Bread is often considered an off-limits food by those who prefer a low-carb diet. The U.S. Department of Agriculture says grains are one of the five main food groups, however, so a few slices of hearty, whole grain bread can be a healthy part of your diet. But if you slather them with lumps of butter, your low-fat bread becomes fatty fare.
To make enriched bread, manufacturers use a milling process to remove the bran and germ. This increases the bread's shelf life and gives it a smoother texture. Since the refining process also removes much of the bread's nutrients and fiber, manufacturers "enrich" the bread by adding vitamins later. The USDA reports that although enriched breads often contain added iron, riboflavin, thiamin, niacin and folic acid, the original fiber is typically lost. Fiber digests slowly and helps keep you full after meals. So while enriched bread is not fattening, it is not ideal diet food, either.
Unlike enriched bread, whole grains are unrefined. Whole grain breads include those made with whole wheat flour. When choosing the best product, scan the label for the words "whole wheat," whole rye" or "whole oats, " which should appear first in the list of ingredients. Breads labeled "stone ground," "multi-grain" or "seven grain" are generally not whole wheat breads, says the USDA. Whole grain breads are usually low in fat like enriched grains, but they are healthier because they contain the entire grain kernel and the original nutrients and fiber.
Fat and Calories
Contrary to theories that bread is fattening, grains are naturally low in fat. Both enriched and whole grain breads contain around 70 calories per slice and less than 1 g of fat. Since they are high in carbohydrates, however, they are often deemed undesirable by low-carb advocates. Just one slice of commercially prepared bread contains approximately 13 g of carbohydrates, and many low-carb diets allow only 20 g of carbohydrates daily.
Although grains are a healthy part of a balanced diet, most people do not consume enough whole grains. The USDA recommends adult women eat approximately 3 oz. daily. Men age 19 to 30 should get 4 oz. Men age 31 to 50 need 3.5 oz, and those older than 50 require 3 oz. of grains daily. Since bread is not fattening, you can consume it with confidence, knowing that you are improving your health by lowering your risk of diabetes, heart disease and certain types of cancer, according to MayoClinic.com.
- MayoClinic.com; Whole Grains: Hearty Options for a Healthy Diet; July 2011
- USDA; Food Groups: Grains; What Foods are in the Grains Group?; June 2011
- USDA; Food Groups: Grains; Tips to help You Eat Whole Grains; June 2011
- MayoClinic.com; Weight Loss; Atkins Diet: What's Behind The Claims?; July 2011
- USDA: Nutrient Data Laboratory