Yes, I eat bread.
It’s time to address the many questions I get about one of most wonderful and satisfying foods on earth – Bread! I don’t want to live without it and you shouldn’t have to either.
Bread is a really hot topic and is targeted as the root of many health problems. Overall, bread gets a bad reputation because grains are not easy for your body to digest, can overwork your pancreatic enzymes, contain the anti-nutrient phytic acid and an abundance of dreaded gluten. Also, our wheat crops in this country have been through some serious genetic manipulation to make them profitable for the food industry and less healthy for us.
The main problem with wheat (unless you have a gluten sensitivity) is that we as a culture eat too much of it in general. Just take a look at the typical American diet – a bagel for breakfast, a sandwich for lunch and rolls or pasta for dinner. That’s a lot of grain in just one day. Even larger amounts would be consumed if we take into consideration common snacks like crackers and desserts like cookies. Additionally, commercially available grain-based products that line grocery store shelves and are served at restaurants are unhealthy. They are full of ingredients that are not food, like azodicarbonamide (the same chemical in yoga mats and shoe rubber), other chemical dough conditioners, added sugars, artificial flavorings or coloring and GMOs. Flour can be treated with any of the 60 different chemicals approved by the FDA before it ends up on store shelves – including chemical bleach! Also, the industrial processing destroys nutrients, such as Vitamin E and fiber. Remember, it only takes 4 ingredients to make bread – flour, yeast, water and salt, there’s really no need for all that other nonsense.
If you are like me, you probably want to enjoy the occasional piece of bread without subjecting yourself to of all these questionable ingredients. I’ve done a lot of research on bread brands, and have uncovered what can make grains really unhealthy and which ones make a nutritious addition to any diet because they are whole, unadulterated and real foods.
Examples of Store-Bought Breads To Stay Away From:
Please note: Nature’s Own Bread recently took out azodicarbonamide, but is still not recommended. The picture of ingredients was removed after this news release in WSJ on 2/28/2014.
The Health Wrecking Ingredients in Bread:
- Dough Conditioners – these are unnecessary in traditional bread making and only make the process faster and cheaper for the food industry to make bread in big machinery. Many dough conditioners like azodicarbonamide (which is banned all over the world), DATEM, monoglycerides, diglycerides, sodium stearoyl lactylate are linked to health issues. Many dough conditioners start with manipulating fat – like soybean oil or corn oil, which is also most likely GMO. Nature’s Own, Arnold, Wonderbread, Martin’s, Sara Lee, and many other popular brands are guilty of using dough conditioners.
- Preservatives – Bread is supposed to be fresh and eaten within a few days from baking unless frozen. If you see preservatives like calcium propionate, which is linked to ADHD, put the bread down and keep searching. Warning: Pepperidge Farm uses this ingredient to “retard spoilage.”
- GMOs – Most commercially available breads contain one or many genetically modified ingredients like soy lecithin, soybean oil, corn oil, corn starch or soy flour. GMOs have not been tested long term on humans, however we know that the pesticides sprayed on them are absolutely toxic and considered to be poisonous. Some GMOs are created by inserting a toxic pesticide into the seed itself to make an insect’s stomach explode when they try to eat it.
- Added sugar – This is where you really need to watch out. There’s nothing wrong with a little honey to bring out the sweetness in whole wheat bread, but most manufactures are using high fructose corn syrup, GMO sugar made from sugar beets, or some other artificial sweetener like “Sucralose” that are not the best forms of sugar and can pose health risks. Almost all commercially baked brands have some form of added sweetener – especially watch out for “light” breads, which often contain more added sugar like “Arnold Bakery Light.”
- Artificial flavors and coloring – These ingredients are made from petroleum and are linked to several health issues like hyperactivity in children, allergies and asthma. They are easy to spot on the label because the FDA requires it. However, ingredients like “caramel coloring” can fool you into thinking this ingredient is a real food. Most industrial caramel coloring is created by heating ammonia and is considered a carcinogen when created this way. Martin’s potato rolls have Yellow #5 and Yellow #6, and Thomas’s English Muffins have caramel coloring.
