I’ve tried giving up bread. I know my body is happier without it. My jeans fit better and I don’t get that awful bloated feeling. But without bread you can’t have Vegemite toast. And you don’t have anything to mop up those runny poached yolks on the weekend. And the easy, quick sandwich you throw in your bag on your way out the door in the morning? Gone. Let’s face it: bread is freaking awesome. If it were legal, I might even cut a gingerbread man shape out of it and marry it.
I’m not willing to give up bread, so I have made it my mission to find out which bread is best for me. I am lucky in that my kids think white bread is pretty much only for fairy bread at parties. They will eat almost anything I bring home, but they do draw the line at Sol Breads’ walnut sourdough – which is perfect because I get it all to myself.
Things to consider when choosing which bread is best:
- White bread is the fucking devil. Sorry, but there it is. It’s too quick to digest and too high in GI – and it provides very little nutritional bang for your buck. Multigrain bread is generally white bread with grains in it. That means any of those multigrain breads that make you feel good about eating 17 different types of grain are all very well, but you can do better. And no matter how many grains are in there, there is no guarantee any of them are whole grains. Bad again.
- Bread companies add emulsifiers, starches, preservatives and softeners to make your bread nice and light and fluffy – and to stay that way beyond what is natural. The jury is still out on what health implications these products have. I’d rather not eat them, though.
- If you’re eating bread with yeast (and most of them will have yeast), sugar is necessary to activate the yeast. I avoid sugar as much as possible, myself, but I’m not a wowser about it. Just check that it is down the list of ingredients – you don’t want it being higher than the fourth ingredient because that means there’s too much – that amount goes beyond just activating the yeast. (We all know ingredients are listed in order of their quantities in the product, don’t we?)
So let’s take a look at a few of the best bread choices.
Wholemeal – the thing about wholemeal bread is that the information floating around about it generally compares it with white bread. Favourably, obviously, and rightly so. It’s true that wholemeal bread has a lower GI than white bread. It’s also true that it is more filling, and that it takes longer to digest. Wholemeal flour uses the whole wheatberry rather than just the endosperm (*giggle*), which is what white bread does. Great. But beware of wholemeal bread that still contains a lot of white flour as well. A lot of brands available at the supermarket use a bit of wholemeal flour and a whole lot of white flour. Read your labels.
Rye – if what you are buying is bread made with 100 per cent rye flour, you’ve hit the jackpot. Congratulations! But check it out. Apparently you can sell white bread with rye seeds in it and still call it rye. Sneaky. What you want is a good European-style bakery on your street corner. Got one? Good! Otherwise, check your ingredients.
Pumpernickel – pumpernickel is traditionally made with coarse rye flour, which makes it super awesome because it’s nutrient-dense, with low GI and takes ages to digest – keeping you full for ages. Trouble is, most commercially made pumpernickel is made with processed flour added in which erodes a lot of the goodness. Check the label or buy from that good old traditional European bakery.
Sourdough – some say sourdough is the ultimate bread. It has been credited with curing cancer, being edible for coeliacs and brokering a peace deal in the Middle East. In reality, it may not live up to all of those claims, but it’s still some freaking good stuff. The fermentation process and long rising time helps break down starches, proteins, gluten and phytates in grains, making them easier to digest, as well as boosting the availability of nutrients. It also slows down the absorption of starches – reducing its GI index. Studies have shown that white sourdough has a lower GI than regular wholemeal bread (but wholemeal sourdough is still a better option for the nutrients it offers).
So there you go, that’s my research so far. It’s ongoing though, because I’m obsessed with bread. My current favourite is that walnut sourdough I mentioned earlier – from Sol Breads. They sell their awesome artisan breads online.
Of course, if you want to be really impressive, you can make your own. First you’ll need to make your own sourdough starter. This is on my list of things to do when I have time. Yep, one day…
Another wonderful discovery was the Life Changing Loaf of Bread from My New Roots. Hot damn! That bread is magnificent – wheat-free, based on psyllium husks, oats and nuts – and so easy to make. Delicious served with coconut butter, or poached eggs and free range bacon. Or just butter. Mmmmm, butter…
What’s your favourite bread? Am I right to be obsessed or should I remove the stick from my bum and tuck into the Wonder White?
Thanks for this post C. My playgroup were debating what to do about fairy bread just yesterday. Knowing it’s bad (sugar) on ugly (bread) with gross (fatty butter) and not including it in party fare for our kids turning 3 this month, or just saying “fuckittt” and adding it to the spread because PARTY! – ???
You’ve also reminded me of the awful salt (sodium) content of most commercial breads. I have a health condition that means I need to moderate my sodium intake and mainstream bread is one of the worst foods for salt content. It’s really insane how little is left to bread once you take the salt and sugar out. We got a bread maker to allow us to make our own dough and bread from scratch for this reason. It’s fab!
Ah , salt. I love salt. I have to admit to not caring about salt content. But I am lucky enough to (touch wood) not have any health issues in that area. My blood pressure is on the low side and I take that for granted. I know that’s not a licence to go out and add salt to everything but I am pretty relaxed about it.
Fairy bread is another food group all to itself. For me, I’m happy to let it happen a few times a year. I don’t think there is anything sadder than ‘healthy’ fairy bread made on multigrain bread with some kind of sugar-free, all natural colours version of hundreds and thousands.
I’ve stopped eating bread through the week and found it surprisingly easy, and yes defintitely feel bloated when I do eat it. I’ve tried those fancy brands at the supermarket – they are labelled ‘women’s health’ and ‘weight loss’ – any thoughts on those?
Yep, my thoughts are you’re looking at the marketing rather than the bread (which is exactly the purpose). They might include a bit of linseed or whatever just to patronise us, but it’s still white bread with something chucked in to make us feel like we’re doing something.
I used to bake all of my family’s bread from a sourdough recipe on my blog. Over time I eliminated wheat flours and used only buckwheat, rye and gf flour.
Now I’ve just cut it out. The kids eat a little bit of activated something something bread but I’ve learned to do without it. I’ve taken up carbs in pizza and beer though so I don’t miss out.
This is why you have an arse you could bounce a coin off. I’m going on the beer and pizza diet. xx
I love bread, though don’t eat it too often. Probably 1 workday sandwich a week and one brekky with butter (don’t care) and vegemite. I thank my mum for my dislike of white sliced bread, though everything else is fair game. I sometimes make my own, I sometimes buy good sourdough and I sometimes buy one of the more expensive supermarket (wholemeal grainy) ones. All in moderation. 😉 x
Absolutely! Except butter. I could bathe in that shit. xx
I miss proper bread! I used to love multigrain sourdough but am now eating this rather stodgy gluten, dairy and egg free “bread” which I have to toast the absolute jejeebus out of. Sigh!
Have you tried making the seed breads SunnyB? I love them – and no dairy, egg or gluten in sight. xx
My kids get ‘you’re so lucky’ at school all the time because they have white bread – it’s Bakers Delight high fibre low gi. We have issues with preservatives, colours, flavours and additives so I’m obsessed with labels, but to be honest highly processed white bread has stopped so many gut issues in my kids – sourdough, multigrain, gf all cause massive issues. Sounds so politically wrong to say, and I love an artisan bread, but a good white bread has it’s place (boo hiss I know!!).
Oh hey KB! I think when there are specific dietary issues you have to do whatever works for your family. No judgement here! My kids would be totally jealous too. xxx
We mostly make our own using the Laucke packs. They have little sugar, are easy to make and there is a great sourdough rye. Delicious and perfect warm out of the oven with butter and Vegemite ?