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Reading the bread crumbs.

White bread, as we know it today, is at risk of becoming a niche market" the vice-president of marketing for ConAgra Mills recently told

We wish. While demand for white bread fell by 20 percent between 2005 and 2010, it still has 35 percent of the sliced-bread market. Whole grains are at 21 percent, and a grab-bag "other"category is at 44 percent.

Fresh-bread sales slid nearly 5 percent in the past year--the steepest decline ever. But bread still holds center stage on many breakfast plates and in many lunch bags. Here's how to pick the best ones.


1. Whole grain. Why bother squinting at ingredient lists to see if whole-grain claims are honest? To play it safe, stick with "100% whole grain" or "100% whole wheat."

That's your guarantee that the bread has no refined white flour A (which is typically called "enriched wheat flour," "unbleached wheat flour," or just "wheat flour" in the ingredient list).

Breads with the words "whole grain" (but not with "100%") in their name usually contain little or no refined flour. If some appears way down on the ingredient list (near the yeast or salt), don't worry. (Exceptions: Arnold, Brownberry, and Oroweat Whole Grains are often a mix of whole and refined grain. Check the label.)

Ignore all other whole-grain claims. "Made with whole grain," "12 grain," "multigrain," "wheat," "good source of whole grain," and "8 grams whole grain" are usually code for "not much whole grain" (see p. 14).

2. Serving size. Most breads list calories and other Nutrition Facts for one slice. So make sure you double the numbers if you're making a sandwich.

3. Calories. Like our bellies, bread slices have grown. Many now hit 11/.3 to 11/3 ounces, which means that just the bread for your sandwich can set you back 250 calories. Solution: shoot for breads that have no more than 100 calories per slice. And for a real calorie bargain, try a light bread with around 50 calories per slice. Arnold, Sara Lee, Natural Ovens, Fiber One, Nature's Own, Wonder, and Weight Watchers sell 100% whole-grain lower-calorie loaves. They're airy and they typically lack the seeds, nuts, or grain kernels that can give bread an interesting texture. But they sure can slash the calories in your sandwich.

And they sure beat old-fashioned low-cal breads like Pepperidge Farm Very Thin 100% Whole Wheat. Its 40-calorie slices are only about the size of two business cards.

Bonus: two slices of some whole-grain light breads

--Weight Watchers, Sara Lee 45 Calories & Delightful, and Fiber One 50 Calories, for example--have around 6 grams of protein in each 80- or 100-calorie serving. If you're looking for protein, that's a deal.

4. Sodium. Bread doesn't taste salty, but a single slice typically has about 220 milligrams of sodium. Why blow 30 per cent of your day's sodium on two slices when some brands use less and taste great?

Pepperidge Farm has cut the sodium by a quarter in 80 percent of its breads. And whole-grain breads by Natural Ovens (mostly sold online, but also available in some stores in the Upper Midwest), Fiber One, and Nature's Pride are in the same ballpark. Bravo!

The whole-grain breads from all four companies meet the National Salt Reduction Initiative's target of 100 mg of sodium per ounce by 2014. Our Best Bites have no more than 120 mg--and our Honorable Mentions stop at 150 mg--per slice (see chart on p. 15).

If you're watching every milligram, and if you live near a Trader Joe's, the company's Sodium Free Whole Wheat Bread is a real find. It's bland when eaten unadorned, but it would do any sandwich proud.

That's what to look for. Turn the page to find out what to ignore.


The Grain Came

Take these two claims with a grain of salt:

* Grams Whole Grain. "8g or more per serving," say the Arnold, Brownberry, and Oroweat Healthfull bread labels. So what? Grains make up about half the weight of bread, so a typical 1 oz. (28-gram) slice should have around 14 grams of whole grain. A one-slice serving of the Healthfull breads (38 grams) should have 19 grams. Why bother with all that math? Just look for "100% whole grain" on the label instead.

* Multigrain. Who cares how many grains are in your bread? They could all be refined. Or not.

