The Worst Bread You Should Never Eat, According to a Dietitian
One of the biggest aisles at the grocery store is the bread aisle. There are hundreds of options to look through. Loaves on loaves on loaves. So it's no surprise that it can be confusing and overwhelming to determine which one is actually the healthiest for you.
Is bread healthy for you?
The answer to whether bread is healthy in short is "sometimes." Bread is a great source of whole grains, which are amazing sources of nutrients.
"Eating whole grains such as 100% whole wheat bread provides our bodies with essential nutrients, such as dietary fiber, healthy fats, B vitamins, iron, magnesium, vitamin E, antioxidants and phytochemicals," says Roxana Ehsani, MS, RD, CSSD, LDN, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Eating whole grains has been linked to decreased risk of colon cancer, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease.
"Thanks to the dietary fiber found in whole grains, eating whole grains may also help support a healthy digestive tract," says Ehsani. "Eating whole grain bread can even help keep one's blood sugar more stable than eating white bread thanks to the dietary fiber which is digested a lot slower by your body and provides a slow and steady release of energy over time."
But not all bread is healthy…
Despite many of the benefits of eating bread, certain loaves can be unhealthy for a few reasons, including:
- When it's made with white flour. "Bread that is made with enriched or white flour lacks nutritional value," says Ehsani. "When bread is made with refined flour, the germ (the healthy fat) and the bran (fiber) is removed along with some vitamins and minerals too."
- When it's made with lots of fat. For example brioche bread made with lots of butter, garlic bread may be filled with butter or oil, or any other type of sweet bread like pan dulce or challah may be made with a mix of butter, oils, and sugar, notes Ehsani.
- When it's filled with additives. "Some breads with a long shelf life, may have a lot of additives, preservatives or added salt or sugar to extend its shelf life," says Ehsani.
- If you have Celiac disease or a gluten allergy. "Bread can also be unhealthy if a person with celiac disease is consuming it," says Ehsani. "Eating regular bread and not gluten-free bread for these individuals may cause an adverse and/or dangerous allergic reaction." (Related: 9 Warning Signs You're Actually Gluten Intolerant.)
- When you eat a lot of it. "Bread can be unhealthy, if a person is eating it in excess quantities or if a person is only choosing bread to consume, and ignoring all other types of grains out there," says Ehsani. "For example, if a person is only choosing bread to eat at each and every meal, but not eating a variety of the other types of grains out there, they could be missing out on the unique nutrients found in quinoa, brown rice, farro, buckwheat, oats or any other type of whole grain or ancient grain out there. Each of these grains has a slightly different nutritional breakdown, some high in protein, others high in fiber or other vitamins or minerals. So it's best to vary your choice of grain, when following a healthy eating pattern."
So what is the worst type of bread?
There is really one type of bread that is the worst for you: bread that has a long ingredient list.
"If you think about it, when making your own loaf of homemade bread, typically all you need is flour, water, yeast, and a pinch of salt," says Ehsani. "But when purchasing your own bread, you are faced with a much longer ingredient list! Check the ingredients list of bread, one with a long list of ingredients may have added preservatives, fillers, or additives."
According to Ehsani, these preservatives/fillers/additives don't provide your body with any source of nutrition and are typically added into bread to extend its shelf life and create a more desirable product, such as a softer textured bread.
"Refined grains may even be bleached with chemicals which may decrease certain vitamins in the bread, and some of these may even be harmful to human health," notes Ehsani. "It's best to look for one that mainly contains ingredients you can recognize such as a mix of other grains, ie. whole wheat flour, whole grain rye, stone-ground whole wheat flour, sprouted (grain)."
She also notes that other highlights of the worst bread picks include one that is low in fiber.
"If your loaf of bread has 0 grams of dietary fiber, look for one that has at least 2-3 grams," says Ehsani.
And if possible, avoid ones made with white flour, since it removes super healthy parts of wheat, including the germ (the healthy fat) and the bran (fiber), as well as vitamins and minerals.
"Instead look for a bread that has whole wheat flour as the first ingredient in the ingredient list," says Ehsani
Choosing a healthier option
If you're overwhelmed by all the choices in the bread aisle, keep the following in mind to pick a healthy loaf, according to Ehsani:
- Focus on fiber. Look for one that has at least 2-3 grams of dietary fiber per slice, it will keep you full for longer and feeling more satisfied.
- Sprouted bread is a great option. "Sprouted bread uses the entire grain when making the bread and some products even add other grains and legumes into the loaf, bumping up its overall nutritional value," says Ehsani. "Sprouted breads are typically highest in overall fiber and protein per slice."
- Look for whole grains. "You can still include refined grain products, just keep in mind, the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend making half of the grains you eat whole," says Ehsani. "Look for the whole grain stamp of approval on bread products to know if it's made with whole grains or not. (The stamp is yellow in color and even lists the percentage of whole grains. Look for one that says 100% whole grain.)"
And if all else fails, consider making your own bread at home so you know exactly what's in it!
For more healthy eating news, make sure to sign up for our newsletter!