Terms like "whole wheat" and "multigrain" can mislead you at the grocery store. Not all breads made with whole wheat or multiple grains are truly whole-grain breads, and not all provide good sources of fiber and nutrients. When choosing breads, look at nutrition information and ingredients lists for more information.
Look for breads that list a whole grain as the first ingredient. Whole grains commonly found in breads include wheat, rye, barley, buckwheat and rolled oats. The healthiest whole-grain breads are those made entirely with one or more whole grains, such as 100 percent whole-wheat bread. The grains in these breads have undergone less processing and retain more of their natural nutrients and fiber than refined grains in white breads.
Look for breads and breakfast cereals with at least 3 g of fiber per serving. Dr. Walter Willett of the Harvard School of Public Health recommends looking for breads with at least 1 g of fiber for every 6 g of carbohydrates, according to the "Los Angeles Times." Bread with 24 g of carbohydrates and 4 g of fiber per serving, for example, provides a healthy option. Women should get at least 20 g of fiber per day and men should get at least 30, according to the Harvard School of Public Health.
Refined carbohydrates, like those found in white breads and breads with lower percentages of whole grains, turn into sugar in your body and can rapidly increase your blood sugar. Frequent consumption of foods with a high glycemic index, such as white bread, may increase your risk for diabetes, obesity and heart disease. Whole-grain breads, on the other hand, take longer for you to digest and have a gentler impact on blood sugar. These low-glycemic-index foods may help control diabetes and aid weight loss, the Harvard School of Public Health suggests.
Whole Grain Health Benefits
Healthy diets rich in fiber and whole grains may reduce your risk for a variety of diseases and conditions, including cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes, digestive problems and some cancers. Soluble fiber dissolves in water and bonds to enzymes in your body, helping to lower low-density lipoprotein, or "bad," cholesterol. Insoluble fiber helps move waste out of your body through the digestive tract. Fiber may also improve the body's anti-coagulants, helping to prevent blood clots that can lead to strokes or heart attacks. Fiber provides a feeling of fullness that may help you control your appetite and weight. Compounds and minerals found in whole grains, including phytoestrogens, copper, manganese, selenium and magnesium, may protect against some cancers.
- Harvard School of Public Health: The Nutrition Source: Carbohydrates
- Harvard School of Public Health: The Nutrition Source: Fiber
- "Los Angeles Times"; Cleaning Up Your Carb Act: Where to Begin; Marni Jameson; December 2010
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Carbohydrates
- Harvard School of Public Health: The Nutrition Source; Carbohydrates: Good Carbs Guide the Way