There are few foods quite as important as bread. In and of itself, bread hardly constitutes a satisfying, tasty meal—but it's absolutely essential to countless dishes.
It's an absolute culinary catalyst: without bread, sandwiches would be a distant fantasy, breakfast toast would be non-existent, and Sunday mornings would be entirely devoid of bagels and cream cheese (gasp!). In both a literal and figurative sense, bread holds these dishes together.
Unsurprisingly, Americans just can't get enough bread. In 2020 alone, it's estimated that 326.91 million Americans ate at least some bread. That's nearly the entire U.S. population. Moreover, it's believed that the average American consumes an astounding 53 pounds of bread per year!
One thing's clear: those bread aisles at grocery stores all over the country continue to see plenty of traffic. There are countless bread varieties, brands, and options to choose from nowadays, but each comes with its own unique nutrition profile. Some bread is much better for you than others.
"It (bread) can be really nutritious, a great source of slow-release carbohydrate in our diet and full of vitamins and minerals," dietitian Jaime Rose Chambers recently told Australia's Today. "But we have to choose right."
What's a good rule of thumb to keep in mind while out searching for a healthy loaf of bread?
"The bread should look dark brown and dense with seeds and grains. That's ultimately what we're looking for, a bread like that is going to be highly nutritious," Rose Chambers explains.
While some breads are genuinely healthy, other varieties and brands are seriously lacking in the nutrition and quality department. Eating these breads regularly will do your body no favors.
We put together a list of the top five grocery bread brands you should stay away from.
No bread is more synonymous with summer barbecues and Americana than Wonder Bread. Unfortunately, the brand offers a whole lot more in terms of nostalgia than nutrition.
"One of the worst bread brands overall that I've seen is Wonder. White breads are the least nutritional type of bread. The flour has been processed to remove the bran and germ which hold a lot of fiber and nutrients," explains Rachel Lessenden, founder of Health My Lifestyle.
When whole wheat flour is refined into white flour, tons of essential vitamins, fibers, and proteins are sacrificed along the way. Even Wonder Bread's 100% whole wheat option, somehow, still only offers two grams of fiber per slice.
You would be hard-pressed to find a grocery store in the USA that doesn't carry at least a few Wonder Bread products. Major grocers carrying Wonder Bread include Publix, Winn-Dixie, Target, and ShopRite.
Available at a variety of grocery stores across the United States such as Target, ShopRite, and Stop & Shop, Nature's Own offers a wide selection of bread loaves. From Butter Bread to Honey Wheat or 100% Whole Wheat, they seemingly boast a slice of bread for anyone and everyone.
But—just how healthy are these bread options? The brand's Butter Bread line definitely could be improved from a nutritional perspective. Offering only 2 grams of protein and literally no fiber per slice, you'll likely still feel hungry after eating multiple pieces of this bread.
Meanwhile, Nature's Own Honey Wheat Bread line may contain some whole wheat flour, but it also contains malted barley flour and soy flour. That means, as far as your stomach is concerned, this bread is far more processed than the label suggests.
Sunbeam breads may be best known for their larger sizes, but bigger isn't always better. Its Texas Toast line of breads features an exorbitant amount of sodium per slice (9% DV), and there isn't even enough fiber present in a single slice to constitute a full gram.
Meanwhile, Sunbeam is known to use an ingredient called azodicarbonamide in its bread goods. Nicknamed the "yoga mat chemical" because it is used in both bread and yoga mat production, this substance primarily serves as a bleaching agent and dough conditioner when it comes to bread.
While azodicarbonamide is approved by the FDA for human consumption, evidence suggests it is linked to a number of health issues such as respiratory problems and even cancer. Fast-food chains like McDonald's and Wendy's stopped using azodicarbonamide years ago, and the chemical has been banned in the EU for over a decade.
Sunbeam bread products are widely sold at grocery stores like Walmart, Target, and Kroger.
It may seem like a smart shopping decision to go with a lighter bread option like Sara Lee's Delightful or Artesano bread lines, but so-called healthier options like these often contain both artificial sweeteners and low-calorie fiber fillers, such as cellulose fiber derived from wood pulp. Yum!
"Another bread brand to be wary of is Sara Lee with their Artesano line. The marketing makes it seem like these breads are healthier, claiming no high fructose corn syrup, but they still have added sugar and processed flour," Lessenden adds.
While you're at it, steer clear of Sara Lee's Premium Italian Bread. A single slice contains a full 10% of your daily value of sodium (240 milligrams).
Sara Lee breads can be found in numerous grocery stores such as Target, Giant, Safeway, and Walmart.
Pepperidge Farm may be the premier bread company in the United States, if for no other reason than the litany of bread products they offer.
Unfortunately, many of those options contain too much sodium and sugar. Take their Farmhouse Hearty White bread for example: 230 milligrams of sodium and 4 grams of sugar per slice doesn't exactly set the stage for a healthy meal.
Plenty of people love cinnamon raisin toast in the morning, but even Pepperidge Farm's 100% Whole Wheat Cinnamon with Raisins bread contains only two grams of fiber per slice (and 5 grams of sugar!).
Similarly, Pepperidge Farm's supposedly healthier options leave much to be desired nutritionally. Somehow, its Multigrain 12 Grain Bread only contains a single gram of dietary fiber and an astounding 220 milligrams of sodium plus five grams of sugar.
Pepperidge Farm bread goods are available at various grocery and convenience stores including Publix, CVS, and Duane Reade.