6 of the Healthiest Types of Bread, according to a Dietitian
Carbs are high on the list of foods people like to cut out of their diets and bread might be on the top of the anti-carb list. Yes, bread contains carbohydrates, but like all carbs, they can be part of a healthy diet (unless you have an actual allergy to wheat or gluten, in which case, seek out safe options for you).
I love bread at breakfast (hello, toast), for sandwiches, as a side at dinner or with some avocado or nut butter for a hearty snack. The options for bread are really endless, but you do want to choose whole-grain breads most of the time. The 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that 45-65% of your daily calories come from carbohydrates and that you make half your grains whole grains.
Whole grains deliver fiber and beneficial vitamins and minerals. Plus, whole grains are less likely to cause blood sugar spikes (thanks to the fiber) and can keep you more satisfied, as fiber takes longer to digest. There are plenty of healthy breads to choose from—and all those choices can make picking a better bread feel overwhelming. Here are some of my favorite healthy breads. Hopefully, this list will reduce overwhelm in the bread aisle.
1. Sprouted-Grain Bread
I always have sprouted-grain bread in my freezer. It's made from whole grains, so there's fiber and protein to help keep you full. It tends to be lower in sodium and it usually doesn't have added sugar.
A 2021 review in Food Science & Nutrition suggests that sprouting grains increases available nutrition in them, including certain vitamins and minerals, and increases their antioxidant properties.
Sprouted-grain bread is a bit dense and chewy, so I like it mostly for toast—but not as much for sandwiches. You may find it in the freezer section or the bread aisle, depending on where you shop.
2. Whole-Wheat Bread
While it's not as fancy as some of the other sounding breads, whole-wheat bread is a healthy classic. I grew up eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on whole-wheat bread.
When deciding between whole-wheat breads, look for whole-wheat flour as the first ingredient. If wheat flour (as opposed to whole-wheat flour) is listed first, that's not whole-grain flour. You'll want to check the sugar and sodium content too. The 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends no more than 2300 mg of sodium a day (unless you've been advised to go lower by your healthcare provider) and less than 10% of your calories coming from added sugar.
You can find whole-wheat sandwich bread, but also whole-wheat naan bread and pita bread. If you want the smell of fresh-baked bread wafting through your house, you can make your own at home with our healthy whole-wheat bread recipes.
3. Sourdough Bread
If you aren't ready to start baking your own sourdough bread yet, you can probably find some equally tasty sourdough options at your grocery store. Sourdough is made by fermenting flour and water rather than using yeast. The fermentation process may make some nutrients more available in the bread. There usually isn't added sugar either.
Sourdough seems to have health benefits beyond just providing energy from carbohydrates. A 2021 study in Ecology, Microbiology and Infectious Disease suggests that sourdough has its own microbiome—including "good" bacteria—and that when we eat it, it can influence our own gut microbiome, leading to better digestion. And when made with whole grains, sourdough bread might raise blood sugar less than other whole-grain breads, per a 2020 editorial review in Aging Clinical and Experimental Research.
4. Seeded Bread
Seeds are some of the most nutritious foods you can eat. They pack a lot of nutrients, including fiber, protein, healthy fats, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants into a tiny package. They've also been shown to help lower cholesterol, and play a role in combating diabetes and cancer, per a 2022 review in Molecules. Seeds also add a nice crunch, if you like that in your bread.
If you're buying seeded bread, you should check to make sure it's made with whole grains—or you can make your own. This Seeded Whole-Grain Quick Bread is one of my favorite recipes. Or try a Low-Carb Seeded Quick Bread that's made with almond flour and coconut flour (and plenty of seeds, of course!).
5. English Muffins
While they're technically not bread, you will find English muffins in the bread aisle. I love English muffins because they tend to be a little bit smaller than bread (perfect if you're not as hungry or watching your carb intake) and you can still use them as toast or to make a sandwich. As with bread, look for a whole-grain English muffin and check the labels for sodium and added sugars.
6. Banana Bread
Why yes, I am a dietitian and I did just sneak banana bread onto my healthy breads list, thank you very much. There's no one way to eat healthily, and treats like banana bread can absolutely be included in a healthy diet.
Some banana breads have lots of sugar, butter and refined grains, but quick breads—like banana bread—usually turn out great when made with some whole grains, healthy fats and slightly less sugar. Try our Healthy Banana Bread or get a dose of veggies with our Zucchini Banana Bread or Pumpkin Banana Bread. I love slicing up a loaf and keeping it in the freezer (or making banana bread muffins) so I can take out just a slice when I need a snack.
If you love bread and find it satisfying, there is probably no reason to cut it out of your diet. Choose whole-grain bread as much as possible and read the label for added sugar and sodium amounts. Choose tasty toppings that don't contain a lot of sugar—and above all, enjoy your bread.