Now before I share my top recommendations for the best (and healthiest) breads on the market – I should tell you the truth about how much bread I actually consume on a weekly basis. My diet consists of mostly plants like fruits, vegetables, seeds, beans and nuts along with the occasional meat, dairy or bread product. However, when I travel – I like to enjoy the local culture (think crossisants in France and pizza in Italy). I’m not about giving up whole food groups. My diet is about balance and choosing the most nutritious choices, but I do like to live a little and have my bread on occasion! At the grocery store, I buy the best of what’s available for my body and here are the choices I feel good about buying.
Thankfully, you don’t have to get out the bread maker or learn to make bread from scratch. There are many healthy bread options available – if you just know what to look for!
The Healthiest Breads On The Market
Sprouted Grains – I love sprouted grains because they are technically vegetables. To sprout a grain, you just soak it until it begins to sprout into a little plant. These sprouts are then ground up to make bread. When you eat a grain that has been refined into flour, your body quickly metabolizes it like a sugar, which causes your insulin to spike. This can make you gain weight and contributes to diabetes and inflammation. For all of these reasons, I don’t buy bread that is primarily made from flours, especially “wheat flour” which is really just white refined flour. The sprouts are much more easily digested than starchy flour, and contain more vitamins, minerals and antioxidants than whole grains. Phytic acid is destroyed when the grain sprouts, so your body is able to absorb the nutrients in these grains – which makes them that much better for you!
My favorite sprouted grain bread is the classic – Ezekiel 4:9 Sprouted Grain Bread by Food for Life – it’s made up from six different organic sprouted grains and absolutely no flour! This combo of sprouted grains contains all 9 essential amino acids, which makes up a complete protein. I use their “Cinnamon Raisin” version to make this yummy breakfast casserole. There are no preservatives in these breads, so I keep them in my freezer and take out portions as I need them. I also love the sesame seed bread, whole grain tortillas, corn tortillas and english muffins by Food for Life. Hands down – they are the healthiest breads on the market. They are available in most health food stores and some conventional stores in the freezer section.
Other good sprouted breads are Manna’s Sunseed bread and Dave’s Killer Bread Sprouted Wheat, which are both a healthy combo of organic sprouted wheat and seeds.
Ancient Grains (spelt, quinoa, amaranth, millet, sorghum) & Gluten-Free – Unlike wheat, these grains are called ancient because they haven’t changed for thousands of years. They are packed with nutrients and many of these grains can be used to make gluten-free bread. Just make sure that the bread you are buying is labeled as “gluten-free” if you are trying to avoid gluten – because not all ancient grains are gluten-free and they may be blended with wheat. Manna makes a good gluten-free bread with brown rice, sorghum, millet, amaranth, quinoa and chia seeds. Please note, almost all gluten-free breads contain added sugar in the form of honey, molasses, agave nectar or evaporated cane juice.
Here’s A Quick List Of Healthier Breads:
Sprouted Grain Breads
- Ezekiel 4:9 Sprouted Grain Bread – Food for Life (all varieties – 7 grains, sesame, genesis, flax, cinnamon raisin, tortillas, muffins)
- Sunseed Bread – Manna
- Banana Walnut Hemp Bread – Manna
- Sprouted Multi-Grain Bread – Rudi’s (contains added sugar)
- Sprouted Wheat Bread – Dave’s Killer Bread (contains added sugar)
- Sprouted Wheat Multi-Grain Bread – Alvarado St. Bakery (contains added sugar)
- Buckwheat Bread – Happy Camper’s (contains added sugar)
- Gluten-Free Rice Almond Bread – Food for Life (contains added sugar)
- Gluten-Free Exotic Black Rice Bread – Food for Life (contains added sugar)
- Gluten-Free Super Chia Bread – Nature’s Path (contains added sugar)
- Good Morning Millet Toaster Cakes – Ancient Grains Bakery (contains added sugar)
- Gluten-Free Deli Rye Style Bread – Canyon Bakehouse (contains added sugar)
Ancient Grain Breads
- Gluten-Free Ancient Grains Bread – Manna (contains added sugar)
- Spelt Ancient Grain Bread – Rudi’s (contains added sugar)
- Good Seed Spelt Bread – Dave’s Killer Bread (contains added sugar)
See a PDF of the full list of ingredients here
Last – but NOT LEAST – Remember to always choose bread that is made with real certified organic ingredients. The wheat that is used to make most bread is heavily sprayed with pesticides and by choosing certified organic products you will avoid exposure to GMOs.
Now, let’s go break some bread with our loved ones and share this article with them. Everyone deserves good bread without chemical additives that can wreck their health.