There are dozens of health trends that revolve around bread and practically an entire aisle dedicated to them at the grocery store - but which is the healthiest option? Whole wheat, whole grain, sprouted grain...what’s the difference? The answer relies on what you’re looking for. It is easy to get confused between the different types of grains, and the package labels are often misleading. Whole grains are always better than “white” refined grains because the refining process strips the grains of their fiber and other essential nutrients. So white bread can be easily eliminated from our options, but here’s what you need to know about the others:
Whole grain bread is made by grinding the whole kernels into flour. It provides fiber, protein and naturally-occurring nutrients. Unfortunately, it can be tricky to identify what's legitimately a whole grain product, since food labels can often be misleading.
Whole wheat bread is not much different than whole grain. It is simply a subset of whole grain that only applies to wheat products like bread, cereal, and pasta.
Sprouted grain bread is made from whole grains that have been soaked and left to germinate. They usually contain a variety of grains and legumes such as barley, lentils, oats and millet.
Sprouting grains increase many of the grains' key nutrients, including B vitamins, vitamin C, folate, fiber, and essential amino acids often lacking in grains, such as lysine. Sprouted grains have been suggested to contain a better nutritional profile compared with ungerminated grains. This is due to the fact that the new sprout digests some of the grain's starch, increasing the percentage of other nutrients.
Multigrain bread means that more than one type of grain has been used. Watch out for this one, because that doesn’t necessarily mean that any of them are whole grains. Read the ingredients on multigrain packaging to make sure you’re not just getting a sprinkle of whole grains, but are instead getting a mixture of barley, whole wheat, quinoa, etc.
While the nutritional discrepancies between refined grains and whole grains are significant, the differences between the whole grain categories are not as essential. When it comes to selecting them at the grocery store, read the nutrition label to make sure you’re actually getting what the package claims, and compare their quantity of fiber, protein, and fat to make smart choices!