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The 7 Healthiest Types of Bread

Health + Wellness
Linda Raymond / Moment / Getty Images

By Lizzie Streit, MS, RDN, LD

Dozens of varieties of bread line store shelves and fill cookbooks, though some are healthier than others.


Certain types are high in fiber, vitamins, and minerals, while others are made from refined grains and offer little in terms of nutrition.

Naturally, you may wonder what kind of bread is healthiest.

Here are the 7 healthiest breads you can choose.

1. Sprouted Whole Grain

Sprouted bread is made from whole grains that have started to sprout from exposure to heat and moisture.

Sprouting has been shown to increase the amount and availability of certain nutrients (1).

One study found that pita bread made with 50% sprouted wheat flour had over 3 times as much folate, a vitamin critical for converting food into energy, than pita made without sprouted wheat flour (2).

Studies reveal that sprouting also increases grains' antioxidants while decreasing antinutrients, or compounds that bind to minerals like iron and block their absorption (3, 4).

What's more, this process breaks down some of the starch in grains and decreases carb content.

Therefore, sprouted grains do not increase blood sugar as much as other grains, making them a good choice for people with diabetes or reduced blood sugar control (5).

Plus, most sprouted breads are high in fiber and protein. As such, they're more filling than more refined breads (6).

One slice (34 grams) of Ezekiel 4:9 Sprouted Whole-Grain Bread offers (7):

  • Calories: 80
  • Protein: 4 grams
  • Fat: 0.5 grams
  • Carbs: 15 grams
  • Fiber: 3 grams

Summary

Sprouting helps increase the amount and availability of certain nutrients. Breads made from sprouted whole grains are high in fiber, vitamins, and minerals, and may have less of an impact on blood sugar than other breads.

2. Sourdough

Sourdough is made through a fermentation process that relies on naturally occurring yeast and bacteria to make the bread rise (8).

Fermentation helps reduce the number of phytates, also known as phytic acid, that bind to certain minerals and impair their absorption (9).

One study found that sourdough fermentation helped decrease phytate content by over 50% compared to using conventional yeast (9).

Sourdough may also be easier to digest than other breads, possibly due to its prebiotics, as well as the probiotics created during the fermentation process (8).

Probiotics are healthy bacteria found in your body and certain foods, whereas prebiotics are non-digestible fibers that feed these bacteria. Getting enough of each promotes good gut health and digestion (10).

Finally, sourdough bread is thought to have a low glycemic index (GI), a measure of the impact a food has on blood sugar (11).

This is because the bacteria in sourdough may help decrease the rate at which starch is digested, making this bread less likely to cause a big spike in blood sugar (11, 12).

Sourdough can be made with both whole-wheat and white flours. While each provides the benefits associated with fermentation, whole-wheat sourdough has more fiber, iron, and other nutrients (13, 14).

One slice (47 grams) of whole-wheat sourdough gives (14):

  • Calories: 120
  • Protein: 4 grams
  • Fat: 0 grams
  • Carbs: 20 grams
  • Fiber: 3 grams

Summary

Sourdough bread is made through a fermentation process that boosts its digestibility, improves the availability of certain nutrients, and lowers its blood sugar effects.

3. 100% Whole Wheat

Whole grains keep the entire grain intact, including the germ, endosperm, and bran. The bran, which is the hard, outer layer, is high in fiber (15).

The bran and germ also contain protein, fat, vitamins, minerals, and beneficial plant compounds, while the endosperm is mostly starch (15).

That's why whole grains, including whole wheat, are higher in fiber and considered more nutritious than refined grains, which have been processed to remove the bran and germ.

Whole grains have been linked to numerous health benefits, including a decreased risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and certain cancers (16, 17).

However, it's important to note that many manufacturers label breads "whole wheat" so that they appear healthier, even when they mostly consist of refined flour.

Look for breads that have 100% whole-wheat or whole-grain flour listed as their first ingredient and do not sneak unnecessary ingredients, such as added sugars or vegetable oils.

