There's no need to banish bread if you are trying to eat well, lose a few pounds, or improve your overall health and nutrition. Whole grain bread can provide essential nutrients, beneficial fiber and antioxidants, and sustained energy to keep you satisfied throughout the day, and finding the healthiest types of bread can help you maintain a healthy weight and achieve your health goals.
The key to enjoying wholesome and wonderfully satisfying slices is choosing the right loaf and being more mindful of how much you're eating and what you put on and between your slices. Use the following expert tips when buying bread to determine the healthfulness of the loaf.
How to buy the best bread for your health
Check the label: Bread labels may have a lot of healthful sounding terms like "seven-grain," "multi-grain," "cracked wheat," "unbleached flour," "made with whole wheat" or "all-natural." But these descriptors don't ensure that your bread is made with whole-grain flour instead of enriched white flour. What you want to see on the ingredient list is "whole wheat flour," "oatmeal," "rye," "sorghum," or other whole grains as the first ingredient.
Look for grainy options: Check the bread to see if there are visible grains or seeds throughout the loaf (not just on the top crust). Seeds and intact whole grains are slow-to-digest, and contribute protein, fiber, and unsaturated fats, which helps temper the blood-sugar response and helps you feel fuller longer.
Aim for more fiber and protein: A serving of wholesome, whole-grain bread should have at least 2 grams of fiber and 2 grams of protein. More is better when it comes to the fiber and protein in bread.
Look for lower sugar counts: The best whole grain breads will have no more than 4 grams (1 teaspoon) of added sugar.
Try the "Squeeze Test": How your loaf feels in your hands can tell a lot about its nutritional qualities. A wholesome whole-grain loaf should feel dense and heavier than a loaf made with enriched white flour. Give your loaf a gentle squeeze: If it's squishy, it's a sign that it's mostly refined white flour and not sturdy whole grains.
Opt for thin-sliced: Another way to keep portions (and calories) of whole-grain bread in check is to look for thin-sliced sandwich bread. Thin-sliced sandwich breads will have fewer calories per slice.
The 10 best whole-grain breads on grocery shelves
Here are nutrition pros' guidance on the 10 best whole grain breads on grocery shelves. Read on, and for more healthy eating tips, check out The 11 Best Pastas on Grocery Shelves, According to a Dietitian.
Dave's Killer Bread Organic Thin-Sliced 100% Whole Wheat
"This 100% whole wheat bread is thinly sliced to shave off a few calories. It has 70 calories vs. about 110 calories in the average store-bought bread," says Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, FAND, an award-winning nutrition expert.
I love making avocado toast using 1/2 mashed avocado, Everything Bagel seasoning, and an over-easy egg on a slice of this delicious bread. It provides 16 grams of whole grains, and is organic, non-GMO verified, and kosher.
OroWeat Whole Grains Double Fiber
This is a great option that has no artificial preservatives, colors, or flavorings. This bread is packed with fiber, thanks to the added wheat gluten and wheat bread, and it also has more protein than most slices, and just ½ teaspoon (2 grams) of sugar per slice.
Ezekial 4:9 Sprouted Whole Grain Bread
"By combining six nutrient-packed grains and legumes, including barley, lentils, millet, soybeans, spelt, and wheat, each slice of this bread has 3 grams of fiber and 5 grams of complete protein for staying power," says Patricia Bannan, MS, RDN, nationally recognized registered dietitian nutritionist and author of From Burnout to Balance.
Breakfasts and lunches should get around 20 grams of protein, so this bread coupled with eggs, nut butter, cheese, or lean chicken or turkey will help you meet your protein goals.
Angelic Bakehouse Sprouted Wheat
The whole wheat is combined with sprouted grains like quinoa and millet, making it an excellent option for plant-based eaters. Sprouted grains have slightly more protein and help to increase iron absorption. Both protein and iron are important nutrients in plant-based eating that can be enhanced by picking sprouted whole-grain bread.
Rudi's Organic 100% Whole Wheat Bread
This bread is a great choice because it's made with organic whole wheat flour, organic crested wheat, wheat gluten, and wheat bread to get the fiber, protein, and beneficial nutrients in each slice. Plus, a slice only has 2 grams of sugar.
Food For Life 7 Sprouted Grains Bread
Now we know the health benefits of whole grains, as well as sprouted grains. The bread is crunchy and delicious, and it provides important nutrients, like plant protein, fiber, B vitamins, iron, zinc, and selenium. And, it is low in sodium, calories, fat, and has no added sugars.
Dave's Killer Bread Organic Powerseed
This bread is a healthful buy due to the high fiber and protein counts, which will help to keep you satisfied. It's made with organic whole wheat flour and a blend of six seeds and oats that adds to the texture and provides more essential nutrients, including plant-based omega-3s.
Mestemacher Whole Rye Bread
This whole-grain bread is a wholesome, hearty loaf of German rye that's made with whole-kernel rye, organic rye flour, salt, and yeast. The bread is dense so it's higher in calories, but one slice has the significant density of two slices of most other whole grain breads.
Silver Hills Organic Sprouted Power The Big 16
The 16 stands for 16 different grains and seeds, which are the main ingredients in this healthy loaf. Some of the primary ingredients include whole grain wheat and oats, and it packs in millet, flaxseeds, quinoa, and more.
Due to the flaxseeds, this bread also delivers omega-3 fatty acids, which provide anti-inflammatory and heart health benefits. The bread is also certified organic for the benefit of the plant— and people.
365 Organic Sprouted Wheat Honey & Oat
This is a great option from Whole Foods' 365 brand. The main ingredients include organic sprouted whole wheat, organic whole wheat flour, and organic whole grain rolled oats, among other wholesome ingredients.