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Be Bread Smart

By Morenike Taire

Bread can be a friend or a foe depending on why you eat it, how you eat it and when you eat it. Love it or hate it bread has been an important staple through all of history and continues to be. It is now a question of understanding the kinds of breads there are and what makes the difference between them.

Every time you eat bread — be it a bagel, an English muffin, or part of a sandwich — you’ve got an opportunity to improve your diet. For most Nigerians, choosing whole-wheat bread products most of the time is the easiest way to eat more super-healthy whole grains. But when you’re standing in front of the bread array in the supermarket, reading the various label claims, just how do you know which is the best bread to buy?

Go for 100%

Just “whole wheat” doesn’t cut it. Neither does “made with whole grain,” Look for labels that say “100% whole wheat” or “100% whole grain,” and don’t settle for anything less. If it’s 100% whole wheat, the first ingredient listed in the ingredient label will be whole-wheat flour or 100% whole-wheat flour.

You want whole grains because they’re naturally low in fat and cholesterol free; contain 10% to 15% protein, and offer loads of healthy fibre, resistant starch, minerals, vitamins, antioxidants, phytochemicals, and often, phytoesterogrens (plant estrogens). With all those nutrients in one package, it’s no wonder whole grains provide so many health benefits, including protection from heart disease, stroke, diabetes, obesity, and some cancers.

Watch the Sodium.

Most bread products come with a dose of sodium, which is added to help control the yeast activity and for flavour. If you eat three servings of whole grain bread a day, and each slice has about 200 milligrams of sodium, that contributes 600 milligrams to your daily sodium total. It may not sound like much, but it represents one-third of your limit if you’re trying to stay within 1,800 milligrams a day. The good news is that there are plenty of breads with 200 milligrams or less of sodium per slice.


Gluten is huge right now and easier to find in even smaller grocery store chains. The percentage of individuals that are either suffering from celiac disease or who just claim to have intolerance to gluten is rising.  The rules for bread choosing remain the same, however. Because gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye and barley, these breads will use other grains to make them free of gluten, Regardless of the grain, however, make sure it’s 100 percent. For example, whole grain gluten free breads may be made with brown rice flour. If it is, look for options again that claim the important 100-percent claim.

Give it a squeeze.

Give a loaf of bread a gentle squeeze before buying. “If it compresses way too easily, keep moving. The denser the bread, the closer you’re getting to the whole grains you want. Truth is manufacturers have a tough time making nourishing bread that’s also soft and fluffy. So sometimes they rely on chemicals,  which you also don’t want.

Not White Bread, Definitely Good, old-fashioned white bread? It’s no more than an enormous sugar cube. It will shoot your blood sugar to the roof and take it back down just as quickly and steeply as it turned it up. Along for the ride is insulin (sugar’s chaperone), needed to take sugar into your cells so it can be used for energy.

This roller coaster of blood sugar has been shown to increase your risk of heart attack, stroke, fatty liver, obesity and diabetes. It’s also a real beauty buster, proven to speed up the formation of wrinkles and cause your skin to look dull and lifeless.  White bread is created using enriched or bleached wheat flours.

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