Poor ol' bread has a pretty bad rap these days.
Many people avoid the delicious baked good for fear of it not being healthy or making us fat, but, fear not, it doesn't have to be this way.
According to accredited practising dietitian and accredited nutritionist Sanchia Parker, bread can be part of a healthy diet -- as long as it's good quality and eaten in appropriate amounts.
"Bread is an Australian staple and with good reason," Parker told The Huffington Post Australia. "A loaf of bread is versatile, readily available, budget friendly and, depending on the type chosen, nutritious."
"Some people may decide not to buy or eat bread with the belief it is unhealthy. Buying whole grain bread and sticking to two slices a day will provide you with fibre, iron, vitamin B, magnesium, calcium and a small amount of protein."
What you put on your bread (or leave off) is also crucial.
"The problem is when someone is putting away multiple slices of white bread and slathering it with spreads, cheese and other less healthy toppings."
Finding a nutritious bread at the supermarket is easier said than done, however, with many products boosting their healthy image by using buzzwords like 'protein', 'gluten free' and 'natural'.
"Don't rely on health claims or marketing on labels to make your choice. Product marketing is very influential and uses misleading words and claims to make the food appear healthier than it actually is," Parker said.
If you're tempted by gluten free products, but don't have celiac disease, Parker recommends being wary of gluten free bread.
"This type of bread is perfect for those who have celiac disease, but just because it says it's gluten free does not mean it is healthier," Parker said. "Often gluten free breads contain more ingredients such as vegetable gums to replicate the spongy softness of bread."
Alright, so how do we find a nutritious supermarket bread? The key is to look at fibre, whole grains and sodium.
"Fibre helps with digestive, heart and immune health. It's found in whole grain cereals, legumes, nuts, seeds, fruit and vegetables," Parker told HuffPost Australia.
"When choosing a product with the fibre content listed, the Baker IDI recommend looking for eight grams per 100 grams. Some bakery breads may not have nutritional labels, in which case look for the darkest, heaviest and grainiest bread you can find -- chances are, it will have a higher fibre content."
Interestingly, fibre claims are one of the few health claims we can actually trust on the front of the product.
"In Australia, there are strict guidelines around wording on products that spruik their fibre content. If you see 'good source' of fibre, be assured that it legally has to contain between 3-4 grams per serve," Parker explained.
"Similarly, anything that has 'very high' or 'excellent source' on its product must contain between 6-7 grams fibre per serve, so these are good words to look for."
Falling under the fibre content of bread are whole grains, another important feature to consider when bread shopping.
Like the name suggests, whole grains contain the whole part of a grain -- the germ (the inside part of the grain with good fatty acids), the endosperm (the middle layer with the carbohydrate and protein) and then the bran (the outer layer with a lot of fibre, vitamins and minerals).
White bread, on the other hand, is 'refined' as it contains wheat flour which has had the bran and germ layers removed.
"Look for the words 'wholemeal' or 'whole grain' on your bread label. This tells us the product is a source of whole grains, meaning it will be higher in fibre," Parker said.
The third factor to consider is sodium (salt) content.
"Bread can contain more salt that you might expect. While we need some salt to maintain our body's fluid balance, too much can lead to high blood pressure," Parker said.
"If you have high blood pressure, or a family history of it, it might be an idea to choose breads that are lower in salt. A bread with less than 120mg per 100g is considered a low sodium option. If you can't find anything that low, just go for the lowest you can find.
"While it may be laborious to check the label of many products, remember once you have found one or two products that fit within these guidelines, you know for each subsequent visit exactly what to buy."
"King Henry's Bakehouse whole rye bread, Bürgen 'wholemeal and seeds', and Tip Top '9 grain wholemeal' bread are all good choices as they each contain over eight grains per 100 grams of fibre, making them a good choice for fibre," Parker said.
Another great option is Bill's Certified Organic Health Bakery.
"Those breads look amazing. Nutritionally, they stack up fairly well -- while they don't have as high a fibre content as other breads (around six grams compared to others that have eight grams), it's still considered a good source of fibre.
"They are the lowest in salt compared to the other breads, which is fantastic. But what I really like is the ingredient list, with such a great range of whole grains and seeds. The addition of chia seeds and linseed means the breads will contain omega 3s, an important fat that helps heart health.
"There is also a range of grains in each breads -- I saw teff, millet, barley and spelt -- making them a great way to ensure you are getting a mix of nutrients from each grain."
As for the worst, well, they are no surprise.
"The lowest in fibre are those breads that are often plain white supermarket own-brand, or the white bread loaves from the bakery. Best avoided as it will take a few slices before you are full," Parker said.
Basically, avoid white breads and go for the darker, heavier varieties. And checking the ingredient list and nutrition information panel is best.
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