You may buy high fibre white for the family, mixed grain for you and then a treat of some good quality (but pricey) Sourdough on weekends. There is an ever growing range of bread and wraps in bakeries and supermarkets so which are the best and not so good choices nutritionally?
Bread has been a dietary staple for thousands of years, and the more advanced technology has become, so too the more processed our bread, resulting in the soft, almost sticky common white loaf many families base a number of meals around each day. Bread, white or otherwise is a rich source of B group vitamins which are crucial for energy production, and hence bread remains a major contributor to energy and the running of energy systems in the body. Less processed varieties of bread also offer a range of other nutrients including dietary fibre, Vitamin E, zinc; iron and long chain unsaturated fats, which is generally why loaves of grain based bread contain more fat than white bread.
Apart from the distinct nutrient differences between white and grain based breads, the other major and most significant difference from a health perspective is the difference in glycaemic index between breads. As white, wholemeal and flat breads have all had the grains ground down in their processing, they have a relatively high GI compared to wholegrain bread, meaning that they release glucose into the bloodstream much more quickly than wholegrain breads. Over time, this means that choosing processed breads as a dietary staple will be resulting in regular glucose peaks and troughs, and subsequent insulin release. High insulin levels over time are related to weight gain and increased risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.
Yes, it is true that athletes, particularly elite level athletes can make good use of high GI foods. During events, long rides or as a recovery snack, there is evidence to show that high GI foods including white bread can be used very effectively to restore muscle glycogen levels more quickly than carbohydrate foods with a lower GI. On the whole though, even athletes are better to base their diets around grain based breads and cereals for the range of other health benefits that they offer.
Generally speaking, the more grains the bread has, the better it will be for you, with soy and linseed loaves a standout due to their high polyunsaturated fat content thanks to the presence of linseeds. Polyunsaturated fats have been shown to have a number of health benefits long term including reducing inflammation in the body. While whole meal bread does contain more dietary fibre than standard white bread, it is still a high GI choice and Turkish is perhaps the worse bread of all, with its mixture of large serving sizes, holes that readily get filled with butter or margarine and large amounts of white flour giving it its high GI and carbohydrate load. Another popular choice, sourdough does have a lower GI than regular white bread, but keep in mind that the serving sizes of sourdough also tend to be large which may be contributing to a kilo joule overload if you are trying to lose body fat.
The average adult will need just 2-4 slices of bread each day and be mindful of the increasing sizes. Some large, thick slices of bread can contain up to double the amount of carbohydrates and are really not necessary for the majority of us who would ultimately like to drop a few extra kilograms.
When I am choosing a bread or wrap I am looking for an option that contains a controlled portion of carbs and plenty of wholegrains and fibre. While the fat content of heavy grain breads are generally higher, this is simply due to the presence of grains which only adds positives nutritionally, so don’t worry about it. This is with the exception of the fat in Turkish bread, which is more likely coming from oil. Based on this my favourites of Burgen Soy Lin, the Helga’s Lower Carb range and Cape Seed from Bakers Delight. I feed my twins a plain wholemeal and generally do not go for plain sourdough as the slices are large and the carb content is much higher than a good quality grain bread. If I do buy sourdough I look for small slices of rye or multigrain sourdough.
Bread Type | kJ/cal | Carbs(g) | Fibre(g) | SodiumFat(g)
Per 2 slices / 1 wrap
Plain white | 615/147 | 27.0 | 1.8 | 273 | 1.2
Wonder White | 718/172 | 29.2 | 6.1 | 296 | 1.9
Helga’s Wholemeal | 830/198 | 34.4 | 5.2 | 332 | 2.1
Helga’s Lower Carb | 798/190 | 19.0 | 5.7 | 280 | 6.5
Helga’s Gluten Free | 757/181 | 31.4 | 2.7 | 312 | 3.9
Tip Tip Multigrain | 660/158 | 28.2 | 3.0 | 240 | 1.8
Tip Top 9 Grain | 822/197 | 24.2 | 6.9 | 292 | 5.1
Burgen Soy Lin | 751/179 | 19.9 | 5.6 | 361 | 4.8
Baker’s Delight Cape Seed | 762/182 | 14.6 | 4.7 | 178 | 8.8
Baker’s Delight Chia | 636/152 | 26.2 | 2.8 | 295 | 2.2
Lawson’s Wholemeal | 997/238 | 35.1 | 10.4 | 467 | 2.5
Turkish – 2 slices | 3375/808 | 111.3 | 6.3 | 1938 | 27.5
Sourdough | 1293/308 | 73 | 4.1 | 614 | 0.3
Mountain | 300/72 | 13.7 | 1.0 | 58 | 0.4
Lebanese | 1149/275 | 53.0 | 3.0 | 451 | 2.1
Helga’s Wrap | 854/204 | 34.7 | 1.9 | 301 | 4.0
Wattle Valley Wrap | 490/117 | 19.1 | 2.3 | 241 | 2.7
Mission Wrap | 880/210 | 32.0 | – | 561 | 5.8
This is an independent review. Nutritionally data was obtained via ‘calorieking’. The author is not aligned to any bread brands at the present time. No fees or sponsorship were received for this post.