Whole Grain Bread - Is It Truly Healthy?

Whole grains are good for us - right?  What about whole grain breads?

This question always comes up at most of my workshops. There is a lot of confusion around this subject.  When buying bread products many of us fall for every whole grain claim we see.

Just because a product label "sounds" healthy doesn't mean it is.

For example, "multigrain" only means that the product contains more than one grain, not that whole grains were used. And "stone-ground" is a technique for grinding grains. Don't assume these terms mean that the product was made from a whole grain - it's still important to read the ingredient list.

Unless you are buying the grain whole and unprocessed (think brown rice, steel cut oats, quinoa), look for bread, crackers and other products that are made with 100% whole grain.

Check labels carefully! 

Foods labelled with the words "multi-grain," "stone-ground," "100% wheat," "whole wheat", "cracked wheat," "seven-grain," or "bran" are usually not whole-grain products.

Look for bread stating, "100% whole wheat" - this should also be the first ingredient listed, and the only flour mentioned in the ingredients.

Color is also not an indication of a whole grain. 

Brown does not necessary mean whole wheat or whole grain! Some brown bread has brown coloring added to achieve the brown color!

Make sure to check the ingredient list for refined culprits like bleached or unbleached enriched wheat flour, semolina or durum flour, and rice flour.

Another tip is to look for foods made with less commonly known whole grains such as whole barley, bulgur, quinoa, kamut, spelt, buckwheat, wheat berries and amaranth.

Do not be fooled by packages that say "excellent" or "good sources of whole grains (they often contain far more refined flour).

Remember that the front is mostly hype, and it's in the ingredients lists that you'll find out what you're really getting in whole wheat grain products.

So the bottom line: always read the labels and check for the first ingredient being 100 percent WHOLE grain.

Ingredients to look for:
  • 100 percent whole wheat  
  • wheat berries  
  • amaranth
  • barley
  • brown rice
  • oatmeal
  • oats
  • quinoa
  • whole rye
  • buckwheat  
  • cracked wheat
  • kamut
  • millet
  • quinoa
  • spelt
  • teff   
Ingredients to avoid:

  • Bleached or unbleached enriched wheat flour  
  • Cornmeal  
  • Semolina or durum flour
  • Wheat flour
  • Pearled barley
  • Rice flour
  • White rice  
  • Watch out for nasty oils like:
  • Hydrogenated vegetable oil  
  • Trans fats  
  • Partially hydrogenated oils
  • Vegetable oil shortening
  • Vegetable oils like canola oil, soy oil, cottonseed oil, etc.  
Other nasties:

  • High fructose corn syrup
  • Honey
  • Or a high sugar content
  • Caramel coloring 

Authentic whole grain breads are dense and they are heavy. If you pick up a loaf and you can easily squeeze it and it floats out of your hand, you can be assured that you have a deceptive clone in your hand. Unfortunately, I have never seen a good whole grain bread in the grocery stores around me.

But - in my opinion - the  most important thing to remember is - whole wheat and white bread have essentially the same impact on blood sugar, which is to say you might as well be eating a big spoonful of sugar. 

Another way of saying this is that most bread has a high glycemic index.  So just because it is a whole grain bread - it might not be as beneficial for us as we thought.

Everybody is different and everybody has a different reaction to sugar. As always - experiment and see what works for you. If you are healthy, have no issues with your insulin levels and especially if you are a carb type person - by all means you can eat whole grain breads, just stay away from the commercial "whole grain" breads. Shop at the health food store.

(As a matter of fact, if you do not grind the wheat grain into flour, you are much better off. It takes the body much longer to digest it that way and  it will not cause a high a spike in blood glucose like bread products would. In other words, "whole" grains should ideally be truly "whole" when eaten - in a form of brown rice, quinoa, millet, spelt etc.)


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