6 Healthy Breads You Should Be Eating, According to a Dietitian
Because bread can absolutely be a part of a healthy diet, but some are better for you than others.
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, it's one you can keep eating as 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 Dietary Guidelines 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 (fiber takes longer to digest). There are plenty of healthy breads to choose from, like our Four-Grain Bread Loaf (pictured above) but all those choices can make picking a better bread feel overwhelming. Here are some of my favorite healthy breads to choose.
1. Sprouted-grain bread
I recently wrote about my love of sprouted-grain bread (it's always 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. It is a bit dense and chewy—I like it 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
It's not as fancy as some of the other sounding breads, but whole-wheat bread is a healthy classic. I grew up eating peanut butter & jelly sandwiches on whole-wheat bread. Look for whole-wheat flour as the first ingredient. If wheat flour is listed first, that's not actually a whole-grain flour. You'll want to check the sugar and sodium content too. You can find whole-wheat sandwich bread, but also whole-wheat naan bread and pita bread. If you are up for it, you can make your own at home with our healthy whole-wheat bread recipes.
3. Sourdough bread
If you haven't hopped on the sourdough baking trend yet, you should at least try eating some. 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. We're still learning more about sourdough benefits, and if it's beneficial for blood sugar and gut health, but it sure is delicious. (Learn more about sourdough health benefits.)
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 and minerals into a tiny package. 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, but you can also make your own. This Seeded Whole-Grain Quick Bread is one of my favorite recipes. We also have a Low-Carb Seeded Quick Bread that's made with almond flour and coconut flour (and plenty of seeds, of course!).
5. English muffins
So they're technically not bread, but you will find them 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) but 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. Some banana breads have lots of sugar, butter and refined grains but quick breads, like banana breads, usually turn out great 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. You likely wouldn't use banana bread to make a sandwich, but if you're looking for a healthier baked good that's easy to make and tasty, try banana bread. There's no one way to eat healthy, and treats like banana bread can absolutely be included in a healthy diet. I love slicing up a loaf and keeping it in the freezer (or making banana bread muffins) so I can just take out a slice when I need a snack.
Welcome to The Beet. A weekly column where nutrition editor and registered dietitian Lisa Valente tackles buzzy nutrition topics and tells you what you need to know, with science and a little bit of sass.