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First things first: there are no bad breads. Whole wheat or white, rye or pumpernickel, oatmeal or seven-grain; they all give you a nice shot of complex carbohydrates, which any self-respecting health authority will tell you to eat more of.

And if you eat bread instead of meat and other fatty animal foods, you duplicate, at least in part, the diets of populations that have a lower risk of colon cancer.

But not all breads are leavened equal. Some have more vitamins, minerals, and fiber than others. Some merely have more creative names.

These days, it's tough to tell what's what. It seems like everything is "whole" this or "multi-grain" that. And if it hasn't been "stone ground," it's probably been "cracked."

Some of the breads with the good-sounding names are not-so-good, and some with ho-hum names are terrific.

Here's how to separate the whole wheat from the chaff:

1. Don't buy the name. They all sound terrific, and you'll only get confused.

Roman Meal Light Whole Grain Sourdough sounds like a good whole grain bread. Too good, as it turns out. It's made from mostly white flour. Oh, it contains a little whole wheat flour--way down there on the ingredient list, right below the corn syrup and the yeast.

According to Food and Drug Administration regulations, all the flour in a bread that calls itself "whole wheat" has to be just that. There is no such rule for "whole grain."

Then there's Arnold Natural 12 Grain Bread. Twelve grains, Wow. It must be overflowing with fiber. Only if "overflowing" means mostly white flour and just two grams of fiber in two slices--a touch more than white bread. The same goes for Family Recipe Stone Ground Wheat and Pepperidge Farm Old Fashioned Oatmeal.

And if you're looking for whole grains, a lousy place to start is your local "upscale" bakery. Names like "Country," "Rustic," "Sourdough," and "Multi-Grain" may command $3.00 a loaf or more. But odds are they're made using mostly white flour. At least that's what we found when we checked a few Washington-area bakeries. (They did taste delicious, though more than a touch salty.)

2. What's the first ingredient? It should be "whole wheat" flour or "whole grain" flour. Not "wheat" flour, not "unbleached wheat" flour, not "unbleached enriched wheat" flour--they've all had their germ and their bran stripped away.

They're still complex carbohydrates, but their '"wholeness" is gone. Out with the germ and the bran went most of their vitamins (the Bs, E, and folic and pantothenic acid), minerals (chromium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, and zinc), and fiber.

Many manufacturers "enrich" their denuded flour by adding back a few B-vitamins and iron. Thanks a lot.

By the way, this "whole"-in-the-first-ingredient rule also applies to other flour-based products like crackers, waffles, and pancakes.

3. How much fiber does it have? Bread can really help you put a dent in the 20 to 30 grams of fiber the National Cancer Institute says we should eat every day (from fruits and vegetables as well as grains).

Two slices of most whole wheats contain four grams of flber. That's about three times as much as you'll get from the same amount of white bread.

But if it's just fiber you're after, check out breads like Arnold Brannolas. They up the fiber ante to six grams by making their slices bigger and by adding (to their mostly-refinedflour breads) everything from oats and wheat bran to flaxseed and pea fiber.

In fact, pumping up white bread is how most of the higher-fiber breads in our chart's "Mixed Grains" category got that way.

Just remember: refined flour plus a little bran, whole grain, guar gum, etc., thrown in doesn't pack the same vitamin and mineral punch of all whole grain. And it may--or may not--help reduce the risk of colon cancer.

4. Watch the sodium. You won't be able to do much more than watch, though.

Two slices of most breads contain between 250 and 350 milligrams of sodium. A few have less than 200, and ryes and pumpernickels can go as high as 450 mg. But that's about it.

While that's nothing cornpared to the 1,000 mg you'd get in a cup of canned soup, the milligrams can add up. A half-dozen slices of most breads can eat up more than half your daily sodium allowance. In fact, white bread is the biggest source of sodium in the average American's diet (partly because we eat so much of the stuff).

5. Don't worry about the fat. Bet you thought you'd never hear us say that.

Fat's just not an issue with bread, other than a few Arnold Brannolas and the odd Pepperidge Farm. Two slices of most breads range from less than half a gram of fat to two or three grams.

The information for this article was compiled by CSPI interns Elaine Chu and Maxine Anderson. TABULAR DATA OMITTED
COPYRIGHT 1992 Center for Science in the Public Interest
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:nutritional aspects
Author:Schmidt, Stephen
Publication:Nutrition Action Healthletter
Date:Oct 1, 1992
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