Is whole wheat bread really whole wheat?
Are "Wonder+ Invisible bread" and "Dempster’s Smart" bread good for you?
Which packaged bread is best?
Sliced bread was first sold in 1928, advertised as “the greatest forward step in the baking industry since bread was wrapped.” This “invention” was so monumental that since then, nothing is truly great unless it is “the greatest thing since sliced bread”.
Is sliced bread really all that it’s cracked up to be?
For decades, sliced bread seemed to fly under the radar. No one really cared about it, until a few years ago, when the bread wars began, and the whole industry was turned upside down.
Good Carbs versus Bad Carbs
The War of the Carbs certainly accomplished one thing… it caused confusion.
It’s simple. All grains, “whole” and “refined” are digested and broken down into the body as glucose. Yes, Sugar! Most of that glucose is used by your brain, cells, organs. The rest is sent to your liver where insulin is produced to assist in metabolizing sugars. This gets stored as glycogen (energy reserves for later use), and a small amount gets stored as fat.
In the end, whole or refined, that excess glucose sits, stored in your body. Here's the difference though....The more complex a grain is…intact, whole and unrefined…the more complex it is for your body to break it down and digest it. The whole process takes longer, you feel fuller, your blood sugar is more stable, less insulin is produced, satiety hormones work better, and your body absorbs the vitamins and nutrients. Whatever can’t be broken down, gives your pipes a good cleaning. That sounds good doesn’t it! So, when it comes to grains (as well as potatoes, rice, etc), it’s not so much about “good” and “bad” carbs…they both supply energy, but rather it’s about eating “carbs with benefits”.
Reading Bread Labels
In Canada, it is legal to advertise any food product as “whole wheat” with up to 70% of the germ removed. Don't you feel a bit deceived? Who passed this stupid law anyway?
Most people were in the dark about this until Dempster’s started the “whole grains” campaign.
The only way Canadian consumers can be sure that their bread, or the ingredient listed as whole wheat in their bread, is truly whole, is if it states “100% whole-grain whole wheat”. That means the whole grain kernel is used, including the bran and the germ.
What about multigrain bread? This term means that it contains more than one type of grain, whole or not, simple or complex, and in no particular order or ratio. “Enriched flour” is simply white flour with added vitamins, and “Wheat flour” is simply another name for white flour.
Lesson learned: If you want ‘Breads with Benefits’, “100% whole-grain whole wheat” is the ingredient you need to look for!
Simple versus Smart Breads
Dempster’s came up with a bread full of grains, added fiber, and nutrients, that suburban preteens could eat during their living room dance parties.
Why is it called Smart? They added DHA, which is good for brain development in children. I think of all the bread wars, this one irks me the most. Here are the ingredients for Dempster’s Smart 100% whole grain wheat bread:
Whole grain whole wheat flour including the germ, water, yeast*, sugar/ glucose-fructose, vegetable oil (canola or soybean), wheat gluten*, salt, oat fibre, soybean flour, vinegar, calcium sulphate, calcium propionate, sodium stearoyl-2- lactylate, monoglycerides, acetylated tartaric acid esters of mono and diglycerides, calcium carbonate, DHA algal oil, sunflower oil, sunflower lecithin, sorbic acid. *order may change. May contain sesame seeds and sulphites. [H813]
Wait! The plot thickens! Wonder bread came up with an amazing counter attack campaign. WONDER+bread is artificial preservative free bread and contains no artificial flavours, colours or other added chemical additives. This bread contains ingredients that any ‘simple’ person could pronounce. What are these simple ingredients?
Wonder+ 100% Whole Wheat bread ingredients: Whole grain whole wheat flour including the germ, water, sugar, yeast, wheat gluten, soybean and/or canola oil, salt, cultured wheat starch solids, natural sour flavour (bacterial culture), vinegar, soy lecithin.
Taking out preservatives is certainly a step in the right direction but this bread uses a lot of vinegar to help with rise, and they’ve tried to cover that up with 3 grams of sugar per serving. My family and I tasted this bread. Everyone agreed that it tasted awful, and I was told never to buy it again.
Feb 2013 edit: Dempsters has introduced a new "Get Naturally Nutritious" campaign for their "WholeGrains" Breads. They state: "Dempster's recipes are only baked with wholesome and authentic ingredients you know and can pronounce." Again I am shocked at the blatant false advertising. Most of their WholeGrains bread still contain ingredients like: monoglycerides, sodium stearoyl-2-lactylate, calcium propionate, acetylated tartaric acid esters of mono and diglycerides, calcium carbonate, soy and may contain sulfites.
