Top Tips for Selecting a Healthy Bread
When selecting a nutrient-packed bread, here’s some tips for getting it right:
- Search for brands that prioritise natural ingredients, with recognisable words on the label.
- Look for 100% whole-grain or sprouted flour as the primary ingredient with limited add-ins.
- You also want a decent fibre content (around 3-5g fibre per slice).
- Ideally a similar amount of protein (4g per slice).
You also don't need a tonne of sugar, so aim for bread that has minimal or no sweeteners. If there's more than 4g per serve of sugar in the bread loaf, put it back on the shelf and keep going.
Of course, making your own bread is a great way to ensure you're choosing a healthy option because you can control the ingredients. And while the bread options here are considered healthier, a balanced diet should include a variety of wholesome foods. Fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, quality animal proteins and vibrant herbs and spices are the foundations for good nutrition. If you get this right, moderate consumption of bread can be a part of most healthy and balanced diets.
What About Gluten-Free Bread?
Gluten-free bread has become increasingly popular in recent years. It is made from gluten-free flour, such as rice or almond flour, making it suitable for individuals with Coeliac disease or gluten intolerance.
However, some gluten-free bread types are very high in carbohydrates and have obvious added sugar. This is less than ideal if you're wanting to monitor your overall carbohydrate intake or if you struggle with glucose/insulin sensitivity.
It's also a good idea to opt for gluten-free bread made from chickpea flour, oat flour, or grains such as millet or quinoa, instead of corn or rice flour. This ensures you're getting a boost of fibre and protein, rather than simple carbs and not much else.
In other cases, some gluten-free breads have a Frankenstein list of chemical ingredients to improve palatability in order to mimic the look and texture of traditional bread. So, while at face value gluten-free bread may seem like the healthiest bread choice on the market, it's not always the case. This is all the more reason to double-check food labels before purchasing, or better yet, make your own bread.
With all that said, let's look at 7 of the healthiest bread options you can buy or make for yourself.
7 Healthiest Bread Varieties
- Nordic Bread
- Sprouted Bread
- Sourdough Bread
- Buckwheat Bread
- Rye Bread
- Flaxseed Bread
- Whole Grain Bread
Nordic Bread is a type of healthful, whole-grain bread that originated from Scandinavia. This hearty loaf is typically made with a blend of various grains, nuts, and seeds, like rye, buckwheat, oats, walnuts, sunflower seeds, and flaxseed. In comparison to other types of bread, Nordic Bread is much higher in fibre, fats and protein. It's also lower in carbohydrates since it’s made from whole grains. All of these elements make this type of bread one of the healthiest breads and a great choice for those looking to maintain a healthy diet.
A version of this healthy bread can be made without rye, and instead simply using nuts, seeds, eggs and oil. This is also known as Nordic Nut bread, or Nordic Stone Age bread, and is a solid loaf that's worth its weight in gold. Basically, it's a celebration of nuts, and we all know how good they are for you. Scroll down for a delicious Nordic Nut Bread recipe!
If you’re looking for a boost of nutrients, texture and flavour, sprouted-grain bread is the way to go. This type of bread is made from grains that have been soaked and then allowed to germinate. The soaking process boosts the bioavailability of some vitamins, minerals, and fibre by denaturing some of the compounds (called anti-nutrients) on the outside of the grain husk.
Foods made from sprouted plants, such as rye, oats and other seeds have various biological activities such as reducing inflammation, preventing oxidative damage, fighting cancer and preventing infections, according to some recent research.
Sprouted bread may also be a better option for people with diabetes or if you have difficulty controlling your blood sugar levels. Sprouted breads are very nutrient-dense, incredibly healthy and easier to digest. Just know that sprouted bread is heavy, thick and filling, but in all the best ways.
Sourdough bread is another healthy bread option that is popular all over the world. The origins of sourdough bread are thought to arise from Switzerland, with evidence of this ancient bread type dating from around 3700 BCE. However, it most likely originated from the Fertile Crescent and Egypt when agriculture began several thousand years earlier.
