Wraps may seem like a healthier option than bread because of the reputation bread has gotten over the past several decades, but the carbs in a wrap may be just as high as those found in most types of bread.
Wheat breads tend to have more calories than wheat wraps. This would seem to make wraps a healthier option, but this can all depend on the specific type of bread or wrap. Make sure whole grain or whole wheat is listed as the first ingredient on any nutrition label when shopping for either wraps or bread.
Bread: The Facts
Since the emergence and eminent popularity of the Atkins Diet in the 1990s, bread and carbohydrates alike have been demonized as the enemies of healthy eating. Luckily for bread fans everywhere, this really is not the case. As with all foods, moderation is key, but there is no reason to completely abstain from bread on any diet, and it can actually provide a number of benefits.
Bread is high in fiber (providing it is not white bread, which is not nearly as beneficial as whole-grain breads) and is a staple part of the human diet. Fiber performs a variety of health functions, and it may also help prevent some serious conditions down the line.
The Mayo Clinic advises that a high-fiber diet is beneficial for:
Improved bowel health: A diet deficient in fiber has been linked to the development of colorectal cancer, so staying topped up through your diet is important.
Reduced risk of diabetes: Rye bread, in particular, is rich in the mineral magnesium, which is a cofactor in more than 300 enzyme processes, some of which relate to the body's use of glucose and insulin secretion.
Controlling blood sugar: High fiber can slow the absorption of sugar and improve overall blood sugar levels, which can help prevent diabetes, and assist with blood sugar management in those already diagnosed.
Avoiding bread entirely may actually hinder your body in the long run. As long as it is consumed mindfully and not binged, there is no reason bread cannot be a part of a healthy, balanced diet.
Read more: List of Healthy Carbs
Wraps vs. Bread
Wraps and bread are perhaps a lot more similar than many people realize. Because tortillas are thinner, they are often considered a healthier option, but the carbs in a wrap may not differ from the carbs in a sandwich made with bread. It all depends on the type of wrap and, indeed, the type of bread.
Corn tortillas for example, predominantly used for tacos and enchiladas, are usually smaller and thinner than some other wraps. Corn tortilla calories generally fall between 60 and 65 for one, which is much less than typically found in most breads (a single slice usually has between 75 and 100 calories), but this is a very specific type of wrap and does not mean that all wraps are better than bread.
For instance, flour tortillas are much thicker and have a much higher fat content, so their calorie count is noticeably higher. The higher fat makes them softer and easier to roll, but it also means they sacrifice the lower calorie benefit. Flour tortilla calories tend to range from 90 if they are smaller, but if they are the thicker variety used for fajitas, burritos or chimichangas, that calorie count can leap up to as much as 300.
Calories are not necessarily what makes or breaks a food in terms of its health benefits, but they are important to bear in mind, particularly if the goal is weight loss.
Whether you prefer wraps or bread, the whole-grain option should always be your priority, because it gives you a high fiber content and more complete nutrient package.
When you're buying flour tortillas, look for the ones that have vegetable oils listed in the ingredients, as these are always the healthier option.
Different Wraps, Different Calories
The Cleveland Clinic cements the notion that wraps are not immediately better than bread when it comes to health. It states that a typical 10-inch tortilla contains around 170 to 200 calories, whereas two slices of bread can contain anywhere between 70 and 280 calories, depending on the type of bread you choose.
The Cleveland Clinic moves on to say that many delis and restaurants, due to their use of thicker wraps, often use tortillas that are 300 calories alone, before any filling is added. This can add up to a very high-calorie meal.
Spinach and tomato tortillas have become popular recently. The idea of merging a vegetable into the carbohydrate of choice to hold the filling together seems great in theory, but unfortunately it is not as it appears.
Spinach and tomato wraps often contain nothing more than trace amounts of their respective vegetables, and the addition of spinach or tomato is usually purely for aesthetic purposes — providing color — as opposed to actually providing any nutritional benefit.
Even worse, in the majority of cases they are not whole-grain but rather classified as being created from refined grains, which means they have the same calorie and carbohydrate counts with no benefit from high fiber. If you want to add more vegetables to your diet, do it the old-fashioned way: Make the filling of your whole-grain wrap with vegetables.
The thicker the wrap, the higher the calories. While this may sound obvious, the leap can be from 60 calories per wrap to 300 calories per wrap. Generally speaking, tortillas are anywhere between 150 and 200 calories.
Read more: 19 High Fiber Foods —Some May Surprise You!
Are Carbohydrates Bad?
Carbohydrates are the body's go-to source of energy, and without a sufficient amount of them, the body becomes lethargic and easily tired. The right choice of bread can be a great source of important carbohydrates, alongside other great nutrients such as vitamin B, fiber and other essential minerals such as magnesium (found in rye bread) and calcium.
Bread is by no means a miracle food, and varying your diet by adding the occasional wrap now and again is no crime against health — just be aware that wraps are not a quintessentially healthier option than bread.
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans states that half of any plate should be fruit and vegetables, a quarter should be protein and the final quarter should be carbohydrates. Be mindful of this before tucking into a meal consisting of pasta and garlic bread; this is an example of an excessive amount of carbs that can prove harmful to the body.
Achieving a healthy, nutritional balance, through wraps or breads, is the most important factor when planning any diet.
- Mayo Clinic: "Dietary Fiber"
- American Institute for Cancer Research: "Which Is Healthier, a Tortilla or a Slice of Bread?"
- Cleveland Clinic: Are Wraps Healthier Than Sandwiches?"
- American Institute for Cancer Research: "Are Wheat Tortillas a Good Choice as I Try to Eat Whole Grains More Often? Do the Ones With Spinach and Tomato Offer Extra Nutrition?"
- Health Plans: "Is Bread Bad?"
- Health.gov: "Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2015-2020"