Decoding the bread aisle

Buying bread is often more complicated than it should be. What are shoppers to make of claims like “made with whole grain,” “whole grain white,” “multigrain,” “12 grain,” and “extra grainy,” not to mention “artisan,” “2x fiber,” “double protein,” and “sugar-free”?Steel Cut Oat

Which matter and which can trip you up?

Beware of whole-grainy-ish claims

  • “8 grams whole grain.” Grains make up roughly half the weight of bread. So a 42-gram slice should have 21 grams of whole grain. Oops.
  • “Made with.” It usually means “made with very little.”
  • “Multigrain.” White flour is usually the most abundant. Not in Panera at Home Whole Grain Multi-Grain, though. It’s all whole grain.
  • “Oat” or “Oatmeal.” Whole Foods 365 Steel Cut Oat Bread has just “5g whole grains per slice.” That’s typical of most oat or oatmeal breads, and it’s not much. Pepperidge Farm (100 percent) Whole Grain Oatmeal Bread is an exception.


Sara Lee


Is whole-grain white as good as whole wheat?

 “An artisan loaf with five super grains, 10 grams of whole grains and no artificial anything.” Our guess: about half of the grain in Dave’s Killer Bread Organic White Bread Done Right is whole.

Expect less from Arnold Classic Whole Grain White, Sara Lee Soft & Smooth Made with Whole Grain White, and Wonder Made with Whole Grain White.

Exception: Trader Joe’s 100% Whole Grain White Wheat is made with white whole wheat flour. (Yes, there is such a thing.) Does it deliver the same dose of healthy phytochemicals you’d get in ordinary whole grain? Hard to say.


Extra Grainy


Don’t let “seedy” and “grainy” fool you.

“We specially bake each loaf of extra grainy bread so it has a tasty, grainy texture with visible seeds and grains inside & out,” says the Arnold label.

The company must be going after up-and-coming Dave’s Killer Bread, which is loaded with seeds and grains. But most of Dave’s hearty breads are 100% whole grain. In contrast, two of the three Extra Grainy breads aren’t.

Pepperidge Farm Harvest Blends are 100 percent whole grain, but none are as seedy and grainy as Dave’s.

Gluten free



Is gluten-free bread healthier? 

“Ever avoided bread because wheat makes you feel bloated, tired or just not yourself?” asks BFree Gluten Free Soft White Sandwich Loaf. “Say goodbye to wheat and hello to great tasting bread!”

Hold off on that goodbye. Most gluten-free breads have more potato, corn, or tapioca starch than whole-grain (usually brown rice) flour. Starches are worse than white flour because most have no fiber or protein. Gotta go gluten-free? Canyon Bakehouse breads have more whole grain than starch.


Nature's Own


Is more protein or fiber better?

Nature’s Own Life Wheat + Protein packs 8 grams of protein into each 90-calorie slice. Arnold Whole Grains Double Protein is in the same ballpark.

In contrast, “double fiber” breads from Arnold, Brownberry, Oroweat, and Nature’s Own aren’t doubly good. Their extra fiber is inulin, polydextrose, cellulose, or other processed fibers, which don’t measure up to the intact fiber in bran, whole grains, and beans.




Should you worry about sugar in bread?

 Most bread has only 2 or 3 grams of sugar per slice. But Nature’s Own Life Sugar Free 100% Whole Grain replaces that with a tiny amount of mannitol (a safe sugar alcohol), Nature’s Harvest Light and Sara Lee Delightful cut it to 1 gram or less with (safe) stevia, and Dave’s Killer Bread Organic Powerseed relies on just 1 gram of sugar from fruit juice. You should only worry if you’re watching every gram.
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One Reply to “Decoding the bread aisle”

  1. You keep writing favorably about Dave’s Killer breads, and that may or not be so. But it should be pointed out, every time you plug them, that a loaf of their bread, at least in this northeast area, is priced very, very much higher than any of the others, while some of those others do very well in your tests. Most people probably don’t want to pay six or seven dollars for a loaf of prepackaged bread.

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