18 Best and Worst Store-Bought Breads, According to Experts
When most people embark on a new diet, the first thing that seems to get the boot is the bread. But carbs shouldn't always be the dietary scapegoat. Dropping them from your diet will depress your taste buds, and it could actually prevent you from achieving lasting, healthy weight loss. Instead of cutting carbs completely, simply switch to one of the healthiest bread loaves you can buy in the bread aisle.
How nutritionists choose the healthiest bread.
Not all loaves of bread are created equal, and what makes the healthiest bread lies in the ingredients. "Bread has a bad rap for being full of fillers and additives, high in carbs, and sometimes even sugar. When grocery shopping, it is important to keep your eyes out for ingredients such as partially hydrogenated oils, high fructose corn syrup, and soy—I never buy bread that has those ingredients on the label!" says registered dietitian Kelly Springer, MS, RD, CDN.
Certain slices will offer your body absolutely no nutrition while others have the opportunity to fill you up with fiber and energy-boosting whole grains. (Yes, there are best bread loaves for weight loss out there!) Not to mention, some varieties today go even further and pack healthy, satiating fats into the mix by adding nuts and seeds.
So if you absolutely can't live without bread, use this list of 8 healthiest bread options you can find at the grocery store, and 10 you should avoid at all costs.
The 8 Healthiest Breads You Can Buy At the Store
1. Best Low Sodium: Ezekiel 4:9 Low Sodium Sprouted Whole Grain Bread
"First off, when you're reading the ingredient list you should be looking for the word 'whole grain', which means that the grain is still intact and hasn't been processed and essentially re-fortified," says Jessica Crandall, a Denver-based RD, Certified Diabetes Educator, and National Spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. The very first ingredient on this Ezekiel loaf is 100% whole wheat (a type of whole grain) which will tip you off to the fact that it will probably contain more fiber and also offer more health benefits as a result. What kind of benefits are we talking? Whole grains have been found to reduce your risk for heart disease, diabetes and even assist weight management and weight loss. That's definitely what we're looking for in the healthiest bread.
2. Best Sprouted Grain: Ezekiel 4:9 Sesame Sprouted Whole Grain Bread
"Sprouted whole grains tend to have a different flavor profile, but there are a lot of health benefits associated with them because—depending on the grain—they can contain vitamin c, vitamin b, fiber, folate, and some additional amino acids," says Crandall. What's more? Sprouted whole grains have been found to fight against diabetes, cardiovascular disease, fatty liver disease, and high blood pressure—to name a few.
3. Best Whole Wheat: Arnold Whole Grains 100% Whole Wheat Bread
Of course, if you cut out an entire food group from your diet you will lose weight initially—but Crandall assures that it won't last. As long as you're watching portions and are mindful of calories, eating bread will not stop you from reaching your goals. "I usually look for slices of bread to have less than 20 grams of carbs per slice (especially for my clients who are watching their blood sugar) and usually around 100-150 calories per slice," says Crandall. This Arnold loaf definitely fits the bill.
4. Best Whole Grain: Nature's Harvest Stone Ground 100% Whole Wheat Bread
One of the main reasons for choosing whole grain bread is for the fiber content. "You want to look for greater than 3 grams of fiber—greater than 3 grams of fiber is considered a good source and greater than 5 grams is considered an excellent source of fiber," says Crandall. Beyond looking for that whole grain stamp, it's important to scan through the label for fiber content as well so you can be sure you're getting the most bang for your buck. The majority of Americans are not getting enough fiber in their diets to begin with, so by picking a bread with a decent amount you can make that bread work beyond just appeasing your taste buds and carb cravings.
5. Best Seeded: Eureka! Seeds The Day, Organic
Thanks to the all the wholesome added ingredients like flaxseed, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, and sesame seeds, this bread boasts a pretty high protein count with 7 grams per slice. Couple that with the 4 grams of fiber and healthy fats from the seeds, and this bread is one that will help fill you up and keep you feeling full.
6. Best High-Fiber Bread: Nature's Own Double Fiber Wheat
If your goal is to lose weight, then look no further than this loaf. With only 50 calories per slice and 4 grams of fiber, it will fill you up and leave room (calorically speaking) to add on healthy spreads like nut butters or smashed avocado. "There are a lot of people that are still very hesitant to consume grains period, which is the real concern. I think we're forgetting that there are nutritional benefits in these grain products because we have been a society based off of fear of foods, of carbohydrates, and that bread is going to make us gain weight. If you look at the research it's really pointing to the opposite," says Crandall. You don't have to fear the bread, so long as you choose a more nutrient-rich option.
7. Best Multigrain: Shiloh Farms Sprouted 7 Grain Bread, Organic
We know that whole grains are the priority here, but what's the deal with "multigrain" bread? "If a product is labeled multi-grain it simply means that there are a lot of different grains that they're using, but you still need to look for that word 'whole'," says Crandall. Just because a product splashes "multigrain" across the packaging, does not automatically mean it's a good source of whole grains, so check the ingredient list to be sure. These sprouted grains in the Shiloh Farms version, in particular, may also be easier for your body to digest so that you reap more of the benefits whole grains have to offer.
