Whole-Wheat vs. Whole-Grain Bread

What's better for your family? The lowdown on whole-grain bread


 

When it comes to buying bread, whole wheat and whole grain sound similar but are actually quite different, and Canadian flour labelling laws make things complicated, too. Here’s the lowdown:

Whole-Wheat Bread

Whole-wheat bread is bread that’s made with whole-wheat flour. In the process of making whole-wheat flour, manufacturers often remove the germ and bran from the wheat kernels in order to prolong the flour’s shelf stability and prevent it from going rancid. But here’s the catch: in Canada, our food regulations say that up to 5% of the kernel can be removed, but the flour can still be labelled “whole wheat”. So, bread made from this flour can be labelled “100% whole wheat” but it technically isn’t.

Even though it’s not whole-grain bread, whole-wheat bread has more fibre than white bread. White flour sold in Canada has to be enriched with iron and other nutrients that the wheat is stripped of to make it white!

When you’re shopping, look for “100% whole-wheat flour” in the ingredient list, not just “wheat flour”. Or buy freshly milled wheat from the farmer’s market or other local vendor, and make your loaves. Nothing beats the smell (not to mention taste) of freshly baked bread!

Whole-Grain Bread

Wheat is a grain, along with barley, rye, corn, oats, and many others. Breads made from flours containing milled grains that have had no part of their kernel removed can be considered “whole grain”. Whole-grain breads are typically a good source of fibre and are low in fat, and have essential nutrients like manganese and selenium.

When you’re looking for a whole-grain bread, check to see that “whole grain” appears next to the name of the grain in the ingredient list. If other non-whole grain flours appear in the ingredients, the amount of whole grains you’ll be getting in a slice of bread may be minimal. And terms like “multigrain” or “8-grain” don’t mean the same thing – just that more than one grain has been used.

For an extra boost of nutrition, buy or make your own bread made with sprouted wheat or other grains. This traditional method of preparation makes the nutrients found in grains more easily absorbed, and for many people, better digested.

Whether you choose whole-wheat or whole-grain bread, either is a good step away from refined grains and a step towards foods in their natural state!

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