You aren't alone if you're confused about whether multi-grain bread is just as good as whole-wheat bread. It can be hard to figure out just which type of bread to buy. Choosing whole-grain bread can help you get your recommended three or more servings of whole grains per day. The healthiest breads are those made with 100 percent whole grains.
Whole grains are unrefined grains that contain the germ, bran and endosperm, while refined grains contain only the endosperm. Removing the germ and the bran removes much of the fiber, as well as some of the vitamins and minerals. When choosing bread, check the ingredients list and make sure the grains on the list contain the word "whole," such as whole wheat. Brown rice, oatmeal, bulgur, millet, barley and buckwheat are also examples of whole grains you might find in some breads. Don't be fooled by the word "multi-grain," since this just means more than one grain was used -- the grains might not be whole grains. In addition, breads that say "contains whole grains" or "made with whole grains" are often made mainly with refined grains.
Heart Disease Risk
Eating whole-grain bread and cereals may help lower your heart disease risk, according to a study published in "Public Health Nutrition" in December 2011. People who ate at least three servings of whole grains per day had a 20 to 30 percent lower risk for heart disease than those who ate fewer servings of whole-grain bread and cereals. Whole grains help lower your blood pressure and cholesterol and help prevent clogged arteries. The high amount of fiber in whole grains is partly responsible for these effects, but it isn't the only factor. Whole grains contain other beneficial nutrients, including phytochemicals, which also play a role in lowering heart disease risk.
Blood Sugar Control
The effect of whole-grain bread on blood sugar depends on the type of whole-grain bread you choose. A study published in "Appetite" in February 2010 found that whole-wheat bread had a similar effect on blood sugar to that of refined bread, but was more filling. Another study, published in the "Journal of Nutritional Metabolism" in 2012, found that sprouted whole-grain breads, but not other whole-grain breads, caused less of a post-meal increase in blood sugar levels.
Whole-grain breads contain more of a number of phytochemicals, or plant chemicals, than breads made with refined grains. These plant chemicals may help lower your risk for certain types of cancer, including breast cancer and colon cancer, according to an article published in "The Journal of Nutrition" in May 2011.
- MayoClinic.com: Whole Grains: Hearty Options for a Healthy Diet
- Public Health Nutrition: Wholegrain Cereals and Bread: A Duet of the Mediterranean Diet for the Prevention of Chronic Diseases
- Appetite: Wholegrain vs. Refined Wheat Bread and Pasta. Effect on Postprandial Glycemia, Appetite, and Subsequent Ad Libitum Energy Intake in Young Healthy Adults
- Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism: The Acute Impact of Ingestion of Sourdough and Whole-Grain Breads on Blood Glucose, Insulin, and Incretins in Overweight and Obese Men
- The Journal of Nutrition: Putting the Whole Grain Puzzle Together: Health Benefits Associated with Whole Grains—Summary of American Society for Nutrition 2010 Satellite Symposium
Based in Massachusetts, Jessica Bruso has been writing since 2008. She holds a master of science degree in food policy and applied nutrition and a bachelor of arts degree in international relations, both from Tufts University.