November 3, 2020

Which Bread Is Best For You — Whole-Grain, Multigrain or Whole Wheat?

Hint: Check the label first and foremost

best healthy breads

Gone are the days of eating white bread. Many people are aware that whole-grain has more nutritional heft than white, fluffy, overly milled breads, but it’s not always easy to pick a good loaf when you’re at the grocery store.

Advertisement

Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

Sometimes, a refined loaf of bread can masquerade as something more nutritious. Patrol the bread aisle and you’ll see terms like whole wheat, multigrain, seven-grain, 12-grain, all-natural, organic and enriched, to name a few. Who wouldn’t throw up their hands trying to decide what to buy?

Dietitian Laura Jeffers, MEd, RD, LD, helps break down which bread is healthier and what you should stay far away from.

Look for ‘100%’ on labels

When browsing the bread aisle at your grocery store, look for the term “100% whole-grain” or “100% whole-wheat” on the package.

“If you’re wondering which is better, either one works,” says Jeffers. “Whole wheat is a whole grain.”

Although different grains offer different benefits, many whole-grain breads are primarily made with wheat. If you’re looking for a nice mix of grains, check your ingredient label. Primary ingredients should be listed first in order of the amount within the loaf (wheat, oats, flax seeds, barley, buckwheat, etc.).

Advertisement

“Be cautious of terms like ‘wheat’ or ‘multigrain’ that don’t mention a percentage,” she warns. “They sound healthy, but they’re probably made with partially or mostly refined white flour. Wheat flour is 75% white flour and only 25% whole-wheat.”

“Enriched” is another clever term that means the maker of the bread has added nutrients to an otherwise nutrient-free white bread. When you see that word on a label, put it down and look for something else.

Unless you find that 100% on the package and whole-wheat listed as the first ingredient on the label, the bread is simply a refined loaf of bread with synthetic nutrients added to replenish those natural nutrients lost in the milling process.

Good bread makes your body happy

The benefits of eating 100% whole-wheat or whole-grain far surpass just the taste. Eating whole-grain foods within an overall healthy diet helps to lower your risk for many diseases, including:

Whole-grains are also rich in protein, fiber, B vitamins and many other nutrients that help to lower blood pressure, reduce gum disease, strengthen the immune system and help control weight. The Whole Grains Council reports that benefits are greatest with at least three servings per day, but every whole grain helps.

Advertisement

Say ‘no’ to substandard bread

Most other bread is made with grains that have been finely milled. The resulting flour is whiter and lighter — in more ways than one.

Not only does this refined flour look whiter and bake fluffier, but it also falls short of many of the nutrients essential to optimum health. Whole-grains begin as a whole grain kernel: bran, germ, endosperm.

The milling process mechanically removes the bran, which is the fiber-rich outer layer of the grain and contains B vitamins and other minerals. Milling also removes the second germ layer, which is rich in Vitamin E and essential fatty acids. In the end, what’s left is the starchy center, which is ground into flour for various baking purposes.

“Refined flour lacks all of those wonderful nutrients and high-starch foods like white bread can quickly raise your blood sugar levels, putting you at risk for diseases like diabetes,” she says. “That’s why you should consider nothing but the best: 100% whole wheat or whole-grain bread.”

Related Articles

person with cut loaf of ezekiel bread
October 18, 2023
What Is Ezekiel Bread?

Made from sprouted whole grains and legumes, it’s low calorie and full of fiber and protein

A closeup of crescent rolls in a brown bowl on a dark background.
February 6, 2023
Recipe: Simple Crescent Bread Rolls

Easy to make, easy to eat!

A fresh loaf of zucchini bread sits sliced on a decorative towel.
April 13, 2022
Recipe: Low-Fat Zucchini Spice Bread

Applesauce and flax seed make it extra moist

Spiced, Sweet Potato Quick Bread Rolls
March 21, 2021
Recipe: Spiced Sweet Potato Quick Bread

Gluten-free and delicious

A loaf of honey oat bread with two slices cut
August 18, 2020
Recipe: Oats and Honey Bread

A flavorful take on the traditional loaf

4 Starches That Don’t Belong on Your Plate
August 8, 2018
4 Starches That Don’t Belong on Your Plate

Which carbs should you cut if you want to lose weight?

Hand holding an artichoke over a basket of artichokes
February 23, 2024
10 Health Benefits of Artichokes

This unique-looking veggie is fiber-dense and antioxidant-rich, and can improve the health of your gut, liver and heart

overhead photograph of open and empty energy drinks
February 19, 2024
Are Energy Drinks Bad for You?

Regularly drinking these sugar-fueled, stimulant-laden beverages can increase your risk of adverse health effects

Trending Topics

close up of keto gummies
Do Keto Gummies Work for Weight Loss? Are They Safe?

Research is inconclusive whether or not these supplements are helpful

Person in yellow tshirt and blue jeans relaxing on green couch in living room reading texts on their phone.
Here’s How Many Calories You Naturally Burn in a Day

Your metabolism may torch 1,300 to 2,000 calories daily with no activity

Older person postioned sideways showing dowager hump.
Dowager’s Hump: What It Is and How To Get Rid of It

The hump at the base of your neck may be caused by osteoporosis or poor posture

Ad