Much a-dough about nothing: Understanding bread labels
Do you love bread? Oprah Winfrey is known for her love of it, and if the aroma, crackle of the crust, or just plain sight of a freshly baked loaf of bread makes you salivate, then you are a carb lover.
But it turns out not all bread is created equal. From whole wheat to multi-grain, organic and high in fiber, some bread is just more nutritious than others. The key to knowing what bread is best lies on the packaging and nutritional labels.
So, just how closely do you read the labels on a loaf of bread?
The quality of bread comes down to the flour.
“All bread is made with flour, which is ground down grain. The healthiest flour is 100 per cent whole grain flour. Shifting your diet towards more whole grains can protect against chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes and some forms of cancer,” said Amy Keating, a nutritionist with Consumer Reports.
Whole wheat, whole grain and everything in between – what is the difference?
When shopping for bread, the key word is “whole”; make sure this is listed first on the ingredients label, as that means it’s a main ingredient. Whole wheat means the bread flour is made from the entire grain kernel (which includes the bran, endosperm and germ). It also means that it contains healthy nutrients like antioxidants, B vitamins, fibre and other nutrients.
Refined grains, such as white flour, only contain the endosperm. All of the healthy nutrients, including antioxidants, vitamin B, fibre, and other nutrients are found in the bran and germ.
“Whole grain” bread means that it contains the entire grain kernel, as well as other healthy grains, like oats, rice or barley. Both 100 per cent whole grain and 100 per cent whole wheat can be equally nutritious.
“Made with whole grain” means that a product does contain whole grains, but it also might contain refined grains too, which are less nutritious.
“Multi-grain” means it contains more than one type of grain, but it’s unknown how much, and if they’re refined or whole.
“Whole grains and seeds” means that if “whole grains” is listed near the bottom of the ingredient list that it’s only sprinkled in and isn’t a main ingredient.
“Canada Organic” means the product contains at least 95 per cent organic ingredients.
“You should be wary of claims on bread like multigrain or 21 grains, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the main ingredient is a whole-grain flour. So, you should flip over that product and look at the ingredient listing, to make sure whole grains is at the top of the ingredient list,” said Keating.
Adults should consume about 48 grams of whole grains per day.
Understanding your nutritional label, especially the “Daily Value” portion, is key. The per cent of DV is found on the right-hand side of a nutrition facts table, and displays if the serving size has a little or a lot of a nutrient. Five per cent DV or less is a little, and 15 per cent DV or more is a lot.
Be friends with fibre
When shopping, also remember to pay attention to the fibre content. Bread that says it’s a “source of fibre” means it contains two grams or more of fibre per serving. A label that reads “high source of fibre” means the product contains four grams or more of fibre per serving.
When it comes to digestive health, make fibre your best friend. When shopping for a loaf of bread, pay attention to the fibre content, this can be found on the nutritional label. It keeps your digestive system running smoothly, helps maintain weight by reducing appetite, lowers cholesterol and may help reduce the risk of heart disease and type-two diabetes. Adult women should consume about 25 grams of fibre per day, and adult males should have about 38 grams per day.
If you’re planning on introducing more fibre into your diet, experts recommend first starting small. Consuming too much fibre at once can upset your digestion, and remember to drink lots of water to avoid constipation.