As a Nutritionist I love seeing the relief on my clients faces when I tell them they can still eat bread and be healthy, and even lose weight in the process if that is one of their goals.
Gone are the days where we avoid carbs at all costs and not only is this a good thing from a nutrition perspective but also from an enjoyment perspective — I mean who really wants to live a life without bread anyway — definitely not me!
Like all things in nutrition of course, moderation is key. It's important to consider the type of bread, the amount you are consuming and what else you are consuming it with.
Bread is considered a carbohydrate food. It is made from a grain and most commonly used is wheat. You can however use other grains such as rye, spelt, quinoa, buckwheat etc. What we want to look for is bread that is made from the wholegrain as opposed to processed, refined grains as the nutrients are preserved better without additional processing and in particular the fibre content will be higher. Fibre is essential in our diet to help us feel full, keep our bowels regular and also to feed the good bacteria in our gut. Diets high in fibre have been related to a decreased incidence of many types of diseases.
So when looking for a bread, ones that are made from wholegrains are generally darker in colour with many visible grains and will also have a fibre content of approx. 7g/100g or more. Sourdough is one type of bread that is made with a slightly different method — fermentation. Although the benefits are minimal compared to some fermented products a sourdough bread can definitely be a healthy option. Furthermore the ingredients in your bread shouldn't have much else other than the grain, yeast, salt and water (and cultures for sourdough). Don't be fooled by thinking gluten free is a healthier option either. Those who need to go gluten free should look for a bread that is made from grains that are naturally gluten free such as quinoa, buckwheat, amaranth, millet instead of the many processed gluten free options that are out there.
When it comes to how much bread we can consume this really depends on an individual basis. Carbohydrates are a great fuel source however if we aren't active enough to utilise the carbohydrates we consume then it may get stored as fat. Therefore if you are moderately active you may be able to have 1-2 pieces per day as part of a healthy balanced diet. If weight loss is a goal then maybe one piece per day or every couple of days and if you're an endurance athlete you may be able to have 4+ pieces a day. This needs to be determined by you depending on how active you are and what your goals are.
The most important thing is that bread is included as part of a wholefood, varied and balanced diet full of plenty of vegetables! Use bread as a vehicle to get extra nutrients in by having it with a veggie packed soup, or with some eggs and a heap of cooked vegetables. A helpful tip for those who find it hard to buy a loaf and not eat it all in a couple of days — slice it up and keep it in the freezer or blitz it into bread crumbs and keep them in the freezer too.
Steph Geddes is a nutritionist and holistic foodie whose recipes are a revelation for anyone wanting to fuel their body with good food that is balanced, easy and seriously delicious. You can follow her on Instagram here or read more from Steph on her website.