8. Best High-Protein Bread: Arnold Whole Grain Double Protein
Fiber intake is one side of the diet-docket, but protein intake is equally as important when it comes to weight management. That's why taking a close look at the nutritional makeup of your foods is crucial to developing a balanced diet. "It's not important for us to be cutting out food groups so much as it is for us to be looking at what we're consuming, making sure we get the right portion sizes and looking at our food labels. You can definitely find healthy bread options at your local supermarket, too—not just at a specialty store," says Crandall.
The 10 Unhealthiest Breads You Can Buy At the Store
1. Worst: Pepperidge Farm White Sandwich Bread
The very first ingredient listed on this label is "Wheat Flour Unbromated Unbleached Enriched." Whatever that is, it's certainly not a whole grain—and as you probably guessed, offers none of the same health benefits. "With white bread, there's typically less fiber and less nutritional benefits. We know that higher fiber and whole grain products have been linked to numerous studies showing that they can decrease the risk of high cholesterol, help decrease weight, and also decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease. When you're eating white bread, you're essentially eating non-nutrient rich food," says Crandall. When in doubt, skip the white.
2. Worst: Pepperidge Farm Italian White
Whether it's soft white, sandwich white or fancy sounding Italian white—it doesn't change the fact that white bread is missing a lot of key nutrients that will help push you to meet your health goals. Choosing to eat a food lacking in nutrients is a missed opportunity to nourish your body with the vitamins and minerals it needs to function properly and recovery from activity. If you already bought bread that's not great for your body and feel bad about wasting it, at least discover the incredible bread trick that makes it healthier.
3. Worst: Martin's Potato Bread
Potato bread may be a favorite thanks to its plush, soft texture, but the added potato doesn't add any extra health benefits. With one measly gram of fiber, this slice will quickly run through your digestive system, leaving you feeling hungry shortly after and causing you to eat more food than you truly need.
4. Worst: Glutino Gluten-Free Multigrain Bread
Unless you have celiac disease or are gluten-sensitive, there is no reason for you to be hanging out in the gluten-free aisle. It's very important to note that just because something is labeled gluten-free, does not mean it's healthy. Looking past the confusing gluten-free, multigrain label, this bread is essentially a mixture of starch and oil. With less than one gram of fiber and less than one gram of protein, you won't make it very far on this slice.
5. Worst: Udi's Gluten Free Cinnamon Raisin Bread
Although this sans gluten option may be a bit tastier, it still does not give your body the fuel it needs to run efficiently. With raisins as the second listed ingredient, it's no wonder the sugar count is a tad high. And, what are "cultured corn syrup solids" doing in there anyway? Skip the low fiber, high-sugar bread and make room for way more satisfying indulgences when you really want one.
6. Worst: Pepperidge Farm Oatmeal Bread
The word oatmeal may lead you to believe that this bread may be a heartier, more filling choice, but sorry to say it's not. With only two grams per serving, this loaf does not qualify as a good fiber source and doesn't really offer you body much more than a classic slice of white bread. Its only redeeming quality is the small five grams of protein hiding within—but truth be told, you're better off seeking true whole grain options to reap the most benefits possible. If you love oatmeal, we suggest making a batch of overnight oats tonight!
7. Worst: Wonder Bread Classic White
Wonder Bread has got to be one of the most beloved loaves out there, setting off childhood nostalgia at the mere mention of it. But unfortunately, it doesn't pass the test when it comes to healthy options. As with any other simple carb, it's going to digest quickly, leaving your stomach grumbling and your blood sugar unsteady, which may lead to unhealthy cravings.
8. Worst: Nature's Own Butter Bread
Sometimes, a name really can clue you into what you're getting. Ask yourself: Does "butter bread" sound like a diet-friendly option? Although there is not an outrageous amount of butter in this loaf, it is not an adequate source of whole grains and contains less than one gram of fiber per slice. If you want to throw this in the toaster from time to time, chalk it up as a "treat yourself" moment and stick with the more filling stuff daily.
9. Worst: Vermont Bread Soft White
Although Vermont does have a reputation for churning out fresh and natural food products, not all are created equal. The Vermont bread company does have a decent roundup of best bread loaves, but unfortunately, the white option still doesn't live up to our standards. It may have "unbleached wheat flour" listed as the first ingredient, but without the word "whole" it falls short nutritionally.
10. Worst: Pepperidge Farm Rye & Pumpernickel Bread
Though the stamp "No high fructose corn syrup" may draw your eye to this brown bread, they should also attach a label saying "no whole grains found here." Don't let the color deceive you into thinking it shares nutritional properties with whole-grain varieties. This loaf lacks those benefits that come along with whole-grain options, and mainly offers a different flavor profile and aesthetic.