Soooo many types. Have you ever wondered about the actual difference between different types of bread?
I am often asked by clients which is the best bread to buy. I am also asked if we should eat bread at all!
For the record, yes I think it’s fine to eat bread. I generally do not recommend one brand over another. We are all individuals with many aspects that guide our food choices such as our budget, taste, health concerns and food values.
Having said that, many people often don’t understand what is the difference between all the breads that are available. So here is a run down to help you make the best choice for you:
High Fibre Bread: A bread labelled high in fibre means it contains the parts of grains that are indigestible. For most people, a bread that is higher in fibre is a better choice. Fibre has a variety of health benefits for the body such as reducing snacking (as fills us up), aiding in the prevention of bowel cancer, lowering cholesterol and generally keeping our digestive tracts healthy.
Wholegrain: Wholegrain bread refers to bread that has been made using a flour made up of wholegrains. A wholegrain still includes all 3 parts (known as the bran, germ and endosperm) of the grain.
A wholegrain bread is low GI (read on to find out more on this), contains vitamins such as E and B, some minerals and is high in dietary fibre.
Wholemeal Bread: Wholemeal refers to bread that has been made with wholemeal flour. Wholemeal flour is essentially a kind of flour that uses wholegrains milled to produce a finer texture.
Be aware though, the milling used to make wholemeal flour can increase the GI of the bread.
Multigrain Bread: A Multigrain bread includes more than one grain. For example it might contain wheat and rye. Although a multigrain bread can be made of wholegrains, it doesn’t necessarily guarantee it. So check your food labels.
White Bread: A white bread is made using a flour that doesn’t include all 3 parts of a grain. As a lot of the nutrients are in the outer layers of a grain, white bread is lower in these and in fibre. The grains used in White Bread are what are often termed as refined grains.
Low GI Bread: GI or Glycemic Index refers to the rating of how quickly or slowly the carbohydrate content of the bread is absorbed in the body. A low GI means it is more slowly absorbed, will help you stay fuller for younger and maintain better control of your blood glucose levels.
Note: be aware of sneaky marketing tactics. I have seen a bread recently marketed as ‘lower GI’. This means it is a lower GI than the original version of the bread. It doesn’t mean it is low GI.
Gluten-Free Bread: This means the flour used to make the bread does not contain Gluten. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, barley and oats. For some people with a condition called Coeliac Disease it is essential to avoid all gluten. For people with Coeliac Disease, gluten will cause damage to the small intestine which in turn can affect nutrient absorption and other serious health concerns.
Gluten-free has become a bit trendy over the last few years. Just to be aware it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a healthier choice. It just means if you have Coeliac Disease or an intolerance to gluten it might be a better choice for you.
Organic Bread: Organic bread has been made with ingredients that have not been farmed or manufactured by adding pesticides or harmful chemicals.
In Australia, the term Organic also means the ingredients have not been genetically modified (for e.g. with bread, the crops are not GM grains)
Part of the ethos behind an ‘organic’ food is that it is perceived to have a higher level of nutrients. Currently, there are no studies to suggest that this is the case. However, there are other benefits to consumers like differences in flavour and environmental factors (= great for long term sustainability of our food supply!).
Sourdough Bread: Sourdough Bread is made without adding yeast into the mix. It is the ancient or traditional form of bread baking and well suited to rye breads.
(Rye is a type of grain and for breads it works well without adding yeast).
To make sourdough bread, an initial starter mix is made by combining flour and water and leaving in a warm place to produce lacto-bacillus culture. This culture helps with the natural leavening process. A small amount of starter mix is kept to the side each time and can be used on subsequent batches.
Personally, I have a preference for sourdough bread. I find it filling and actually tastes “like bread should”. One of the other benefits of sourdough bread is that is often has a low GI.
Spelt Bread: Spelt is actually a kind of wheat and is one of the Ancient Grains. Other forms of wheat you may have heard of are Durum Wheat (used in Pasta), Emmer (farro), Einkorn and Kammut. Spelt Bread is obviously made from a flour consisting of Spelt grains. These are higher in Protein than usual Bread Wheat.
A common misconception is that Spelt is Gluten-Free. It’s not. It might offer some benefits for people with Irritable Bowel Syndrome rather than those with Coeliac Disease. However, it will depend on the Fructan content of the particular brand of Spelt Bread. (needs to be lower in Fructans to help the gut).
If you want to read up a bit more on all things grains, breads, intolerances and more, then check out these websites:
Food Intolerance Network
Grains and Legumes Nutrition Council
Organic Federation of Australia