The recent rise in popularity of whole grains has the masses trading in their spongy white slices for something more nutritionally -- and physically -- dense. If you rely on color alone, however, you may not chose a bread that contains fiber and nutrient-rich whole grains. That's because not all brown breads are created equal.
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Brown Isn't Necessarily Better
Wheat bread has a reputation for being the healthier choice. The truth is, many wheat breads are just white breads in disguise. They contain the same processed white flour as white bread with the addition of sugars or colorings to give them their darker appearance. Having a darker color isn't a reliable indicator of nutritional value. The phrase "wheat" on the label misleads consumers because most breads contain wheat, even white breads.
Whole Grains are Key
Whole-grain breads have a nutritional edge over breads with just processed grains because whole grains retain the germ and bran portion of each grain. The bran packs bread with fiber and ups the magnesium, vitamin E and essential fatty acids. Breads without whole grains cast these parts of the plant aside and the nutritional content takes a hit. Make sure the bread you choose lists "100-percent whole wheat" on the packaging or "whole-grain wheat" in the ingredients list.
Benefits of Whole Grains
Bread manufacturers can add nutrients back into the breads through the fortification process, but not fiber, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Whole-grain bread helps you meet your daily fiber intake. The extra fiber in whole grains helps give you that full feeling. It also keeps you full longer, which can help promote weight loss.
Fiber helps regulate your digestive system and lowers cholesterol. Since whole grains take longer to digest than processed grains, they have less impact on your blood sugar, which can help control food cravings.
Make at Least Half of Your Grains Whole
The USDA recommends that half the grains you eat each come from whole grains. It recommends 3 oz. of whole grain per day, and those grains can come from any combination of whole and processed grains. This is important because many brown breads contain a mixture of whole grains and processed grains.The USDA emphasizes that there is room for processed grains in a healthy diet as long as they're balanced with whole grains and not eaten in excess.