When it comes to foods that protect our heart, most of us probably don’t think of bread as one of the better foods to help keep our blood being pumped around our bodies. But bread can be ‘heart healthy’ provided it is the right type, and by that I mean a bread that contains a lot of whole grains which are naturally high in a range of fibre types, specifically beta glucan, a soluble fibre that helps to lower blood cholesterol levels.*
Bread has had a hard time over the past decade with the various diet fads that advocate little or no grains. The good news is that this trend seems to be slowing down. A recent whole grains consumption study conducted by The Grains and Legumes Nutrition Council, found that 47% of Australians limit grain intake, which is significantly lower than the 60% who were limiting grains back in 2014. Whilst this is positive news, what is concerning is that the study also found that half of Australians still don’t know what a whole grain actually is. And when it comes to bread, with so much choice available across supermarkets, bakeries, delis and speciality grocers, it can be difficult to find the real (whole) grain of truth!
Wholegrain bread contains the entire grain: the bran (outer layer), endosperm (starchy middle layer) and germ (nutrient rich inner part). It’s a rich source of carbohydrates, protein, unsaturated (good) fats, vitamins and minerals, as well as three types of fibre: soluble, insoluble and resistant starch.
One of the challenges with choosing a true whole grain bread, is that in Australia and many other countries, there are no mandatory labelling laws for whole grains (unlike other macro and micronutrients). So, it requires a bit of detective work to get to know your grainy breads. Whether it’s white bread with added fibre, wholemeal bread that looks brown and healthy or a thick seeded load, here are a few tips to help you choose a bread that will keep your heart happy.
- Don’t just rely on your visual cues to see grains in your loaf. Just because a bread has a few seeds dotted through the loaf, doesn’t necessarily mean it is the healthiest choice. Often multigrain bread is made from white flour with minimal added grains
- Wholemeal bread is made from wholegrains that have been milled to a fine texture (which gives it the brown colour). Whilst wholemeal bread generally contains more fibre than white breads, it often has a higher GI (glycemic index) than whole grain breads. This is due to the grains being broken down during processing, which results in glucose being released more quickly into the bloodstream when eaten.
- One of the best ways to choose a bread high in wholegrains is to look for words on pack that state “contain whole grains”. In addition, look for the percentage whole grain in the ingredient list – the higher the number the better.
- To help you choose a true whole grain food, Grains and Legumes Nutrition Council of Australia have produced a list of foods that meet the criteria to make whole grain statements on pack. There are a number of bread products that comply and you can find this list here.
- Breads that are high in the heart-friendly beta glucan include Alpine Heart Fibre and Heart Whole meal, Edwards Organic Barely Oat Sourdough , Bodhi’s Bakehouse Barley Honey and Oats bread and Barley+ wraps. These breads are all made with BARLEYmax®™ flour, which contains approximately 6.4% beta glucan, which helps to reduce serum cholesterol levels and support good heart health.
Our BARLEYmax®™ flour is a non GMO 100% natural whole grain, with about 40% more beta glucan than oats and three times the amount of resistant starch. Our flour has been used in a range of baked products including breads, cakes, muffins and biscuits. If you are interested in incorporating BARLEYmax®™ flour into your product offering, get in touch with us and we can send you some samples and more info.
Heart healthy bread – who knew the humble sandwich could do so much good for your health?
Teri Lichtenstein (APD)
The Healthy Grain Brand Ambassador
* As part of a diet low in saturated fat, 3g of b-glucan each day is required to help lower cholesterol re-absorption.
Intended as general advice only. Consult your health care professional to discuss any specific concerns.