The Unhealthiest Breads on the Planet
How many times have you heard about your friend shunning bread from her diet and losing weight instantly? It may surprise you to hear, but ditching carbs isn’t the only reason people drop weight with this approach; It’s also because they’ve been eating the wrong carbs all along. For example: these breads.
Bread is supposed to be a simple food. In fact, it can be made with just two ingredients: water and flour (the yeast is found naturally in air).
Store-bought breads, on the other hand, can be made from more than 20. (And, no, we’re not counting toppings like seeds.) Among these 20-some ingredients? Inflammatory oils (like canola and soybean oil), dough conditioners (like ethoxylated monoglycerides and azodicarbonamide), emulsifiers (like sorbitan monostearate), bleaching agents (like calcium peroxide), preservatives (like calcium propinoate), and metabolism-wrecking added sugars (like high fructose corn syrup). (Luckily, not all store-bought options are like this. We found these Eat This!-approved picks that will help you to keep the scale tipping in your favor.)
Doesn’t sound too appetizing anymore, does it? Not only are these breads made from overcomplicated recipes, they’re also surprisingly deficient in the metabolism-boosting ingredients found in wholesome, whole-grain bread, and they’re loaded with potentially harmful ones. Leave these loaves in the bakery aisle!
RELATED: Your guide to the anti-inflammatory diet that heals your gut, slows the signs of aging, and helps you lose weight.
Pepperidge Farm Farmhouse Hearty White
Per slice (43 g): 110 calories, 1.5 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 240 mg sodium, 22 g carbs (1 g fiber, 4 g sugar), 4 g protein
Most Americans grew up eating white bread, but it’s high time you got over the habit. The reason? White breads are made with refined wheat flour that has been stripped of its nutrients: namely fiber, energizing B vitamins, and countless minerals. What’s left is a ground-up powder of simple sugars that your body treats more like sugar than it does complex carbs. Without fiber to help slow digestion, eating this bread will only provide a short spurt of energy rather than keep you satiated for hours. And with four grams of sugar per slice, eating a single sandwich will fill you up with as much sugar as a small packet of Jelly Beans.
Wonder Bread Classic White
Per slice: 70 calories, 0.5 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 100 mg sodium, 13 g carbs (0 g fiber, 2 g sugar), 2 g protein
Hello, childhood nostalgia! While you’re reminiscing about your Wonder days, don’t forget this fact: Wonder Bread doesn’t pass the test when it comes to healthy options. As with any other simple carb, your body is going to digest each slice of bread quickly, leaving your stomach grumbling and your blood sugar unsteady, which may lead to unhealthy cravings shortly after eating and extra calories consumed.
Stroehmann Dutch Country 100% Whole Wheat
Per slice (38 g): 90 calories, 1 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 170 mg sodium, 18 g carbs (2 g fiber, 3 g sugar), 4 g protein
Yes, whole grain is their first ingredient, but what follows it is a slew of cheap additives, including an ingredient you’d be hard-pressed to see missing from your overly processed bread: Mono- and diglycerides. These additives are used to prolong flavor freshness, improve the texture of dough, make it more uniform, and increase the loaf volume. The issue: These man-made additives likely contain the same artery-clogging trans fats that the FDA banned from our food back in 2015. The only reason they’re still allowed in your food? The FDA reviewed evidence and concluded that we don’t consume enough of them to count as hazardous; however, that “evidence” hasn’t been updated since 1975.
Hold on to your hats, because it gets worse: Not only does Stroehmann contain mono- and diglycerides, they also contain ethoxylated mono- and diglycerides. Although the additives themselves carry no additional threat, they could be contaminated with a carcinogenic byproduct of ethoxylation called 1,4-dioxane, which the U.S. National Toxicology Program has concluded is “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen” based on numerous animal studies. If you can avoid this loaf, you should.
Nature’s Own Honey Wheat Bread
Per slice: 70 calories, 1 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 125 mg sodium, 13 g carbs (>1 g fiber, 2 g sugar), 3 g protein
Don’t be fooled by its name. Although Nature’s Own contains whole wheat flour, it’s not 100% whole wheat, which means your body will treat it similarly to a highly processed white bread. This loaf also includes repeat offenders such as inflammatory-fat-laden soybean oil, mono- and diglycerides (and the ethoxylated kind), and DATEM—a shelf-stabilizing emulsifier that is often made from artery-clogging partially hydrogenated oils.
