Plus, exactly how to know if your loaf is nutritious or not.

By Betty Gold
Updated May 18, 2020

Baking sourdough bread, focaccia breadbanana bread, and other forms of bread (pizza dough) from scratch has become the unofficial pandemic pastime. And why not? Quarantine is stressful, and if baking-slash-inhaling every ounce of yeast you can get your hands on provides you with comfort, we're here for it. Carbs, like gluten, are largely misunderstood by modern America. To begin, they aren’t actually bad for you.

Carbohydrates are one of the main types of nutrients and act as a principal energy source in our bodies. They provide the body with glucose, which is converted by insulin into fuel used to support bodily functioning and physical activity.

Carbs have gotten a bad rap in recent years, which is highly correlated with the upsurge in popularity of the ketogenic diet, a diet plan that emphasizes eating lots of high-fat foods and almost no carbohydrates. Keto diet culture, in conjunction with the less-science-backed parts of the ~wellness~ movement, has cast a dark cloud over consuming carbs in any form.

But according to U.S. News and World Report, a much smarter way to eat is to follow the Mediterranean diet. In fact, it was named the healthiest diet (or lifestyle) overall. The Mediterranean diet is characterized by consuming plenty of produce, fish, olive oil, and bread.

Of course, not all types of bread—and forms of carbohydrates—are created equal. The healthiest breads are made from whole grains, meaning the kernels still contain the bran, germ, and endosperm. These components house most of the beneficial nutrients that we get from grains, like fiber, vitamin B, zinc, magnesium, iron, and copper. White bread and other loaves made from refined, highly processed grains are much lower in nutritional quality.

But under the whole grain umbrella, the specific style of bread that nutrition experts are flagging as being ahead of the rest nutrient-wise is sprouted grain. Sprouted grains are basically whole grains that have started to germinate, which makes nutrients in grains more readily available.

“The germination process has a direct impact on the nutritional attributes of the seed and grain, which means sprouted grain bread may have some unique benefits over traditional whole grain breads,” says Sharon Palmer, MSFS, RDN. “Germination increases the bioavailability of nutrients such as phosphorus, iron, zinc, calcium, manganese, potassium, magnesium, folic acid. It also increases the level of vitamins A and C, amino acids, fiber, and phenolic compounds. Basically, it makes the nutrients easier to digest,” she adds.

Follow This Criteria When Looking for Healthy Bread

Before you run to the grocery store to stock up on sprouted grain bread, keep in mind that the term “sprouted grain” can be used as a marketing tool and isn’t regulated (plus it’s mega-trendy). Here's how to make sure what you're buying is actually nutritious:

  • The first ingredient should be a 100 percent whole-grain flour of any type, not “enriched wheat flour”
  • At least 2 grams of fiber and 3 grams or more of protein per serving
  • Less than 4 grams of sugar
  • Zero grams saturated fat per serving

Still stumped? Look out for products from brands like Angelic Bakehouse, Food for Life Ezekiel 4:9 Original Sprouted Bread, or Silver Hills.