how to choose a nutritious loaf of bread

A good bread is a brilliant, convenient source of fibre, vitamin B1 (thiamin), folate and energy.

Which is the best bread, health-wise, to eat?

Not many people have spare time to make their own bread so which commercial loaf is best to buy?

Sourdough, rye, wholemeal, multi grain, gluten-free, mixed seed, low GI, spelt, yeast-free, high fibre white, ancient grains, omega-3s, or added vitamins? A wide range of breads to choose from makes it seem daunting but with my 3-step guide the decision becomes simple.

Once you have found a nutritious loaf that tastes great, automatically reach for it when shopping. There’s no need to spend time decision-making each time you shop.

foodtalk's home baked sourdough bread

This easy three-step guide is for bread used for sandwiches and toast. It will help you choose a healthier bread. Here’s how to do it: 

    1. Look for wholemeal or whole grain as key words in the bread’s name. This is a good start but don’t rule out your favourite bread just because it doesn’t include those words.

    2. Check the first couple of ingredients in the ingredient list. Look for the words ‘whole … flour’. For example, whole wheat flour and whole rye grain flour rather than wheat flour or rye flour. No whole flours present? The bread is not looking good but keep going to step 3 to see if the manufacturer has cleverly boosted the fibre enough to meet step.

    3. Check the fibre content. Turn to the nutrition panel. Look for 5 or more grams of fibre or more in the 100 g column. The higher the fibre the better especially if you tend not to eat much bread each day.


How does your usual bread shape up? Pull it out to check it straight away.

tips, traps and tricks in bread choice

  • Multi-grain and mixed grain bread may not be an ideal choice because it is often just grains and seeds added to white bread made mainly with ‘wheat flour’, not ‘whole wheat flour’. You don't need to eat a grainy seedy bread to maxkimise your nutrition.


  • Smooth wholemeal breads are often better than white loaves with mixed grains scattered through. You don’t have to see seeds and grains to get a healthy bread.  If you like the texture of a seedy grainy bread, choose a loaf labelled both wholemeal and wholegrain. This style of bread contains more fibre. Fibre is important for bowel health and helps with poo regularity and consistency. In other words, enough of the right fibre helps sort out both constipation and diarrhoea.


  • Dark rye bread is not as rich in rye as you might imagine. Wheat flour is a dominant ingredient in many light and dark rye breads. Make sure your rye bread lists ‘whole grain rye’ as a main ingredient. Pumpernickel is a wholegrain rye bread. The lightness or darkness of a rye bread does not reveal whether it is a high quality bread or not.


  • Sourdough bread. Commercially made sourdough doesn’t automatically mean healthier for you. It is often made with white flour and very little rye or other whole grain flours. Commercial sourdough is usually a disappointment. Rather than developing the true sourdough fermented flavour through a very slow rise, commercial bakers often add sourdough flavour, vinegar or citric acid to ‘sour’ the dough.


  • Yeast-free bread is not really yeast-free because flours contain a variety of natural yeasts. Yeast-free bread is simply free of commercial baker’s yeast. Real sourdough bread may claim to be yeast-free but the starter or ‘leaven’ used contains wild natural yeasts.


  • Commercial bread flour is enriched with folic acid (folate) and thiamin. If you bake bread at home, choose flour labelled baker’s flour, bread flour or bread mix. It not only is higher in protein to make a better loaf but is also enriched with folic acid and thiamin. Choose a grain or wholemeal bread flour to maximise the nutrition.


  • Bread freezes well. Just because your partner or the kids won’t eat wholemeal wholegrain doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice your health. If your household doesn’t like the healthiest choice, freeze your loaf to keep it fresh for toasting and sandwiches.


  • Gluten-free (GF) breads are more challenging to choose. Most important is that no gluten containing grains are present. You are unlikely to find a high fibre GF bread because of the nature of gluten-free starches and flours used. Fibre is added in the form of seeds, kibbled soy and psyllium husk. Look for at least 4 g fibre per 100 g in gluten-free breads.


  • Spelt bread is not gluten-free.


Different guidelines apply for wrap breads. I have reviewed them here at find out how to choose wrap bread.


If you are on a special therapeutic medical diet, check with your dietitian before you apply these guidelines.