Nutrition Articles

Baffled by Bread? How to Choose the Best Loaf

Plus Our Top Picks for Whole Wheat Breads

Have you walked through the bread aisle lately? What used to be a few shelves of loaves is now a full-length aisle of cellophane-wrapped confusion. It used to be simple to bring home a loaf. Now it requires concentration, patience and reading glasses! With catch phrases like “cracked,” “stone-ground,” “fiber” and “whole grain,” even when you know a thing or two about nutrition, it’s hard to tell what is what. In fact some loaves with healthy-sounding names end up being nutritional disasters, while loaves with ho-hum names are terrific for you!

Whether you want to lose weight, eat healthy, or just avoid processed foods with extra-long ingredient lists, you should look for a slice that’s jam-packed with whole grains, fiber and flavor. To expedite your search, here’s what you need to know.

Know Your Kernel
Before it’s processed, a wheat kernel is a whole grain that contains all three, healthy parts of the kernel:
  1. Bran makes up the outer layers of the grain. It contains B-vitamins, trace minerals and dietary fiber. It’s removed when wheat flour is processed (refined and/or bleached) into white flour.
  2. Germ is the part of the plant that sprouts to generate a new plant. It has B-vitamins, trace minerals, and some protein. It’s also removed when wheat flour is refined to become white flour.
  3. Endosperm is the inner part of the grain that contains protein and carbohydrates as well as small amounts of vitamins and minerals. This is all that’s left when flour is refined to become white flour. Continued ›
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About The Author

Becky Hand Becky Hand
Becky is a registered and licensed dietitian with almost 20 years of experience. A certified health coach through the Cooper Institute with a master's degree in health education, she makes nutrition principles practical, easy-to-apply and fun. See all of Becky's articles.

Member Comments

  • Pretty good article except i can't get any of these breads in Canada. - 9/4/2014 9:24:50 PM
  • well I love Nature's Own whole wheat bread glad I made a healthy choice thanks to my friends who recommend it - 8/12/2014 11:58:42 AM
    Trying to figure out why Healthy Life Bread with only 35 calories a slice didn't make it to your list of best whole wheat bread to purchase? - 2/19/2014 3:42:04 PM
  • Love to eat honey wheat and regular wheat. - 8/13/2013 9:02:07 AM
    Guess i made the right choice honey Wheat it is
    - 6/2/2013 4:26:48 PM
  • Almost all of the recommended breads have ingredient lists as long as my arm. If you really want to keep natural whole grain breads in your diet, make your own! It's not as complicated as it looks or if you have no time to bake your own bread, find a natural bake house. Whole Foods Market Bakehouse breads have a wide selection of breads and they have organic ingredients and only 5 or 6 ingredients that are found in your own kitchen. - 5/29/2013 9:22:12 AM
  • Very frustrating that I thought I was doing the right thing, whole grain rye only to read this article and find out it's a marketing gimmick. Arghhhhh - 8/16/2012 6:59:03 PM
  • IDK if anyone has posted this already, but the Arnold sandwich thins are 100 calories not 50 - 8/5/2012 11:31:53 AM
  • YVETTE59
    Does any one know the healthiest options/ brands in Australia? I usually buy Helgas but I can now see this says "wheat flour" so is not as great as it is supposed to be! - 7/28/2012 11:07:40 PM
  • I wish there was a similar article on Gluten free breads. - 7/16/2012 12:22:34 PM
  • Thanks for putting the pics in this post. Now I know what I'm looking for in my grocery store. - 7/16/2012 1:04:59 AM
    Alpine breads at Costco are fantastic! 80c/slice and very tasty. - 5/15/2012 1:35:24 PM
  • or make your own bread! It is fun, simple ingredients, and rewarding! Knead it with your own hands, shape it into a loaf and enjoy the smell of fresh baked bread! You control all the ingredients. Get a recipe you like, that has the nutrients you want, like wheat bread or rye...but even white bread you make for yourself is so much better than white bread you can buy off the shelf. - 5/15/2012 3:55:05 AM
  • @Dotslady- You are correct that we shouldn't try to get all of our fiber from grains (calories would be too high for one!); we should get a lot from our fruits & vegetables. Many people are sensitive to wheat who may not have know it. Keep in mind that 60-70% of the population do not have a problem with wheat so don't need to stop eating it...

    I'm trying to add more whole grains to my diet in the their less processed forms: brown/wild rice; barley; bulgur; quinoa etc. (pardon my keyboard doesn't have a working comma). However this is an article on how to chose healthy BREAD; so perhaps another forum would be better for this discussion ;) - 2/19/2012 12:46:48 PM
  • Something we need to keep in mind is that whole grains breads generally are higher in calories than most "diet" breads but are also much more nutritionally dense. I've noticed I lose weight more efficiently when I choose nutritionally dense foods rather than just low calorie foods. Just what's helping me ;)

    Oh! The 50 calorie total for the sandwich thins are for one half of the "bun" as they are like flattened hamburger buns. They are called thins for a reason...can't see someone eating only half & being satisfied with it ;) - 2/19/2012 12:39:36 PM

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