Bimbo ‘Made With’ Whole Grain White Bread
Per 2 slices (52 g): 130 calories, 1.5 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 250 mg sodium, 26 g carbs (2 g fiber, 4 g sugar), 5 g protein
When they say “Made With Whole Grain,” Bimbo means it’s listed as the third ingredient: behind regular old white flour and water. What’s surprising to us is that this two-slice serving actually has 2 more grams of sugar than Bimbo’s Soft Wheat Bread. It’s likely because manufacturers increase the amount of added sugar to bread brands made with whole grains because consumers still look for that sweet taste of white bread with the “healthy” feeling of eating whole grains.
Sun-Maid Raisin Bread, Cinnamon Swirl
Per slice (32 g): 100 calories, 1.5 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 125 mg sodium, 20 g carbs (1 g fiber, 9 g sugar), 3 g protein
Although Cinnamon Raisin breads tend to feel like a treat, they shouldn’t be as sugary as a dessert. The two popular brands that also make a swirled bread—Pepperidge Farm and Thomas—keep their sugar count to only 6 grams of sugar (Ezekiel is only 5 grams!) whereas Sun-Maid ups it to a staggering 9 grams!
Nature’s Own Butter Bread
Per slice: 60 calories, 0.5 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 95 mg sodium, 12 g carbs (< 1 g fiber, 1 g sugar), 3 g protein
Ask yourself: Does “butter bread” sound like a diet-friendly option? It’s actually not the butter that’s at fault here, it’s the calcium peroxide, a bleaching agent used in whitening toothpaste that’s been banned from food in the EU and China. That’s not the worst of it. This bread isn’t just made up of wheat flour; Nature’s Own bulks it up with soy flour (which could be contaminated with metabolism-wrecking pesticides and is full of phytic acid, an antinutrient that prevents your body from absorbing two of the micronutrients that are added to bread, iron and calcium). Pass.
Sunbeam Texas Toast
Per slice (38 g): 100 calories, 1 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 200 mg sodium, 18 g carbs (1 g fiber, 2 g sugar), 3 g protein
The extra-thickness of this bread isn’t the only reason to avoid it. Along with many of the Sunbeam breads, it’s made with a plethora of nasty additives, including soybean oil, mono- and diglycerides, ethoxylated mono- and diglycerides, calcium peroxide, and DATEM. They also use an ingredient called azodicarbonamide—you might know it as the “yoga mat” additive from the Subway bread debacle. This plastic dough conditioner is used to make bread dough fluffier so it can hold more gas (and thus become thicker without the extra calories). The Environmental Working Group (EWG) notes that because there are so few studies on its potential health risks (which include asthma, allergies, and cancer), azodicarbonamide should be removed from the food supply. We recommend you remove this bread from yours.
Sara Lee Delightful 100% Whole Wheat Bread Made with Honey
Per 2 slices (45 g): 90 calories, 1 fat (0 g saturated fat), 190 mg sodium, 18 g carbs (5 g fiber, 2 g sugar), 6 g protein
Don’t be fooled by “light” options. Like this choice from Sara Lee, “Light” breads are often made with low-calorie fiber fillers (like wood-pulp-derived cellulose fiber) and artificial sweeteners that can damage gut health and throw off your brain’s sugar calibration. Instead, we recommend sticking with a whole grain “thin-sliced” loaf. And don’t forget to look at the serving size: Some bread brands come in smaller loaves, where two slices are equal to 56 grams, whereas a single slice in a different loaf is the same weight.
Arnold Whole Grains: Double Fiber
Per slice (43 g): 90 calories, 1.5 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 140 mg sodium, 19 g carbs (6 g fiber, 2 g sugar), 4 g protein
If you’re looking for extra fiber, seek out seeded loaves before defaulting to a bread with added fiber. Arnold’s recipe bulks up fiber with cellulose, a wood-pulp-derived fiber which only has the benefit of bulking up stool. That’s a significant downgrade from dietary fibers that help feed good gut bacteria, improve gut health, and boost satiety.