One slice (46 grams) of whole-wheat bread contains (18):

  • Calories: 110
  • Protein: 4 grams
  • Fat: 0.5 grams
  • Carbs: 23 grams
  • Fiber: 4 grams

Summary

Whole-wheat bread made from 100% whole-wheat flour is higher in fiber, vitamins, and minerals than breads made from refined wheat.

4. Oat Bread

Oat bread is typically made from a combination of oats, whole-wheat flour, yeast, water, and salt.

Since oats are highly nutritious and linked to a number of health benefits, oat bread can be a healthy choice.

In particular, oats are high in fiber and beneficial nutrients, including magnesium, vitamin B1 (thiamine), iron, and zinc. The fiber in oats, known as beta-glucan, may help lower cholesterol levels, regulate blood sugar, and decrease high blood pressure (19, 20, 21, 22).

A review of 28 studies found that eating 3 grams or more of oat beta-glucan per day significantly decreased LDL (bad) and total cholesterol levels compared to not eating oats (20).

The study also found that the cholesterol-lowering effects of beta-glucan in oats were greater in people with higher baseline cholesterol levels (20).

However, just because a bread has "oats" or "oatmeal" on its label doesn't mean that it's healthy. Some oat breads only have a small amount of oats and are mostly made of refined flours, added sugars, and oils.

To find a more nutritious oat bread, look for one that lists oats and whole-wheat flour as the first two ingredients.

One slice (48 grams) of whole-grain oat bread contains (21):

  • Calories: 130
  • Protein: 6 grams
  • Fat: 1.5 grams
  • Carbs: 23 grams
  • Fiber: 4 grams

Summary

Oat bread made from oats and whole-grain flour boasts the fiber beta-glucan, which may help lower cholesterol and has been linked to a number of health benefits.

5. Flax Bread

Flax bread, which is made primarily from whole-grain flours and flax seeds, is one of the healthiest breads you can eat.

This is because flax seeds are highly nutritious and offer a number of health benefits. Particularly, they are an excellent source of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), an omega-3 fatty acid found in plant foods (23).

A large review of 27 studies found that a high intake of dietary ALA was associated with a lower risk of heart disease (24).

What's more, flax seeds boast compounds called lignans that can act as antioxidants in your body and may help protect against certain cancers (25).

In fact, one study in 6,000 postmenopausal women suggested that those who regularly ate flax seeds had an 18% lower chance of developing breast cancer compared to those who did not eat them (26).

Interestingly, those who ate flax bread were 23% less likely to get breast cancer than those who didn't eat it (26).

However, it's important to note that this study was observational. More research is needed to understand the connection between flax seeds and cancer risk.

Nevertheless, eating flax bread and other foods with flax seeds may have additional benefits, such as improved digestive health (27).

Be sure to look for flax breads made with minimal ingredients, such as whole-wheat and/or sprouted whole-grain flours, yeast, water, salt, and flax seeds.

One slice (34 grams) of Ezekiel Sprouted Whole-Grain Flax Bread contains (28):

  • Calories: 80
  • Protein: 5 grams
  • Fat: 1 gram
  • Carbs: 14 grams
  • Fiber: 4 grams

Summary

Flax bread contains plant-based omega-3 fatty acids that promote good heart health, as well as compounds called lignans that may help protect against certain cancers.

6. 100% Sprouted Rye Bread

Rye closely resembles wheat but is usually darker and denser.

Traditional rye bread is only made from rye flour and does not contain any wheat flour, whereas most modern rye breads are made from a combination of the two. Rye loaves also typically have caraway seeds baked into them.

When compared to wheat, rye is often considered more nutritious. In fact, studies show that rye bread may lead to greater fullness and have less of an impact on blood sugar than wheat bread (29, 30).

One study in 12 healthy adults found that those who ate whole-grain rye bread released significantly less insulin, a hormone that regulates blood sugar, than those who ate white-wheat bread (30).

