The composition of a bread loaf is very simple: flour, water, yeast and salt. However, most industrial breads contain many more ingredients including sugar to help the yeast activate and various additives that keep the bread soft and fresh.
There are hundreds of different breads on the market. White breads are still the most popular but whole wheat, other grains and multigrain breads multiply. However, many manufacturers use mixtures in which refined flours are more important than whole grain. Only half of the slice breads on the market are made from 100% whole flour.
Whole grain bread or bread made with full grain flour or sprouted grain contain carbohydrates and dietary fibres in addition to vitamin B, iron and antioxidants.
As for white bread, Health Canada made it mandatory to enrich white flour in vitamins of the B group and in iron. But this bread contains fewer fibres and is therefore less filling.
What about the white whole-grain breads?
Some of these new white breads are made with a pale variety of wheat. Thus, the flour can be whole without the characteristic brown color of whole wheat breads.
Beware of breads that are very similar to white bread. The grains are sometimes ground so finely that they lose some of their satiating power and benefits associated with fibres (like regularity).
How to choose?
Breads that contain only whole wheat flour or whole grain flour.
Breads that contain refined white flour among the first ingredients.
Ingredients listed toward the end of the list are in relatively small quantities. So if the white flour appears after the salt, the bread is interesting.
Manufacturers can add concentrated fibres (inulin, oat hull fibre, beet fibre, etc.) without using whole grain flour. Yet, whole grain is much more interesting than concentrated fibres. Not only is it richer in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants but it is also known to have better satiating power and a beneficial effect on intestinal transit. Reading the list of ingredients remains the best way to know if your bread contains added fibres.
Did you know?
“Whole grain flour” is not really whole. Foods and drugs regulations stipulate that whole-wheat flour must contain 95% of the original components of the wheat kernel. The germ (2% to 3% of the grain) and parts of the bran are eliminated. However, it is in these elements that most nutrients are concentrated.
The size of the slices and their calories content varies widely, from 50 to 270 kcal or so, for slices between 20g and 100g. Those are facts to take into consideration when we eat or serve to children anything between two slices of bread.
If you or your children are used to white bread and reluctant to adopt whole wheat bread, you can make sandwiches with one slice of each. That way, your children will learn to like whole wheat bread.
Whole wheat or whole grain bread fills more than white bread. Take the test with your toasts or with your sandwich and you will see that hunger is slower to come after you’ve eaten whole grain bread.
By Élodie Gelin (Nutritionist)