Few foods ignite stress these days like bread.  Are you confused?  If you are, it’s not too surprising (don’t feel bad – it’s not just you).  Just think about all of the confliciting information and buzz words flying around out there that are associated with bread: whole wheat, whole grain, refined, lite, low-glycemic, low-carb, white, low-calorie, high-fiber, etc, etc.  Who can keep track?

The truth is that bread can be good for you, and it can also be junk.  It’s worth putting a little effort into your bread selection so that you know it’s a healthy choices, vs a detriment to your health.  But you don’t have to have a phd in bread science.  Here are five simple tips to use when picking your daily bread:

1)  The darker, denser, and chewier the bread the better.  If the bread contains whole grains it will have nutrients and fiber, both of which are are excellent for you.  If the bread is dark, dense, and chewy, it’s more likely to bc composed of whole grains.  Likewise, if something has a light-as-air consistency it’s not whole grain, even if it says so on the label.  More likely it has a sprinkling of whole wheat flour and possibly some color additives to make it look wholesome.  (I’m not making that up – food manufacturers use caramel coloring to mimic the look of whole wheat). 

2) Buy bread with only 3-5 ingredients, all of which you recognize as legitimate food items.  Food manufacturers put a lot of questionable stuff into bread these days so make it last 4 weeks on the shelf, make every loaf the same, and have it look a certain way.   Many of those additives have negatives side effects – avoid them – your bread will taste better without anyways.

3) Buy at a local bakery.  There are so many in Cleveland!  Zoss, Stone Oven, On the Rise, Harvest Bread Company, and many more.  Go in and ask them which of their breads are made from 100% whole grains.  They might even let you sample.  Chains like Panera are ok and probably better than the Wonder Breads of the world, but many of their recipes still contain additives, dough conditioners, and other less than savory ingredients. 

4) Check the ingredients label for “refined” or “enriched” flour.  Refined and enriched flours are nutritionally void, and are not whole grain.   Bread only has to contain 50% whole grain to be labeled whole grain, and there’s no minimum to have the label “contains whole grains”, so check the ingredients to make sure you’re not a victim of sneaky marketing. 

5)  Don’t just rely on bread for your carbs/whole grains.  There are so many other delicious and nutritious sources of grains – wheat berrries, rice, quinoa, millet, and amaranth are just a few example.  They’re simple to make – all you have to do is boil water, and minimally processed so they have 100% of their nutrition in tact. 

What about white bread?  It can be tasty, especially in pizza form (in my opinion), but there are no real health reasons to eat it.  More realistically it’s detrimental to your health, especially if it makes up a large percentage of your diet.  You’re foregoing nutrients that should be in your food (hence that “empty calorie” term), and it can also wreak havoc on your blood sugar stability, which ultimately can develop into type II diabetes and other health problems.  (White bread will raise your blood sugar faster than sugar, believe it or not).  I’m not saying never eat it, but it shouldn’t be a large percentage of your diet.