Their 100% whole wheat bread is a step in the right direction...but really...just because you can pronounce an ingredient doesn't mean it belongs in bread.
INGREDIENTS: WHOLE GRAIN WHOLE WHEAT FLOUR INCLUDING THE GERM, WATER,WHEAT BRAN, MOLASSES, *YEAST, WHEAT PROTEIN, WATER EXTRACT OF DRIED RAISINS, SUGAR, VEGETABLE OIL (CANOLA OR SOYBEAN), SALT, CULTURED WHEAT STARCH, VINEGAR, SOYBEAN LECITHIN. *ORDER MAY CHANGE.
CONTAINS WHEAT, WHEAT GLUTEN AND SOY.
MAY CONTAIN SESAME SEEDS. [J1226]
White, Brown and Invisible Bread
Apparently, children must never know that brown bread ever existed! Should you choose to go brown, the texture should be silky smooth, sheltering the children from the jarring experience of a husk cracking between their teeth. Or you could feed them invisible bread.
Wonder+ Invisibles claims that their bread is full of nutrition, including 14 whole grains. You just can’t see it! All you’ll notice is the soft, fresh wonder bread taste your family loves. These are the invisible ingredients:
Unbleached wheat flour, water, whole grain mix (whole grain triticale, whole grain khorasan wheat, whole grain brown rice, whole grain oat, whole grain spelt, whole grain rye, whole grain barley, ground golden flax, whole grain millet, whole grain sorghum, whole grain soy, whole grain quinoa, whole grain corn meal), wheat gluten, oat hull fibre, yeast, sugar, whole grain whole wheat flour including the germ, natural sour flavour (bacterial culture), salt, soybean and/or canola oil, soy flour, cultured wheat starch solids, vinegar, soy lecithin. May contain Sesame seeds, egg, milk.
Dempster’s came out with Smooth Multigrains.
Ingredients: “WHOLE GRAIN WHOLE WHEAT FLOUR INCLUDING THE GERM, WATER, YEAST*, SUGAR / GLUCOSE-FRUCTOSE, GROUND WHOLE GRAIN BLEND (TRITICALE, OATS, RICE, BARLEY, SPELT, KAMUT, RYE, MILLET, SOYBEAN, MILLED GOLDEN FLAXSEEDS, SORGHUM, QUINOA, CORN, AMARANTH, BUCKWHEAT), VEGETABLE OIL (CANOLA OR SOYBEAN), WHEAT GLUTEN*, SALT, VINEGAR, CALCIUM PROPIONATE, SODIUM STEAROYL-2-LACTYLATE, MONOGLYCERIDES, SORBIC ACID, ACETYLATED TARTARIC ACID ESTERS OF MONO AND DIGLYCERIDES. *ORDER MAY CHANGE. MAY CONTAIN SESAME SEEDS AND MUSTARD SEEDS. (Sorry about the ALL CAPS, I just copied and pasted.
Why are we sheltering our children from whole foods?
Something good did come out of the bread wars. With each campaign, Dempsters and Wonder exposed everything that was wrong with modern sliced bread, and for that I thank them!
So....which bread is best? Typically, the bread in your store will be divided into 4 sections:
1. The Bagged & Sliced Bread Section
Here's where you'll find your Wonders and Dempsters. I could not find ONE bread without sugar here. Most have a long list of unpronounceable ingredients, preservatives, and they're void of nutrition and fiber. These breads are pointless. Roll your cart right past this section.
2. The Fresh Bakery Section:
Ack!!!! Our family loves baguettes. The problem is they are mostly white and fluffy and have no fiber ... and that's why I view these as a treat. The good news is...most have no preservatives which is why they only have a shelf-life of 1 to 2 days.
If you're going to "treat" yourself to one of these, or if your family just can't make the switch to whole wheat breads, look for simple ingredients like my favourite organic multigrain bread from Ace Bakery:
Organic unbleached white wheat flour, water, organic stone-ground whole grain wheat flour, sour starter (organic stone-ground whole grain wheat flour, water), organic honey, organic kamut, organic amaranth, organic soft wheat kernel, organic flax seeds, organic millet, organic sunflower seeds, organic sunflower oil, salt, yeast.