Sourdough is made using a slow fermentation process that produces a unique tangy flavour, due to the presence of live active cultures (lactic acid). It’s higher in fibre and has a lower glycemic index than other types of bread, making it an excellent choice for those who are watching their blood sugar levels.
Like all fermented foods, sourdough is also easier to digest and is often well-tolerated by people with gluten sensitivities. While it's not gluten-free and therefore not suitable for Coeliac sufferers, it's certainly a solid contender for one of the healthiest bread varieties, as it's highly palatable and closely resembles the way traditional bread was made centuries ago. If you're keen to give the ritual of sourdough making a go, check out the spelt sourdough recipe below.
If you haven’t tried buckwheat bread (or buckwheat for that matter), now’s the time to give it a try. Alongside spelt flour, oats and almond meal, buckwheat flour should be part of your pantry staples list, especially if you're looking for low-gluten or gluten-free flour alternatives.
Buckwheat is a naturally gluten-free, grain-free psuedograin (actually a grass) that is also quite a nutrient-dense food. Buckwheat flour is mineral-rich, full of amino acids, B vitamins and beneficial plant polyphenols that offer antioxidant protection. Studies have shown that buckwheat can lower cholesterol levels, protect against cancer, and provide neuroprotective and antidiabetic benefits.
Buckwheat bread is a cross between a hearty date or banana bread and a light rye loaf. It's a great option if you've got a few ageing bananas or pears in your fruit bowl. Buckwheat flour has a nutty flavour and slightly coarse texture that helps satisfy all your sweet and savoury bread cravings. Find a delicious healthy buckwheat bread recipe below.
You might be wondering, is rye bread healthy? Well, like a lot of traditionally made breads, the answer is yes, rye bread is decent in terms of nutrient value. Rye bread is a great healthy bread choice that has been a dietary staple in Europe for many centuries. Made from rye flour, this bread can vary in colour from light rye to dark rye depending on the flour type used. It is dense, rich and hearty compared to white bread, and has a full flavour to match.
In fact, rye bread is considered unique amongst other whole grains for its ability to reduce insulin responses after consumption, without influencing glucose levels. Researchers have described this phenomenon as the ‘rye factor’. Rye bread is also abundant in B vitamins, dietary fibre, magnesium, calcium, iron and zinc. You'll feel satisfied with this European-style bread for breakfast or lunch. It's filling without being too heavy and doesn't cause a spike in blood sugar like traditional white bread.
For something a bit different, flaxseed bread is definitely one of the healthiest bread varieties available. Flaxseeds (linseeds) are full of alpha-linolenic acid, a precursor to omega-3 fatty acids and fibre that help to support brain health, reduce inflammation and promote good digestion. Specific to flaxseeds, sesame seeds and chia seeds are plant compounds known as lignans. Lignans are naturally occurring phytochemicals that form the outer hull of the seed.
Lignans play a crucial role in maintaining overall health due to their potent antioxidant actions, with emerging evidence supporting their benefits in reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease and breast cancer. If you can choose a bread that has such powerful health-giving qualities, why wouldn't you? Flaxseed bread may be a lesser known variety, but it's worth including along with some other favourites in your bread box.
Whole grain bread is the traditional high-fibre bread we all know and love. Whole grain bread is made from whole grain flour instead of refined flour. This means your bread contains all parts of the grain, including the bran, germ, and endosperm. While the other breads in this list may well be better bang for your buck in terms of nutrient value, in a pinch, a classic whole-grain bread can still confer some decent health benefits.
It's packed full of fibre, B vitamins and minerals which help aid digestion and keep you feeling full for longer. Consuming whole-grain bread can also help regulate blood sugar levels and reduce the risk of heart disease. This option would suit most households, especially if you're on a budget as whole grain bread is available at any supermarket or bakery. Look for bread with visible whole grains and seeds, which ensures the least amount of processing has gone into making your favourite loaf.
