The bread aisle is filled with such a widespread choice and with so many different terms out there – whole wheat, whole grain and multigrain – it’s easy to get confused when label reading. There is also a lot of misunderstanding with which one is better for you to eat for a healthy diet. Each sound like they have such similar traits, so surely they’re all good for you? Well, we’ve managed to break things down so you know exactly what is in each of these three seemingly healthy breads. Hopefully, you should know exactly what to look out for on your next food shop.
What is a grain?
To grasp a real understanding of the difference between these three breads, we need to know what a grain is made up of. A natural, untouched grain kernel contains three layers:
1. The outer layer is called the bran.
This acts like a shield protecting the inside containing fibre, vitamins and minerals.
2. The middle layer of the grain is called the endosperm.
This is what more refined flour is made of. It contains carbs, protein and B vitamins.
3. Finally, the inner layer is called the germ.
This part holds several nutrients, vitamins and antioxidants.
All of these layers combined are what makes up a WHOLE grain, because all of the nutritional goodness remains.
When a product says it contains ‘whole grains’ it means that the grains have not been refined to remove the bran and the germ. They still have all three layers of the original grain. But do be careful as just because a product says it contains whole grains, this does not mean that all of the grains in it are whole.
Some products may say they contain ‘whole wheat.’ Wheat is simply one of the many types of grains and therefore, ‘whole wheat’ is a type of ‘whole grain’. The bread is made up entirely of wheat kernels as opposed to being mixed with other grains.
Although it may sound like a healthy choice, there is no guarantee that multigrain bread is made with 100% whole grains or that it is free of refined grains. It simply means that it contains more than one type of grain, such as wheat, oats, and quinoa. These grains may have been processed to remove their bran and germ, which strips them of nutritional value. Because of this, it may not be as good for you as whole grain or whole wheat bread.
‘Whole’ and ‘100%’ labels
A great indicator to know for sure that the bread is whole grain is by the ‘whole grain stamp’. The whole grain stamp is a yellow and black logo that is shaped like a postage stamp and can be found on the packaging of some whole grain products. However, the stamp is a tool that companies can choose to use, but many don’t.
Otherwise, when looking closely at a loaf of bread in your supermarket, you ideally want to be looking for the words ‘whole’ or ‘100%’. This way, you know that none of the three layers of grain have been removed. Be cautious of terms that state simply ‘wheat’, ‘multigrain’ or ‘enriched’ that don’t mention a percentage. They sound healthy, but they’re probably made with partially or mostly refined white flour.
So you now know that 100% whole grain and 100% whole wheat are the way to go, but what are the health benefits that come with them? Numerous studies have shown that eating whole grain foods with an overall healthy diet helps to lower the risk of many diseases, including:
- Heart disease
- Colorectal cancer
As whole grains are also rich in protein, fibre, B vitamins and many other nutrients, they can help to lower blood pressure, reduce gum disease; strengthen the immune system and control weight.
Read the label carefully and gain the health benefits from bread!