Glutino Gluten Free Multigrain Bread
Per slice (29 g): 80 calories, 3.5 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 170 mg sodium, 13 g carbs (>1 g fiber, >1 g sugar), >1 g protein
If you don’t have a gluten intolerance, you’re better off with a high-fiber, nutrient-dense whole-grain bread than this option. Water makes up the bulk of this bread, followed by tapioca, corn and potato starches, which are devoid of many energizing nutrients you find in whole wheat.
Pepperidge Farm Farmhouse Oatmeal
Per slice: 120 calories, 2 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 200 mg sodium, 22 g carbs (1 g fiber, 3 g sugar), 4 g protein
Sorry, this bread is not nearly as good for you as overnight oats. This “Farmhouse” style bread is packed with two kinds of sweeteners—both sugar and high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). High fructose sugar is a common additives in store-bought breads, but you should be looking for brands without it. The sweetener has been linked to fatty liver disease and metabolic disorders, because our body turns fructose into fat and inflammatory compounds more readily than it does with glucose.
Honey Wheat Dinner Rolls
Per roll (28 g): 100 calories, 2 g fat (1.5 g saturated fat), 90 mg sodium, 17 g carbs (1 g fiber, 6 g sugar), 3 g protein
King’s Hawaiian Hamburger Buns
Per 1 bun (46 g): 150 calories, 3.5 g fat (2 g saturated fat), 135 mg sodium, 25 g carbs (1 g fiber, 9 g sugar), 4 g protein
Who should get the award for worst bread? The King’s Hawaiian bakers or their food scientists? These buns are a conglomerate of nearly 50 chemicals, additives, and preservatives. Sugar, liquid sugar, honey, and invert syrup all contribute to a high sugar content, and there are weight-loss-stifling ingredients like mono- and diglycerides, along with ingredients we typically wouldn’t find in bread: calcium silicate (which is typically used as an insulation material), calcium stearate (the main component of soap scum), and monocalcium phosphate (commonly used in fertilizers). They all are GRAS (generally recognized as safe) by the FDA, but it’s still unsettling that the same additives we’re eating are being used in these non-food applications.
Pepperidge Farm Deli Flats, Soft 100% Whole Wheat
Per 1 roll: 100 calories, 1.5 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 170 mg sodium, 19 g carbs (5 g fiber, 3 g sugar), 6 g protein
We’ve always been fans of portion-controlled options, but that doesn’t mean all small sandwich rolls are safe bets. Pepperidge Farm’s offering contains the artificial sweetener sucralose, an ingredient known to impede your gut’s ability to fend off weight-gain-inducing inflammation.
Sara Lee Italian Bread
Per slice (32 g): 80 calories, 1 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 240 mg sodium, 16 g carbs (< 1 g fiber, < 1 g sugar), 2 g protein
If you want to avoid having a bloated belly after your lunch, don’t bother with Sara Lee’s Italian Bread, which is one of the highest-sodium slices on the market.
Arnold Whole Grains: Double Protein
Per slice (43 g): 100 calories, 2 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 150 mg sodium, 16 g carbs (3 g fiber, 2 g sugar), 7 g protein
Bakeries don’t need to add “wheat protein isolate” to increase their bread’s protein content. In fact, they just need to add whole-grain ingredients like flaxseed, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, and sesame seeds to get more protein, fiber and micronutrients. See our choice in this roundup of best and worst store-bought breads.
La Brea Bakery Telera Roll
Per roll (85 g): 240 calories, 1.5 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 500 mg sodium, 47 g carbs (2 g fiber, 3 g sugar), 8 g protein
A 2-ounce layer of Black Forest Ham deli meat (about four slices) would ring in at 760 milligrams of sodium. Pair it with this ciabatta roll from La Brea Bakery and a tablespoon of Heinz Yellow Mustard, and your sandwich would total 1,500 milligrams of sodium—that’s 65 percent of what the USDA recommends you consume in an entire day. If you’re watching your blood pressure levels, it’s best to back off. Otherwise, it’s made with reasonable ingredients (and tastes pretty good), so remember to drink a couple of glasses of water with your lunch to help flush out the extra sodium.