If you’re going to indulge in white bread, make sure you’re choosing a healthier option. Dietitian Bobbie Crothers shows you what to look for.
There’s a few key things to keep in mind when you’re shopping for a white bread:
Most white bread is made from refined grains. Refining the grain means stripping the bran and germ from the grain, resulting in a product that has significantly less fibre and micronutrients than wholegrain breads. To improve the nutritional content of white bread, many manufacturers are now opting to put fibre back in, either from vegetable sources, oats, soy or corn (often called Hi-Maize – see below).
Choosing a white bread with added fibre is a good choice, or alternatively, look for a white bread that has added wholegrains (yes, they do exist!) – a great choice that keeps the kids none-the-wiser!
What is Hi-Maize?
Hi-Maize is a food ingredient high in resistant starch, which is a type of fibre that resists digestion in the small intestine. It’s a natural product that comes from a variety of maize (corn) developed and grown in Australia. Adding it to foods such as white bread helps increase the fibre, without affecting taste, texture or appearance. Studies have also shown resistant starch plays a role in maintaining healthy bowel function.
Hi-Maize is also a prebiotic, which promotes good bacteria in our intestines, and it lowers the glycaemic index (GI) of the foods it’s added to.
Most breads are made with some added salt, so they’re generally not low in sodium. (Salt isn’t added just for flavour – it plays a ‘technical’ role in baking, by having an impact on how the bread rises.) However, since October 2009, Australian bread manufacturers must use iodised salt in their products. This adds iodine to bread, an essential nutrient that many Australians may be lacking.
As bread is a staple in most Australian diets, manufacturers are also adding other nutrients to help us meet our dietary recommendations. This is great news for fussy kids who won’t venture past the white stuff for more nutrient-dense, wholegrain breads. These fortifications include:
Omega-3: Long chain (DHA) omega-3s have several health benefits, especially in relation to brain and heart health. Look for breads with at least 60mg omega-3 per serve (2 slices).
Iron: Iron is necessary to help transport oxygen around the body and for energy production. Bread can have up to 3mg iron added per serve.
B vitamins: Many white breads have added B vitamins, such as B1, B3 and B6, which help with energy production. Look for breads that contain at least 25 per cent of the recommended dietary intake (RDI) of these vitamins.
Nowadays, there’s a lot more choice when it comes to glutenfree breads. Some of the common flours used as alternatives to wheat flour in gluten-free breads include rice flour, tapioca flour, potato flour and almond meal. All of these flours can be good choices, but keep in mind that the wheat flour produced in Australia for making bread is required to have folic acid (vitamin B9) added – gluten-free flours are not. As a result, most gluten-free breads don’t have added folic acid, so if you eat gluten-free bread, it’s important you include lots of vegies and legumes in your diet to get the necessary folic acid.