Pepperidge Farm Farmhouse 12 Grain and Light Style 7 Grain, for example, are mostly white flour. And Fiber One Multigrain has hardly any whole grain. But Roman Meal Multigrain, Sara Lee Hearty & Delicious 12 Grain, Sara Lee 45 Calories & Delightful 100% Multi-Grain. Fiber One 50 Calories Multigrain, and Weight Watchers Multi-Grain are nearly all whole grain.

How can you tell which are which? Check the ingredient list.

Fiber Frenzy

"Twice the fiber of 100% whole wheat," boasts Nature's Own Double Fiber Wheat. Arnold Whole Grains Double Fiber and Brownberry and Oroweat Grains & More Double Fiber say pretty much the same. Yawn.

Most "double fiber" breads--and most "lights" and many regulars--add highly processed fibers like inulin (chicory root), wheat fiber, cellulose fiber, polydextrose, soy fiber, modified wheat starch, and oat fiber. They won't hurt you, but they may not improve your regularity or lower your risk of heart disease or diabetes like the intact fiber in whole grain or bran can.

Our advice: Ignore "fiber" claims. If you want more fiber than you'd get in a 100% whole-grain bread (typically 2 or 3 grams per slice), switch your cereal to Kellogg's All-Bran Original, which has 10 grams of (naturally occurring) fiber in a half-cup serving.


"Heart Healthy;' says the red heart on Nature's Own Specialty 100% Whole Wheat bread. "While many factors affect heart disease, diets low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of this disease."

Translation: Any food that's low in total fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol and that has no more than 480 milligrams of sodium per serving can make that health claim. That includes white, whole wheat, or any other bread. The criteria for the Am erican Heart As sociation's Heart-Check mark are pretty much the same. Ho hum.

O, Really?

"Omega-3 DHA/EPA," says the front label of Nature's Own Double Fiber Wheat bread. Yup. Bakers are now adding fish oil to bread.

But they're not adding much. Each slice of Nature's Own, for example, has 15 milligrams of EPA and 10 mg of DHA. That's what you'd get from less than a teaspoon of salmon.

At least Nature's Own gets its omega3s from fish. Others Arnold and Oroweat Healthfull Flax & Fiber, Nature's Pride Hearty Wheat With Flax, Natural Ovens Organic Whole Grain & Flax, and Pepperidge Farm Whole Grain Ancient Grains--hinge their omega-3 claims on ALA from flaxseed. But the evidence that ALA prevents heart disease is weaker than the evidence for EPA and DHA.

Toot Sweet.

"No High Fructose Corn Syrup" brag Arnold, Brownberry, and Oroweat Whole Grains Health Nut breads, which use sugar and molasses instead. News flash: Those two are no healthier than high-fructose corn syrup. Neither is raisin juice concentrate or honey.

It's not clear why bakers are making breads sweeter. Some--like Nature's Pride 100% Whole Wheat or Sara Lee Hearty & Delicious Oat with 100% Whole Grain-have 4 or S grams of added sugar per slice. (Most breads have just 1 to 3 qrams.)

Arnold, Pepperidge Farm, and Sara Lee now add sucralose to their light breads. Arnold, Brownberry, and Oroweat add stevia extract to their Healthfull line. The low-cal sweeteners are probably safe, but be warned: some would call Sara Lee's 45 Calories & Delightful 100% Whole Wheat With Honey flavor too sweet.

How to Lose

"Grains aid in weight management," says Nature's Own Specialty 12 Grain and Specialty Honey Wheat. "If you're trying to slim down, studies show that adding whole grains can help to maintain a healthier body weight."

People who eat more whole grains do tend to weigh less. But did whole grains make them thinner, or were they more healthconscious to begin with? No one knows.

"Fiber and protein to help satisfy your hunger," claim the Arnold, Brownberry, and Oroweat Healthfull breads Web site. It's not clear that more protein and processed fiber make you feel more "full." (Get it?) And the Healthfull breads aren't even 100% whole grain.

Looking to lose? Pick up a Best Bite bread with around 50 calories a slice. Ignore everything else.
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Title Annotation:BRAND-NAME RATING
Author:Hurley, Jayne; Liebman, Bonnie
Publication:Nutrition Action Healthletter
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 1, 2012
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