If you were to ask “Is bread bad for you?” to a group of people, you’d probably hear two different kinds of answers. One camp would reply, “Bread’s bad for you, it makes you bloat and feel sluggish”, whereas the others might answer something like, “Absolutely not! It’s all wonderful! Pass me another slice, would you?”
Considering bread’s been eaten for around 30,000(!) years, it’s impressive that it’s still so controversial.1 However, in this article, we’ll do our bit to demystify the bread debate. We’ll explain why some people consider bread unhealthy and reveal the healthiest loaves of bread on the block.
What is bread?
Bread is baked from dough that’s usually made from wheat flour, which is leavened with yeast to rise and take on a light, airy aspect.
Why can bread be unhealthy for you?
Many people consider bread unhealthy because it’s not nutrient-dense, unlike other carbohydrates, including fruits and vegetables. When you eat bread, you’re consuming a high volume of calories and not getting proteins, fats, fibres, vitamins, and minerals that are essential for health.
Another cause for concern about bread is its antinutrient content; grains within bread affect the body’s ability to absorb zinc, iron, magnesium, and calcium.2
People with coeliac disease must necessarily avoid bread as an immune response is triggered whenever they eat gluten.3 Some people experience discomfort when gluten products are consumed but don’t share any of the long-term damage to the gut that coeliac sufferers do.4
Types of bread
Baking bread at home has never been more popular. These are some delicious loaves of bread you can buy from a bakery or enjoy at home:
A sandwich loaf is one of the most straightforward kinds of bread to prepare at home and can be made with only four ingredients.
Sourdough’s made with a fermented flour and water mix instead of commercial yeast, which gives it a pleasant tang.
Wholegrain bread is made from wholewheat grains.
Rye bread is made from the rye grain and is often dark in colour. It’s prevalent in Germany.
Baguette is the undisputed national bread of France. Although perfect for carrying in a woven tote with a fresh bouquet – it’s best enjoyed with homemade jam or butter.
Make like Northern Italians and enjoy focaccia, made with masses of olive oil and fresh rosemary.
Which bread is healthiest?
Home-baked bread and loaves prepared in small bakeries typically contain less sugar, oil, additives, vinegar, and preservatives than industrial loaves.
Typically, wholemeal and wholegrain bread has a higher nutrient content than bread made from white bread flour. As these loaves are less refined, they contain more fibre, as well as nutrients like vitamin B, calcium, and iron. Another reason to choose a wholemeal or wholegrain loaf over a white one is the carbohydrates in them are slow-release, so keep you feeling fuller for longer.5
Last updated: 1 March 2021
Author: Donia Hilal
- Joined Holland & Barrett: January 2018
- Qualifications: : Bsc in Nutrition, Registered Associate Nutritionist, Certification in Pre and Post Natal Nutrition
Donia started her career as a freelance nutritionist, later she joined Nestle as their Market Nutritionist to help support their healthier product range, before joining the team at Holland & Barrett in January 2018. Donia has 6 years experience as a Nutritionist and also works with clients on a one-to-one basis to support their goals which include weight loss, prenatal and postnatal nutrition and children’s health.
Donia has a special interest in; weight management, plant-based nutrition, pregnancy nutrition, special diets and disease risk reduction.
View Donia's LinkedIn profile.
Author: Donia Hilal