Confused about bread? Gluten-free dieting has become increasingly popular and much has been made recently about certain bread ingredients. We went to a pair of registered dietitians for some common sense advice. Jen Haugen blogs as the “Down to Earth Dietitian” and Anne Cundiff is a personal nutrition trainer and an in-store dietitian with Hy-Vee.
What’s your advice to people who may be avoiding bread as part of a healthy diet?
Haugen: “There is absolutely no reason to eliminate bread from our diets. In fact there are good reasons, if not great reasons, to eat whole grain breads. In whole grain bread, you can find fiber, iron, magnesium, zinc, B vitamins, manganese, protein, phosphorus, copper and selenium. All of these nutrients are essential for living.”
Cundiff: “When it comes to purchasing bread, these are the points I discuss with my customers:
- Do you prefer to purchase bread or are you open to making it yourself?
- How often do you consume bread?
- Who in your family consumes bread?
- How much bread do you purchase a week?
“I do recommend for all my clients to purchase a bread maker and make that investment to create bread at home. It is also great for dough, rolls, pizza crust, etc.”
What is the healthiest grain?
Haugen: “According to the Whole Grains Council, there is no ‘healthiest’ whole grain. Some are stronger in one nutrient, and others in different nutrients. It's like asking what's the best fruit, or the best vegetable. They all have different benefits, so it’s best to enjoy a variety. A wealth of good, science-based information is available from the Whole Grains Council and the Journal of Nutrition.”
What about bread ingredients? What should I be looking for on the label?
Cundiff: “When I discuss choosing bread with my clients, I always keep in perspective the customers health needs as well as budget. I feel an individual does not receive nutrients if they do not eat. A lot of the time, customers get very overwhelmed with all of the discussion and information about their food and just stop eating it all together because it is easier than trying to decipher the information for themselves.”
Haugen: “The Wheat Foods Council provides a nice summary of baking ingredients here, although the information might be somewhat technical. It’s important to note that all ingredients used in baking bread have gone through rigorous testing and have been deemed safe by the Food and Drug Administration.”
Which are the best breads to buy?
Haugen: “Anything that says 100% whole grain or whole wheat on the label. What I recommend looking at is the first ingredient on the package – is it whole grain? Then check the fiber content, does it have at least 3 grams per slice? There are many brands that meet this criteria, I would definitely recommend them, and they don’t have to cost an arm and a leg to be healthy.”
Cundiff: “I always recommend looking for 100% whole wheat as the first ingredient or 100% whole grain (of any type) as a second option. When looking at bread, I also recommend looking for breads made with a small ingredient list (5-7 ingredients, not including enriched vitamins or minerals).
“When navigating the grocery store, I always point out the in-house bakery options as well as local bakery options the store possibly carries. These will be healthier options all the way around because of the ingredients they use and are usually baked in small batches.
What is the human health consideration when it comes to gluten consumption?
Haugen: “Gluten free breads are only necessary for those with celiac disease or with a diagnosed gluten intolerance. For all others, it is not necessary to be eating gluten free, as there are no health benefits associated with this pattern unless medical needs warrant.”
What about people who are concerned about GMO foods?
Haugen: “Wheat itself is not a GMO food, or as I like to call it, a food produced with food biotechnology. Currently there are only eight crops that are on the market produced with food biotechnology: corn (field and sweet), soybeans, sugar beets, canola, alfalfa, squash and papaya (hawaiian). Cotton is as well, but we don’t eat that.”
Do you follow a gluten-free diet?