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Learn to spot most healthful loaves in bread aisle
Scouting out the best loaves of bread

Date published: 10/4/2009

THREE EASY tips can help you find the most nutritious loaf of bread in the dauntingly long supermarket aisle.

Simple ways of looking at fiber, ingredients and your overall eating plan can help you find the best bread for you. Don't get tripped up by common misconceptions about sugar and salt in breads, or low-carb diets.

The first tip: Look for fiber.

Don't judge a loaf by its color. Darker breads are not always whole-grain breads--sometimes they've been colored with molasses or caramel.

Instead, check the nutrition facts label on the back. Breads that have at least 3 grams of fiber per slice are more healthful. A typical slice of white bread has less than 1 gram of fiber, while 100 percent whole-wheat bread has about 3 grams of fiber.

Next, check the ingredients list. A whole grain should be the first ingredient, meaning it makes up the majority of the bread. However, many people misunderstand what a whole grain is.

For example, let's look at a grain of wheat. Wheat is a grass. We grind the wheat seeds, or kernels, to make flour for bread.

A kernel of wheat has three parts: bran, germ and endosperm. The brown, outer layer is the bran. It's rich in fiber and antioxidants. The bran encloses and protects the germ and the endosperm.

Wheat germ is not contagious; it's the vitamin-rich core of the seed and contains a tiny wheat plant, or embryo. If allowed to sprout, this is the part of the seed that would grow into a new stalk of wheat.

The third part of the kernel is the pale endo-sperm, which contains most of the calories.

Whole grains contain all three parts of the kernel.

Refined, white flour contains only the starchy endosperm. It has much less fiber, vitamins and minerals. That's why the federal government requires white flour to be fortified, adding back iron and a handful of B vitamins.

However, so-called "wheat flour" is still lower in fiber, heart-healthy mineral magnesium and antioxidants than "whole wheat flour."


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Jennifer Motl is a registered dietitian. Formerly of Fredericksburg, she now lives in Wisconsin.