How to choose the healthiest breads

Food, Nutrology

Undoubtedly you have heard that whole grain bread is better for your health, and today we will briefly tell you why that is, and how to quickly identify which breads are the best to buy.

 The Problem

In Brazil many things are closely regulated, but the labeling of breads is not. Bread labels can claim they are “whole grain” when the principal ingredient is refined flour. Some other countries are stricter in their labeling laws. For example, in Holland or the US, to be labeled “whole grain”, 100% of the flour used in a bread must be whole grain.

Fortunately, in Brazil the Agência Nacional de Vigilância Sanitária requires that the ingredients be listed on the label with the predominant ingredient first, and then in decreasing order of content. So despite the lack of regulation of the term “whole grain”, the order of ingredients makes choosing the best breads easy.

Why Whole Grain Brain is Better

Whole grains are composed of three components (see the image): the bran (outer shell of the cereal seed); the endosperm (the inner part); and the germ (the small part within the endosperm that actually would produce a new plant). Each of these components has its own nutritional elements, and a bread containing all three provides maximal nutrition, including vitamins and antioxidants.

Much of the vitamin and mineral content is in the rough outer shell of the grain—the bran—yet most bread processers remove this part. They remove it because they believe the bread looks better to the consumer that way, and most consumers still seem to prefer the smoother taste of white flour. Also, whole grain bread does not have as prolonged validity date as does white flour, so basically using white flour is more profitable for bread makers.

Breads can be made of various types of cereal grains, such as corn, wheat, barley, rice, etc., and you can find details about each of these here.

Besides offering better nutritional value, whole grain breads have a lower glycemic index, meaning they are digested and converted to simple sugars much more slowly. This prevents rapid spikes or peaks in blood sugar, which are harmful to us in many ways. Rapid spikes make us hungrier faster, and leads to faster insulin release, which, among other issues, causes more fat to be formed around our abdominal organs and increases the risk of diabetes.

How to Choose the Best Breads

This is the easy part. Look at the ingredient list and choose the breads that list “whole grains” or “whole grain flour” first. This bread will often be heavier, and when you squeeze it, it will be more “resistant” or tougher.

Another check is to look for the Seal (see image above) of approval from the Whole Grains Council on the package. They have a fantastic website (which includes a country filter) where they list the whole grain content of cereal bars, pasta, and other foods as well as breads. Some bread brands they recommend in Brazil include Nutrella, Plus Vita, and Pullman.

Good breads are also more expensive, but it will be worth the extra money. But, even better than buying bread —make your own, and include whatever whole grains you want. Experiment with different types.  Not only will it probably taste better and be less expensive, but bread-making, followed by fresh warm bread tasting, is a well-known stress reliever…

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Esta postagem também está disponível em: Portuguese (Brazil)

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