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How to choose bread

Bread is an important part of the diet for most of us. HFG senior nutritionist Rose Carr shows us how to choose wisely.

Bread is the largest single contributor of carbohydrates in our diets. Carbs are our friend, but they can turn against us if we over-consume them, especially the nutrient-poor carbs found in foods such as cake-like muffins. If we aim to have more high-fibre, low-GI, wholegrain carbohydrates, they fill us up so we don’t want to overeat, and we will benefit from the slow release of glucose into the bloodstream and the goodness of the grains.

Wholegrain breads should contain more nutrients, especially B vitamins, vitamin E and fibre, and also have a lower GI than white bread. The problem is that the packaging of some breads tell us they contain whole grains when the actual amount of whole grains is incredibly low. A bread could contain just two per cent whole grains and still say on the pack ‘contains whole grains’. So to get a true sense of the quantity of whole grains, check the ingredients list, the amount of fibre, and also the look of the bread.

It is important for our bowel health that our daily bread provides a good amount of fibre.Our advice is to take pack claims about whole grains with a grain of salt and check the fibre content.

We recommend choosing products with 7g fibre or more per 100g, and as a minimum 5g fibre per 100g. But when it comes to bread, more fibre is definitely better.

Bread is one of the largest sources of sodium in our diets so it’s worth checking the sodium content and choosing a lower-sodium bread. You will reduce your risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, kidney disease and stomach cancer.

Several years ago, the National Heart Foundation worked with bread manufacturers to reduce the amount of sodium in bread.
In 2007, the average amount of sodium in our bread was 469mg per 100g and by 2010 this had been reduced to 435mg per 100g. The range, however, was pretty much the same, with some breads as low as 330mg per 100g and some as high as 630mg per 100g. So while more of our breads are lower in sodium, it is still important to check. We recommend choosing bread with 400mg or less sodium per 100g.

If you are watching your weight, it’s worth comparing the energy content of different breads. Breads with seeds or nuts will be higher in fat and therefore energy, as seeds and nuts are around 50 per cent fat (although they are healthy fats). Fruit breads are higher in sugars, thanks to the added fruit. And a thick toast slice will be higher in kilojoules than a thinner slice.

Two sandwich slices of a mixed grain loaf provide around 550kJ while two thicker slices of a heavily seeded bread could be over 1000kJ. There’s no right or wrong: only you can decide which bread helps balance your energy needs each day.

It is easy to assume wraps are low in energy because they are thin but this is not necessarily the case. A 75g Farrah Premium White Wrap contains 938kJ compared to a 25g Mountain Bread Corn Wrap with 293kJ. Always check the nutrition information.

Start infants on white or wholemeal bread and introduce wholegrain breads during the child’s second year once they can chew and safely swallow without choking. Don’t assume young children won’t like grainy breads: they often like the nutty, chewy texture. You may want to introduce grainier breads with sandwiches made using one white slice and one grainy slice.

First published: Jul 2012



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