Add Your Favourite Healthy Bread To Your Diet Today
Bread doesn't have to be a guilty food. If you’re a bread-lover, choosing the right type of bread is important for maintaining a healthy diet. Whole grain, sourdough, sprouted grain and rye are excellent options (among others) that offer numerous health benefits. Next time you buy bread, consider selecting one of these healthier options, and your body will thank you for it. As with everything, moderation is key to achieving a healthy balanced diet and lifestyle. Therefore, incorporate healthy bread varieties in your diet and savour each bite, knowing you're making a healthy choice.
Healthiest Bread Recipes: Make Your Own Healthy Loaf
Healthy Buckwheat Bread
Gluten-free, nut-free, full of healthy fibre and ticks the box when you want something sweet or savoury. This healthy buckwheat bread is a great option if you need a lunch-box-friendly option or a simple morning tea snack at the ready.
- 210g buckwheat flour
- 4 small or medium ripe bananas
- 2 small ripe red apples or pears, cored with skins left on
- 75mL of oil (coconut oil or neutral oil)
- 1 teaspoon of baking soda
- 1 heaped teaspoon of cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
- Preheat the oven to 180 C and line a loaf pan with baking paper.
- In a Vitamix or a high-speed blender, add all wet ingredients and blend until smooth.
- Add buckwheat flour, baking soda and cinnamon and blend carefully until just combined.
- Transfer the mixture to the prepared loaf pan and bake for 50 minutes.
Homemade Spelt Sourdough
If you're looking for a healthier alternative to regular wheat bread, and you want to give bread making a proper go, spelt sourdough bread is a delicious option. Here's a recipe to make your own:
- 300g spelt flour
- 200g sourdough starter
- 200ml water
- 1 tsp salt
- Mix the spelt flour, sourdough starter, and water together in a large bowl until well combined. Cover the bowl with a cloth and let the mixture proof at room temperature for 6-8 hours, or overnight, until it has doubled in size.
- Once the dough has risen, add the salt and knead the dough on a floured surface for 5-10 minutes until it becomes strong, smooth and elastic.
- Place the dough back in the bowl and cover with a cloth. Let it rest for another 1-2 hours until it doubles in size again.
- Preheat your oven to 230°C and put a Dutch oven or baking dish inside to warm up.
- Take the dough out of the bowl and shape it into a ball or loaf shape. Place the dough onto a piece of baking paper and give it a final proof for another 30-60 minutes.
- Once the dough has risen, use a sharp knife to score the top in an "X" or diagonal pattern.
- Take the Dutch oven or baking dish out of the oven and carefully transfer the dough onto the dish using baking paper. Cover the dish with a lid or foil and bake for 30 minutes.
- After 30 minutes, remove the lid/foil and bake for another 10-15 minutes until the bread is golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.
- Let the bread cool on a wire rack before slicing and serving.
Nordic Nut Bread
This is bread, but not as you know it. Nordic Nut Bread is a huge favourite in my house, as it's loaded with the nutritional value of nuts, a high protein hit of eggs and is completely gluten-free, keto, paleo and delicious.
This recipe is also very versatile and can be adjusted to your liking. You can change the seeds to include poppy seeds, hemp seeds and chia seeds. Or add your favourite nuts, like hazelnuts, Brazil nuts or pistachios. The below recipe has been adapted from a very good one, found here. Enjoy!
- 100 g pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
- 100 g sunflower seeds
- 100 g almonds
- 100 g walnuts
- 100 g linseed/flaxseeds or LSA
- 100 g sesame seeds
- 5 eggs
- 60ml olive oil or avocado oil
- 2 tsp salt
- Preheat the oven to 160 C and line a small bread or loaf pan with baking paper.
- In a large bowl, add all the nuts and seeds and mix to combine.
- Add the eggs, oil and salt and mix with a spatula until completely homogenous.
- Pour the mixture into the prepared pan.
- Bake in the oven for about 1 hour.
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