Ace Bakery also sells frozen ready-to-bake white and multigrain breads made from simple ingredients. I like these because they're small, yet the perfect size for a family of 4 to get their baguette fix!
3. The "Other" Bagged Bread Section:
This is where you'll find rye breads like Dimpflmeier and Rudolph’s.
The good news is, these "rye" breads don't usually have sugar in them. This section can be deceiving though. These breads have a very healthy look but many made with mostly white flour to help with rising. Notice the ingredients in this popular "rye" type bread.
Rudolph's: Water, unbleached wheat flour, whole wheat flour, cracked whole wheat, organic sour (organic rye, water and culture), whole rye seed, whole rolled oats, coarse whole rye grain, sunflower seed, flax seed, sesame seed, organic salt, yeast, calcium propionate (a preservative), rolled in sesame, flax and sunflower seed.
Both brands do have an organic line of breads made whole grain rye without preservatives. A true whole grain rye bread should be very dense, moist and dark in color.
See the difference in ingredients?
“Organic whole rye flour, filtered water, sourdough culture (organic whole rye flour, filtered water and culture), salt.”
Stonemill also has a bread free of preservatives, with no added fat, sugar, dairy or soy.
Ingredients in their Sprouted Grain and Oatmeal: Whole grains (sprouted whole grain wheat, whole grain wheat flour, whole and ground brown flax seeds, rolled oats, organic whole grain rye flour), water, wheat gluten, apple cider vinegar, yeast, corn meal, sea salt, organic sourdough (organic whole grain rye flour, water, bacterial culture).
It's impossible to cover all the different brands in this section. Look for simple ingredients with whole grains listed in the top.
4. The Health Food Freezer Section *** BEST CHOICE***
These breads have no preservatives (which is why they are in the freezer) and they’re convenient to use as you need them. Just pop them in the toaster!
These breads are usually labelled as "flourless" and made from sprouted grain. A word of caution though. "Flourless" is not to be confused with gluten-free. Sprouted grains are said to be more nutritious and easily digestible and but gluten still remains. (For a great article on this topic please click here)
For those of us who are not gluten sensitive, these whole grain breads are a great choice. Here are my 3 favourites:
Ezekiel bread is made from freshly sprouted organically grown grains. They are high in fiber and low in sugar.
Ingredients in the basic sprouted bread: Organic Sprouted Whole Wheat, Filtered Water, Organic Malted Barley, Organic Sprouted Whole Millet, Organic Sprouted Whole Barley, Organic Sprouted Whole Lentils, Organic Sprouted Whole Soybeans, Organic Sprouted Whole Spelt, Fresh Yeast, Sea Salt.
So.. I tried these. They're certainly not the fluffy, white, nooks and crannies english muffins I used to eat in my processed days...but they're good and so much better for you!
Silver Hills also makes awesome breads and bagels with simple ingredients. This brand does have quite a few sugar grams listed on the nutrition label but the ingredients lists tell us why. They do use "whole apples" and raisins in their breads. I love these!
Steady Eddie bread ingredients: Organic whole sprouted wheat*, organic whole sprouted rye*, organic whole apples*, vital wheat gluten, organic sprouted whole soybeans*, water, yeast, sea salt, cultured wheat.
The Rappleberry Bagels do have a bit of added sugar, so check the labels for full info. I love that Silver Hills Bagels have between 10-11 grams of fiber each!
One minute on the lowest setting of my toaster oven defrost these. Slice them open and toast for another 2 minutes and the results are perfection!
Manna bread is a cake-like, sprouted bread, yeast free, organic, free of salt, no oils, no sweeteners, no leavening agents.
Manna Multigrain Flax Sourdough Bread: Filtered water, organic whole wheat flour, organic whole rye flour, organic multigrain blend (organic whole wheat, organic rye, organic barley, organic oats, organic flax, organic millet, organic buckwheat), organic flaxseeds, sea salt.
One thing is for sure, no one can say that there’s no healthy bread options out there. So what have we learned?
- Sliced bread is not the greatest thing.
- Whole grain bread is dense and can’t be rolled into a tiny doughy ball.
- Real bread only lasts a couple of days outside of a freezer.
- All bread, white, whole wheat and multigrain, turn into sugar in your body.
- Portion control is key.
- Make it count by choosing simple goodness and complexity!