How to choose the healthiest bread

Carbs are back in -- as long as they're the good kind. Learn how to pick breads that taste delicious, fill you up and keep your blood sugar steady.

Bread basics

Due to the recent anticarb craze, all bread and grains received some undeserved bad press. But not all bread products are evil -- in fact, Canada's Food Guide still recommends six to eight servings of grain products a day for adults. The difficulty is in choosing the right breads. From whole wheat to rye to whole grain products, here's a guide to eating bread right.

The bread that is a general no-no is the type made from refined white flour. You know the kind -- white fluffy breads, baguettes or croissants that can be rolled into a ball and melt in your mouth. Although delicious as an occasional treat, these types of breads contribute to blood sugar fluctuations and weight gain. The body has difficulty discriminating between these types of breads and white sugar. This is evident by the rating of white flour and white sugar items on a scale called the glycemic index. The glycemic index measures the speed of entry of a carbohydrate into the bloodstream. The faster the speed, the higher the glycemic index rating of the food and the more insulin is secreted in response. In a nutshell, excess insulin secretion can result in energy fluctuations, weight gain and even the onset of a variety of diseases such as type 2 diabetes.

The glycemic index rating is broken down into:

• Low (lower than 55)
• Medium (56-69)
• High (70-100)

The goal is to get most of your carbohydrates from foods that are rated low to medium on the glycemic index. These foods include whole grain items, fruits, vegetables and beans.

Examples of the glycemic index ratings of white refined flour and sugar items are:

• Glucose (sugar): 100 (high)
• White french baguette: 90 (high)
• White piece of bread: 70 (high)

An alternative to white bread is whole grain bread. Whole grain bread contains all three parts of the grain -- the germ, the bran and the endosperm. The germ and the bran contain most of the nutrient value, such as minerals, fibre, essential fats and phytonutrients (plant chemicals that offer protection against disease). While white flour has had the precious germ and bran stripped away, leaving only the endosperm, whole grain items keep all three parts of the grain, preserving all of nature's goodness.

Examples of the glycemic index ratings of whole grain items include:

• Buckwheat bread: 47 (low)
• Barley bread: 57 (medium)
• Stonemill sprouted grain bread: 50 (low)
• Stonemill honey bran bread: 50 (low)
• All-Bran cereal: 38 (low)

As you can see, higher-fibre items have a low glycemic index rating.

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