No matter a muffin, bagel, or pizza crust, bread instills fear in the hearts of dieters everywhere. Bread is sometimes known as the culprit for unwanted weight gain, but does it really do the damage we think?

The answer is both yes and no. Bread is a starchy food that is calorically dense. Refined grains, such as white bread, pretzels, and bagels are carbohydrates that are low in fiber and not very filling. This combination causes sharp spikes in blood sugar, which are tied to the development of diabetes. Although refined carbs give you a spike in energy, this energy is not sustainable, making it easy to consume large amounts and gain weight, while not feeling satisfied.

Unlike refined grains, whole grain breads can be incorporated into a well-balanced diet and may support weight loss. Whole grains are fibrous carbohydrates, which do not cause sharp spikes in blood sugar and are digested more slowly. Whole grains contain more vitamins, minerals, and fiber, and as a result, are more nutritious and filling. Whole grains include wheat, rye, barley, quinoa, millet, teff, wild rice, oats, buckwheat, and amaranth, to name a few. Those on a 2,000-kcal diet should eat about six ounces of grains a day (AHA). Be careful though, just one bagel (whole wheat or refined) can be half of your recommended daily intake alone, so choose your grains wisely!

In summary, when it comes to bread, fear not! Portion control and ingredients are key to making your grains count.

Rules of the Rye:

  • Make at least half of your grains whole
  • Buy bread with at least 2 grams of fiber
  • Choose a bread with no more than 110 calories/serving
  • Cut unnecessary sugar by selecting a loaf with less than 4 grams of sugar per serving
  • Find a bread with 3+ grams of protein for a more filling effect
  • Aim for bread with zero grams of saturated fat

Sources: American Heart Association, WebMD, Whole Grains Council, LifeWork Strategies EAP, and Adventist HealthCare. The Health Tip of the Week is for educational purposes only. For medical advice, consult your physician. Feel free to copy and distribute this health resource.