HHave you ever spent so much time in the bread section of your local supermarket trying to find the ‘perfect’ Goldilocks grade bread, not so nutritious that it tastes like cardboard but not so refined that it completely clogs your digestive system, that your eyes started to get glassy? Same. Regardless, I always manage to find some kind of bread to keep on my kitchen counter for when it calls for an avocado toast or BLT sandwich. Over the years, however, the type of bread that ends up in my shopping cart has changed.
At first it was white, then wheat, then multigrain, and now it has sprouted. I guess you can call me bread fence keeper… but the reality is that my purchasing decisions have been more arbitrary than not. To get to the bottom of which breads are the most nutrient-rich Y delicious, we asked a registered dietitian to share her favorite types of energy-boosting, gut-friendly bread.
What’s the one type of healthy bread a registered dietitian can’t live without?
According to Desiree Nielsen, RD, the way to go is sprouted grain bread. “It offers a lot of nutritional benefits far greater than most other breads on the market,” she says. “I especially love Silver Hills Bakery’s 100% sprouted grain breads because they’re made from sprouted whole wheat, which is packed with plant-based protein and fiber to help keep blood sugar and energy levels in balance.” .
The brand has several types of nutrient-packed “sprouted power” breads, including its Squirrelly Bread, which contains 12 grams of protein and 10 grams of fiber per two-slice serving. (This is, by the way, about a third of the recommended daily fiber intake.)
Health benefits of sprouted cereal bread
What exactly makes sprouted grain bread so delicious and DR-approved? Well, Nielsen has a lot to say on the subject. For starters, he points out that this type of bread is made by pounding sprouted whole wheat flour instead of whole wheat flour, which offers higher levels of fiber and protein because the whole grains remain intact. And of course we know how vital fiber is in supporting healthy digestion and promoting a balanced gut microbiome.
Plus, sprouted grain bread is rich in a specific type of fiber that contains a compound called arabinoxylans, basically a gut health superstar. “Whole wheat contains compounds called arabinoxylans that research suggests drives the production of the short-chain fatty acid butyrate in the gut microbiome, which is associated with numerous health benefits, including calming inflammation,” he says. Nielson.
“The sprouted grains themselves also provide better nutrition. Sprouting, which begins to break down carbohydrate and protein storage in the grain, can help improve wheat digestibility by altering starch and gluten. Sprouting also unlocks minerals like iron and calcium in wheat, improving bioavailability, and can even increase the amount of certain vitamins and antioxidant phytochemicals like folate and GABA,” says Nielsen.
What is the difference between sprouted grain bread and other common types of bread?
Let’s go to science. Nielsen explains that the main difference between sprouted grain bread and other common types like wheat or white comes down to the way it is processed and its anatomy.
According to Nielsen, a grain of wheat has three main components: the bran (the outer layer of the grain, rich in fiber, B vitamins and minerals); the endosperm (the storage area and contains mainly starch and protein); and the germ (an inner chamber that contains fat, fiber, and fat-soluble nutrients like vitamin E).
White bread, meanwhile, is made from flour that has had the bran and germ removed, resulting in little to no fiber and fewer vitamins and minerals. This is why Nielsen says that most white bread available in the US is fortified with nutrients during processing to improve its nutrient profile.
“In the US, both wholemeal flour and wholemeal flour are simply wheat grains that are ground into unrefined flour. So you get the germ, the bran, and the endosperm that is in the wheat kernel,” says Nielsen. In short, whole grains contain more fiber, vitamins, and minerals than refined grains. “However, the process of milling the grain into flour, even 100% whole wheat flour, results in a higher surface area for faster digestion, resulting in a higher glycemic impact,” he adds, it’s one of the many reasons he opts for sprouted whole wheat whenever possible.
So does this mean white bread is out of the question?
Of course not. Like most things in life, it’s about balance. “Any food can fit into a healthy diet when the foundation is nutrient-dense, whole plant foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes,” says Nielsen. However, she points out that commercial white sandwich bread tends to have a high glycemic impact, which is more likely to lead to sugar spikes and energy dips throughout the day.
But that doesn’t mean it’s all bad. Nielsen explains that white bread may offer some important nutrients, such as folate, which may help prevent Alzheimer’s, through the fortification process. He also points out that good quality sourdough bread (yes, even if it’s made with white flour) offers benefits from the slow fermentation process, increasing digestibility and gut benefits and reducing the glycemic impact of the final product.
TL; DR? “Switching white bread for sprouted grains is a very easy way to increase the nutrient density in your diet and help you feel better. In our house, sprouted grain is our daily portion, and then we can enjoy a good sourdough at a restaurant or with a weekend potluck,” says Nielsen.
Finally, the bread shopping information we’ve been needing for our decision parallax problems all along.
The PSL season is just around the corner. We’ll just leave you this here:
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