Having too much insulin in your blood is associated with obesity and may increase your risk of type 2 diabetes (31, 32).

Rye's ability to lower your body's insulin response is likely due to its high soluble fiber content.

Soluble fiber is a non-digestible carbohydrate that dissolves in water and becomes gel-like in your gut. Eating foods with soluble fiber helps slow your digestion of carbs, which decreases insulin release and reduces blood sugar spikes (33, 34, 35).

The healthiest rye breads are made from 100% whole-grain sprouted rye flour, in addition to other sprouted grain flours. Since sprouting increases grains' fiber content, sprouted rye is higher in fiber and healthier than non-sprouted rye (36, 37).

One slice (28 grams) of sprouted rye bread provides (38):

  • Calories: 60
  • Protein: 4 grams
  • Fat: 1 gram
  • Carbs: 12 grams
  • Fiber: 3 grams

Summary

Sprouted rye bread is high in soluble fiber, which helps slow your digestion of carbs and decrease your body's insulin response.

7. Healthy Gluten-Free Bread

Gluten-free breads are made without glutenous grains like wheat, rye, or barley.

They are safe options for people who need to avoid gluten, such as those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity.

While the exact ingredients in gluten-free loaves depend on the type, they are typically made from a mix of gluten-free flours, such as brown rice, almond, coconut, tapioca, potato, or corn flours.

Many people wrongly assume that gluten-free breads are healthier than those that contain gluten. However, most gluten-free varieties are made from refined flours and high in added sugars, as well as other unnecessary additives.

However, those made from almond or coconut flours, such as Barely Bread, tend to be lower in carbs and calories but higher in fiber and protein than loaves made from wheat or other grains (39).

The higher fiber and protein content in these products may help fill you up more than other breads while packing fewer calories and less starch (40).

One slice (36 grams) of Barely Bread 100% Grain-Free bread gives you (39):

  • Calories: 90
  • Protein: 3 grams
  • Fat: 5 grams
  • Carbs: 6 grams
  • Fiber: 5 grams

Summary

Some gluten-free breads harbor refined flours that are high in starch and unhealthy sweeteners, so be sure to choose ones that have healthier ingredients, fewer carbs, and more fiber.

How to Choose a Healthy Bread

To choose a healthy bread, look for brands that have:

  • 100% whole-grain or sprouted flours listed as the first ingredient, with limited other ingredients
  • 3–5 grams of fiber and 3–6 grams of protein per slice
  • No added sweeteners

One of the best ways to ensure that you're choosing a healthy bread is to make it yourself. This way, you can control the ingredients. Hundreds of recipes for homemade breads are available online to suit most every dietary need.

Keep in mind that while the breads on this list are healthier than other varieties, bread is generally not as nutritious as other whole foods.

Fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and seeds, as well as whole grains that have not been milled into flour, typically pack more fiber and beneficial nutrients than bread.

What's more, many breads are made with added sugars and vegetable oils high in omega-6 fats, such as soybean oil. Excess intake of these ingredients has been linked to chronic inflammation that may lead to illnesses, including heart disease (40, 41).

In addition, some people may need to reduce their carb intake and thus limit bread consumption, such as those with type 2 diabetes or prediabetes, as well as anyone on a low-carb diet (42).

That said, bread can be enjoyed in moderation — as part of a balanced diet that includes a variety of other nutritious foods.

Summary

When choosing a healthy bread, look for ones with 100% whole-grain or sprouted flour and without added sugars and vegetable oils.

The Bottom Line

Some breads are healthier than others.

To choose a beneficial bread, look for varieties made from 100% whole-grain and/or sprouted-grain flours. Make sure your bread has no added sweeteners or vegetable oils.

A few good options include sourdough, rye, flax, and oat breads.

Whichever you choose, remember to eat bread in moderation as part of a balanced diet, alongside a variety of nutritious whole foods.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Healthline.

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