To get the biggest health bang for your buck, choose a whole-grain bread over one made from refined grains with added fiber.
Here’s why: Fiber is just one healthy whole-grain component. Whole grains (e.g., wheat, oats, rye) are rich in vitamins and minerals and contain at least as many antioxidants as some fruits and vegetables. These synergistic nutrients come from all three parts of the grain: the bran (its fiber-rich outer coating), germ (the part that sprouts into a new plant) and endosperm (which serves as food for the germ).
Refining grains removes the bran and germ. Even if you add fiber back in—and more of it—you’re still missing the other nutrients that were stripped away in processing. And research shows that when it comes to maintaining a healthy weight, controlling blood sugar and reducing blood cholesterol, whole grains are far more powerful than fiber alone.
Look for bread that’s labeled “whole grain,” then double check that a grain is listed first in the ingredients list. Keep in mind that for wheat, oats, corn, rye and barley, unless the word “whole” precedes the grain name, you can’t be sure that the entire grain is intact. (Brown and wild rice, buckwheat, triticale, bulgur, millet, quinoa and sorghum are also whole grains, even if the word “whole” doesn’t appear on labels.)
Pick a bread that has 0 grams of trans fats and does not include “partially hydrogenated” in the ingredients list.
Some whole-grain products—including many breads—are not high in fiber, and that’s OK. Just strive for at least three servings of whole grains each day and enjoy other fiber-rich foods (fruits, veggies, beans, nuts).