HHave you ever spent so much time in the bread section of your local grocery store trying to find the “just right” Goldilocks-quality bread, not so nutritious that it tastes like cardboard, but not so refined that it clogs your digestive system, that the eyes started to glaze over? same. Regardless, I always manage to find some kind of bread to keep on the kitchen counter for when avocado toast or a BLT sandwich is ordered. Over the years, however, the type of bread that ends up in my shopping cart has changed.
At first, it was white, then wheat, then multigrain, and now it was sprouting. I guess you could call me a bread hoarder…but the reality is that my purchasing decisions have been more arbitrary than not. To get to the bottom of which breads are the most nutrient dense i delicious, we asked a registered dietitian to share her favorite energy-boosting, gut-friendly breads.
What’s the one type of healthy bread a registered dietitian can’t live without?
According to Desiree Nielsen, RD, sprouted grain bread is the way to go. “It offers a wealth of nutritional benefits far greater than most other breads on the market,” he says. “I especially love Silver Hills Bakery’s 100 percent sprouted grain loaves because they’re made from sprouted whole wheat, full of plant-based protein and fiber to help maintain blood sugar levels and energy in a uniform keel”.
The brand has a variety of nutrient-packed “sprouted power” breads, including its Squirrel Bread, which contains 12 grams of protein and 10 grams of fiber per two-slice serving. (That’s about a third of the recommended daily intake of fiber, by the way.)
Health benefits of sprouted grain bread
What makes sprouted grain bread so delicious and RD-approved, exactly? Well, Nielsen has a lot to say on the subject. For starters, he notes that this type of bread is made by grinding sprouted wholemeal instead of wholemeal flour, which offers higher levels of fiber and protein because the whole grains remain intact. And of course, we know how vital fiber is to support healthy digestion and promote a balanced gut microbiome.
Plus, sprouted grain bread is rich in a specific type of fiber that contains a compound called arabinoxylans, basically a gut health superstar. “Whole wheat contains compounds called arabinoxylans that research suggests boosts production of the short-chain fatty acid butyrate in the gut microbiome, which is associated with numerous health benefits, including calming inflammation,” says Nielsen. .
“Sprouted grains also offer improved nutrition. Sprouting, which begins to transform carbohydrate and protein storage in the grain, can help improve wheat digestibility by altering the starch and gluten. Sprouting also unlocks the minerals such as iron and calcium from wheat, improving bioavailability and may even increase the amount of certain vitamins and antioxidant phytochemicals such as folate and GABA,” says Nielsen.
What is the difference between sprouted grain bread and other common types of bread?
Let’s get to the science. Nielsen explains that the main difference between sprouted grain bread and other common types such as wheat or white comes down to the way in which it is processed and its anatomy.
According to Nielsen, a grain of wheat has three main components: the bran (the outer layer of the grain, rich in fiber, B vitamins and minerals); the endosperm (the storage area and contains mainly starch and proteins); and the germ (an inner chamber containing fat, fiber and fat-soluble nutrients such as vitamin E).
Meanwhile, white bread is made from flour that has had the bran and germ removed, resulting in little or no fiber and fewer vitamins and minerals. That’s why Nielsen says most white bread available in the US is fortified with nutrients during processing to improve its nutrient profile.
“In the U.S., both whole wheat flour and whole wheat flour are simply wheat grains that are ground into unrefined flour. So you’re getting the germ, bran, and endosperm that’s in the kernel of wheat,” says Nielsen. In short, whole grains contain more fiber, vitamins and minerals than refined grains. “However, the process of milling grain into flour, even 100 percent whole wheat flour, results in a larger surface area for faster digestion, resulting in a higher glycemic impact,” she adds, which is one of the many reasons why she opts for sprouted whole wheat whenever possible.
So does that mean white bread is out of the question?
Of course not. Like most things in life, it’s all about balance. “All foods can fit into a healthy diet when your foundation is nutrient-dense whole plant foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes,” says Nielsen. However, he notes that commercial white sandwich bread tends to have a high glycemic impact, which is more likely to cause sugar spikes and energy crashes throughout the day.
But that doesn’t mean it’s all bad. Nielsen explains that white bread can provide some important nutrients, such as folate, which can help prevent Alzheimer’s, through the enrichment process. He also points out that good quality sourdough bread (yes, even if it’s made from white flour) offers benefits from the slow fermentation process, which increases digestibility and gut benefits and lowers the glycemic impact of the final product.
TL; DR? “Swapping white bread for sprouted grain is such an easy way to increase the nutrient density in your diet and help you feel better. In our house, sprouted grain is our daily slice, and then we could enjoy a good sourdough in a restaurant or with a weekend meal,” says Nielsen.
Finally, the bread-buying information we’ve been needing for our decision parallax problems all along.
The PSL season is just around the corner. We leave this here:
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