Bread is a food that typically gets a lot of stick when it comes to weight loss and healthy eating. While some types of bread aren’t the most nutritious, there are plenty of healthy options to choose from. Bread can provide us with lots of nutrients if we choose the right types, and unless you have a diagnosed wheat or gluten intolerance, there is no need to cut it out of your diet.
With dozens of varieties on offer – and somewhere north of 9 million loaves sold in Britain every day – it’s an industrial triumph. So why is bread sometimes seen as a dietary no-go?
Nutracheck nutritionist, Emma Clarke, looks at some of the more common myths, and explains some of the basics about our daily bread.
Myth – bread makes you gain weight
Bread will not cause you to gain weight, it’s about how many calories you eat. If you eat bread as part of a calorie controlled diet, then it won’t affect your weight.
Myth – bread makes you bloated
Some people say they feel bloated after eating bread – but unless you have an intolerance to something in the bread such as wheat or yeast, or have suddenly increased your fibre intake, this should not be the case. A review by the British Nutrition Foundation has found no evidence to support the notion that bread causes bloating.
Myth – bread is not nutritious
If you choose the right bread it can be very nutritious. Wholemeal bread is a great source of fibre, protein and B vitamins. And UK law requires all bread – white and wholemeal – to be restored with iron, B vitamins and calcium after processing.
When it comes to bread, make sure you choose the most nutritious option. The ingredient that makes the biggest difference to bread’s nutrient content is the type of flour used – wholemeal or refined white flour.
Most bread is made using wheat flour, and it’s the processing of the wheat grain that changes the nutrient content of the flour. Refining the flour results in some of these layers being stripped away.
White bread uses ‘white’ wheat flour, which has been milled and refined to remove the outer bran layer and inner germ, leaving just the inner endosperm layer. The bran and the germ contain much of the fibre, minerals and vitamins, so this process results in the loss of many nutrients. Plain white bread offers the least nutritional value out of all the different types of bread.
Half and half uses 50% wholemeal flour and 50% refined wheat flour. This is a better choice than white bread as half of the flour contains many of the nutrients from the wheat grain. It is also useful as a way to encourage increased fibre and wholegrain intake in kids and other people who simply prefer the taste of white bread
Seeded bread is often the same as white bread, but just with added seeds. The seeds provide a good source of protein, vitamins and good fats – but the refined flour base lacks many nutrients, so always check the label and try and choose a wholemeal version of seeded bread. Another benefit is that seeds add fat content, which makes bread less dry, but this does come with an increased calorie count.
Wholemeal bread uses wholemeal flour, which means the ‘whole’ wheat grain has been included. This bread is the most nutritious as it includes plenty of fibre, B vitamins, vitamin E, minerals and phytochemicals.
Said Emma: “All in all, bread is absolutely fine to include in your diet, but opt for wholemeal varieties as often as possible, and limit white bread to a treat now and again.
“Be calorie savvy as the content per slice can vary greatly. An average slice of wholemeal bread has around 80 calories, however many seeded varieties contain considerably more – up to 140 calories per slice. Added seeds are healthy, but they do increase the calorie and fat content of the bread.”
Tip! When using your Nutracheck food diary, try to find the exact brand you ate for the most accurate calorie count.