choose something better. On the other hand, if you really like this bread then you might consider eating only one slice at a time. For example, when making a sandwich, have it be an “open-face” sandwich with only one slice not two.
This bread has a long list of positive sounding features:
- No artificial color, flavors or preservatives
- Made with 100% whole wheat flour
- 22 grams of whole grains per slice
- 3 grams of fiber per slice
- Baked with lower sodium natural sea salt.
This list does not share the whole story. Make your decision about whether or not a particular bread is good for you based on several factors: Whole grains? If yes, how much is present? (Take note that just because this bread is made with 100% whole wheat flour it is not the only flour!) Dietary fiber? Added sugar? And last but not least how many calories?
In part two of this article, I will share more examples of what you want to assess when buying bread so you can make the best choice for you. The topic of bread flours, nutrition, bread making, and the guidelines for choosing the right kind of bread for weight loss and better health is difficult. If what I have shared is not making sense please don’t hesitate to ask questions!