Diet & Nutrition

FINALLY! The healthiest breads to eat now... and not feel guilty about

Ever asked yourself which bread is healthy to eat? Here, CHOICE and a bunch of baked-goods experts have answered your dough-based questions...

By Karen Fittall
Oprah and what bread has the least calories

Mirror, mirror on the wall, which is the healthiest, tastiest, drool-worthy, carb-laden bread of them all?

Well, according to yet another rigorous testing process enacted by consumer advocacy group CHOICE, of the 21 supermarket loaves of bread tested for both nutrition and taste, the top five picks for healthiest bread to eat have been announced, and the answers might suprsise you.

1. Lawson's Stone Mill Wholemeal - Overall score: 87%

According to the experts: "Great loaf with good earthy aroma and flavour. Good dark caramel external colour with even cell structure and evidence of bran throughout slice. Nice wholemeal texture in the mouth. Large size may not suit all toasters."

2. Abbott's Village Bakery Grainy Wholemeal - Overall score: 86%

The experts say: "A substantial slice of bread with good colour and taste. Good structure with visible grains and nice soy grain particulate. Soft, open, dry texture."

3. Burgen Wholemeal & Seeds - Burgen Wholemeal & Seeds - Overall score: 84%

Experts attest: "Sweet, nutty aroma and texture. Dark, even coloured crust, with visible seeds and grain throughout the small size loaf. Nice and moist. An overall good looking and tasting loaf."

4. Woolworths Wholesome Country Wholemeal - Overall score: 83%

As the experts have told CHOICE: "Light grain topping, nice full shape, versatile size. Slightly open, moist, tender crumb. Visible whole wheat grain throughout. Good nutty flavour and aroma. Doesn't feel or look commercial."

5. Helga's Traditional Wholemeal - Overall score: 82%

As pointed out by the expert: "Nice shape. Reasonably coloured, soft crust. Very tender crumb with open texture, airy in centre. Great nutty aroma."

Identifying the potential health value in these store-available breads brings to light the battle many of us have had with our favourite baked goods.

Ever since low-carb diets started making headlines, bread has been blamed for everything from bloating to being bad news for weight loss.

But, not only are carbohydrates one of the body's main sources of fuel, if you eliminate them your brain's ability to perform memory-based tasks can suffer, particularly when you're trying to lose weight.

And, while a variety of foods deliver a hit of carbohydrates, if you pick the right loaf, bread can offer a genuine health kick that is specific to your health, wellbeing and dietary needs..

Here's how to make it work.

Choose wholegrain bread to lose weight

Compared to other varieties of bread, wholegrain bread has a lower glycaemic index (GI). And that's good news if you're trying to lose weight, because a low-GI, carbohydrate-rich diet is one of the most effective for weightloss, particularly for women, according to University of Sydney research. The GI is a measure of how carbohydrate-containing foods impact blood sugar, and unlike high-GI foods, which contribute to hunger and prevent the breakdown of fat, lower-GI foods increase the rate of body fat loss.

To get the biggest benefit:
Choose a loaf that contains barley, which has a specific mix of dietary fibres that's effective at keeping a lid on appetite.

Choose sourdough bread to protect against diabetes

Compared to white and whole wheat breads, eating sourdough bread creates a smaller rise in post-meal blood-sugar and insulin levels, which helps to lower your risk of developing type-2 diabetes. And it's an effect that lasts – eat sourdough at one meal and the positive effect on blood glucose and insulin lasts until after your next meal, too. The fermentation process required to make traditional sourdough alters the make-up of the bread's starch content to create a blood-sugar friendly loaf.

To get the biggest benefit:
Buy sourdough bread that's made traditionally, using a 'starter' yeast. Commercial bakeries often replace this starter with dried powdered yeast, so do your research before choosing a loaf, or buy one from your local bakery where you can ask how the bread is made.

Eat wholemeal bread to improve your heart health

People who eat wholemeal bread every day have lower levels of LDL, or 'bad', cholesterol, and higher levels of 'good', HDL cholesterol, compared to people who ban bread or only eat it occasionally. Regularly eating wholemeal bread bumps up the production of a protein that helps to break down dietary fats, say Spanish researchers.

To get the biggest benefit:
Look at the ingredients, and choose a wholemeal loaf that contains actual wholemeal wheat flour, rather than white wheat flour that's been mixed with bran and wheatgerm – as many of them are. The latter contains the same nutrients as genuine wholemeal flour, but has a higher GI, which can elevate LDL cholesterol levels in the long term.

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Eat some white bread to avoid an antibiotic-related upset stomach

It boosts levels of Lactobacillus, a strain of gut bacteria that's effective against antibiotic-resistant diarrhoea, which affects about 30 per cent of people taking antibiotics. Researchers are yet to work out why, but say it's probably thanks to a combination of white-bread ingredients, rather than one in particular.

To get the biggest benefit:
Choose a high-fibre white bread. These are 'fortified' with fibre to replace what's stripped during the refinement process required to make white flour, and some commonly used fibre-enriching ingredients also promote the growth of beneficial gut bacteria.

Pick a bread made with rye flour to keep your hunger levels under control

Rye bread has a much bigger effect on satiety (or how full we feel), than loaves made purely from wheat flour. In fact, eat rye bread for breakfast and you'll eat less at lunchtime. Rye bread is a rich source of fibre, which may explain its hunger-fighting effect, because fibre helps to keep you fuller for longer.

To get the biggest benefit:
Choose the darkest rye bread you can find. Rye bread is made from a combination of rye flour and wheat flour, and the darker the colour, the more rye flour it contains.

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