Over the past few decades, the U.S. has declared obesity and its associated diseases a modern health crisis. The FDA and other health organizations have responded with campaigns and diet fads that target an ever-changing food group as the dietary scapegoat.
First, everything was non-fat. The Atkins and Keto diets of late tend to blame carbohydrates as the culprits for weight gain and bloating. Bread is thus out of the question.
I’m skeptical of eliminating a macro-nutrient or food group from my diet altogether. Instead, I think that the healthiest and most sustainable diets are those that incorporate whole, natural, and unprocessed ingredients.
Bread, for example, is one of the oldest foods in human civilization and remains a key staple in most culinary traditions around the world.
There are plenty of bread options that swap bleached, white flour for whole grains and seeds.
Healthier Bread Options
Below I’ll list the healthiest breads you can buy at supermarkets, bakeries, or make yourself.
Sourdough bread is a unique and ancient culinary tradition that involves fermenting the dough with the addition of Lactobacillaceae and yeast.
Apart from being a leavening agent, the bacterial cultures from sourdough starters also ensure a longer shelf-life for each loaf.
Furthermore, you can use the same sourdough starter for years. Some of the oldest sourdough starters are thousands of years old!
Sourdough bread isn’t one type of bread but instead refers to the fermentation method utilized in its preparation.
Pumpernickel in Germany, injera in Ethiopia, and dosa in India are all forms of sourdough bread.
My favorite Sourdough is the crusty white bread you’d find at European bakeries. Like all the other forms, it has a distinct tang.
Sprouted Grain Bread
Sprouted grain bread goes beyond “whole grain” by letting the grain sprout or germinate before being processed into flour.
Sprouted grain bread has considerably higher amounts of protein, fiber, and vitamins than regular wheat-flour bread.
It also has less gluten and fewer carbohydrates, making it the healthiest bread on my list.
Sprouted bread uses sprouted grains from any number of plants, from rye to spelt. It doesn’t require much baking and can be eaten raw.
You’ll often find it in the refrigerated section of a health-foods store. I love the moist, dense, and grainy texture.
It may not look as impressive as other loaves, but it’s very filling and its nuttiness goes well with sweet and savory toppings.
Whole Wheat Bread
Also known as brown bread, whole-wheat bread is bread made with whole-wheat flour.
While white flours use only the starchy endosperm of a grain, whole grain uses the entire wheatberry.
Whole grains thus include the germ, bran, and endosperm, which means they have a complete nutrient profile.
- Whole wheat flour
- Honey (optional)
Packaged bread companies often market their loaves as “wheat”, even using coloring to dye the crusts and innards slightly brown.
However, this is not the same as whole wheat. Be sure to check the ingredients on the back of the package. I love the heft and inherent sweetness in whole-wheat bread.
A favorite deli-sandwich staple, rye bread is a staple bread in most European countries and Israel.
Every culinary tradition has its own take. For example, pumpernickel is the German form of rye bread made using a sourdough starter combined with ground whole rye grains.
North American-style rye bread mixes rye with wheat flour and often adds molasses and caraway seeds.
This makes for a lighter, fluffier texture. Finnish black bread is a simple mixture of whole rye meal and sourdough starter, for a super dense flatbread taste.
My favorite is marbled rye, which combines light rye and pumpernickel with white flour.
Flax has long been touted as a remedy for constipation, weight loss aid, and an omega-fat powerhouse.
Flax is seeds that come in whole, oil, or ground meals. Unrelated to wheat, flax is inherently gluten-free. It also has minimal carbohydrates in comparison with most grains.
Flax bread is easy to make if you can’t find it at your local grocery store. It contains:
- Flax meal
- Baking powder
Flax seeds are nutty and rich. I often sprinkle them over my oatmeal for flavor and added nutrition.
Flax bread is a newer fad, but the nuttiness of flax meal lends itself well to baking.
Ezekiel bread is a form of sprouted bread, and one of the first recipes for it.
As the name suggests, Ezekial bread is named for the ancient bread recipe written in the Old Testament’s book of Ezekiel. If you look up the verse in Ezekiel 4:9, the formula consists of:
All sprouted grains combined in one superfood bread, with all the essential amino acids and the highest source of protein of any other bread type.
You can find Ezekial bread packaged and sold in the refrigerated section of most grocery stores. Like all sprouted bread, it is very dense, with small, thin slices.
Multigrain bread is a blanket term for a loaf of bread made with two or more different grains.
Therefore, many of the bread types I’ve listed can be categorized as multigrain bread.
Marbled rye is a multigrain bread using light rye and pumpernickel grains. Ezekial Bread has five grains.
Popular varieties sold at bakeries can have up to 9 different grains. I opt for a 7-grain bread that contains:
- Corn flour
- Millet flour
- Rice flour
Most multigrain bread also contains whole seeds for added flavor and texture. I love poppyseeds, sunflower seeds, and dried oats baked into multigrain bread.
Healthier Bread Options
- Sourdough Bread
- Sprouted Grain Bread
- Whole-wheat Bread
- Rye Bread
- Flax Bread
- Ezekiel Bread
- Multigrain Bread
Bread gets a bad rap as a source of empty carbs. While processing depletes the nutrients to create simple carbohydrates, breadmaking encompasses a wide range of cooking methods and ingredients that are healthy.
My list of the healthiest breads proves that bread isn’t the hazardous junk food fad diets may have you believe.
By using whole or sprouted grains, adding healthy bacteria, or swapping grains for seed meals, bread can reclaim its reputation as a delicious, nutritious, and essential part of a well-balanced diet.
Check out other healthier options, like the best healthy Halo Top ice cream flavors!