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White? Wheat? Sourdough? Rye? What Bread Is Really Best?

I have my own strong feelings about this issue. And I’ve done a lot of reading, thinking and baking on it! But I just had to see what USA Today had to say about which bread is healthiest. I’ll relay their story, and then come back with my own sage observations…

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Their rankings

USA Today chose 4 top bread types and expounded on the merits of each. And I can’t argue much with their overall approach.

The newspaper’s online ‘Life’ section consulted registered dietician and nutritionist Jill Weisenberger, seeking her take on the whats, whys and wherefores of bread.

Whole Grain

This is the universal first choice of those in the know about nutrition. As we related not long ago, in our post about rice, whole grains contain the germ, the the endosperm and the bran – a suite of rich nutrients and dietary fibre that can form the foundation of a healthy diet. This designation can apply legitimately to bread made from any grain – Wheat, Rye, Oats, or whatever.

Whole Wheat

This segment of the post is anchored by a comment from Weisenburger, that eating white bread is like leating an apple after peeling it: “That doesn’t ruin the apple, but you’re throwing away some of the nutrients,” Weisenberger says. “It’s the same thing, it’s just with the grain you’re throwing away a whole lot of nutrients, not just a little.”

Thereafter, the post cites the heirarchy of wheat flour Breads. White Bread is made from the endosperm, alone. ‘Wheat Bread’ as a mixture of White and Whole Wheat flour.

But then, it skips right over Cracked Wheat! I don’t know if they even know abo0ut it in the US. But it’s been a Canadian fave for generations. Though, I’ll admit it’s hard to find, these days. It’s White flour with ‘cracked’, or steel-cut wheat kernels, giving it a nice crunch, even if you don’t toast it! Not to mention enhancing its healthfulness.

At last comes true Whole Wheat (see photo, top of page), which is a flour containing all parts of the grain kernel, usually resulting in a rather dark brown loaf with a mildly sweet, nutty flavour. But at least it’s all whole grain!

Sourdough

Sourdough, Weisenburgh explains, is a healthier bread for those who are pre-diebetic, or fighting the condition full-on.

“A study from the University of Guelph in Canada found lower glycemic responses compared to those of whole wheat breads. […] Sourdough’s low pH and long fermentation time means the bread is more digestible than those fermented with baker’s yeast because the nutrients in sourdough have more time to break down.”

Rye

Here we have a classic, a staple bread for hundreds of years in parts of Europe where wheat was not grown, or wouldn’t grow well. We’ve all had Rye Bread, and know well its unique sweet-sour, nutty flavour.

“Rye is just one of those grains that we don’t get very much, so it’s a great place to get it by seeking out 100% whole grain rye bread,” Weisenberger says.

But aside from providing novelty and variety, the post also cites a host of other proven benefits: “Rye also appears to have cholesterol-lowering properties and aids in weight loss compared to whole grain or refined wheat bread. It also supports cognitive functions. A 2018 study, for example, found rye bread consumption led to improved mood, glucose tolerance and insulin response, which is positively correlated with memory performance. ”

My take

I love good bread. A slice of classic Dark Rye or Caraway Seed Rye Bread is a treat I’ll devour with just a skimming of butter to help it slide down!

I agree entirely with what Weisenberger has to say about nutrition. In fact, I’m planning to to steal her comparison of white bread with a peeled apple (with proper attribution, of course).

And I congratulate USA Today – perhaps the best known of the American ‘tabloids’ – on devoting so much space to to a really important, non-political or non-celebrity topic!

~ Maggie J.

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