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The Best Bread: Tips for Buying Breads

How to decipher labels and choose the healthiest bread.
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How to Buy the Best Bread continued...

Just "whole wheat" doesn't cut it. Neither does "made with whole grain," Look for labels that say "100% whole wheat" or "100% whole grain," and don't settle for anything less. If it’s 100% whole wheat, the first ingredient listed in the ingredient label will be whole-wheat flour or 100% whole-wheat flour.

You want whole grains because they're naturally low in fat and cholesterol free; contain 10% to 15% protein, and offer loads of healthy fiber, resistant starch, minerals, vitamins, antioxidants, phytochemicals, and often, phytoesterogrens (plant estrogens). With all those nutrients in one package, it’s no wonder whole grains provide so many health benefits, including protection from heart disease, stroke, diabetes, obesity, and some cancers.

Best Bread Tip No. 2: Watch the Sodium.

Most bread products come with a dose of sodium, which is added to help control the yeast activity and for flavor. If you eat three servings of whole grain bread a day, and each slice has about 200 milligrams of sodium, that contributes 600 milligrams to your daily sodium total. It may not sound like much, but it represents one-third of your limit if you're trying to stay within 1,800 milligrams a day.

The good news is that there are plenty of breads with 200 milligrams or less of sodium per slice. See the table below for some of your best bread choices that aren't too high in sodium.

Best Bread Tip No. 3: Serving Size Matters.

When comparing bread products, look carefully at the serving size on the label. Some bread slices are much larger than others. In the table below, you will find the weight of the serving listed, for comparison's sake.

Best Bread Tip No. 4. Diet or "Light" Isn't Always Better.

There are several brands of bread that are promoted as being lower in calories. They usually have the word "light" in the name or on the packaging. Often, "light" bread means a smaller serving size and a product that is pumped with some extra fiber. For example, Sara Lee has a "45 Calories & Delightful" whole-wheat bread. Although the 45 calories is "per 1 slice," the nutrition information on the label is given for 2 slices. The weight of a 2-slice serving of this bread is 45 grams, compared to Sara Lee's classic 100% whole-wheat classic bread, which weighs 57 grams per 2-slice serving.

With Thomas English Muffins, it's more about extra fiber adding bulk without calories. A serving of Thomas' "Light" Multigrain English Muffins weighs the same as a serving of their 100% Whole Wheat English Muffins. The big difference is that the Light English Muffins have 8 grams of fiber, compared to 3 grams in the 100% whole-wheat type.

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