Bread is a family staple for school lunches, summer picnics, barbecues, and warm weather meals, and is often promoted as the best source for fiber. Although these products can fill up your family’s hungry bellies, they are also full of unhealthy additives and chemicals that you may want to avoid. Just as we did for breakfast cereal and peanut butter, we’ll take a look at some of those ingredients, whether they are truly unhealthy or controversial, and help you make cleaner choices for your family.
Unhealthy Bread Ingredients
For bread to achieve the right flavor and texture and be able to last in your supermarket, manufacturers may add lots of ingredients. In doing so, they sacrifice the nutritional value of their most important ingredient: grain. According to Authority Nutrition, bread is made from grains that are “pulverized into very fine flour.” Because of this, when your child eats this kind bread, he digests it faster and it turns to glucose quickly in his blood stream, spiking his blood sugar. This is why runners bulk up on pasta and bread hours before a race. Even for popular whole grain bread brands, your child is usually getting an extra dose of:
- Bad carbs
- Glutens, which are a problem for a growing number of people and may even cause symptoms in those who do not have Celiac disease.
You may not have a problem with any of these issues but you still should avoid white bread. Real wheat bread is made from flour that contains the most nutritious parts of the wheat berry: bran, germ and endosperm. White bread flour, on the other hand, strips out the bran and the germ, leaving it with less nutritional value. In fact, enriched whole-wheat brands often have little nutritional advantage over white bread and may even contain the same amount of sugar. According to Ask Dr. Sears, “wheat flour” contains 75% white flour. You should be wary of brown bread as well, which may just be white bread with food coloring added.
Unhealthy Ingredients In Bread
Additionally, bread can contain all kinds of unhealthy additives. Here are some that we found in popular brands.
- GMO Enzymes.
According to a report at The Guardian, these additives are used to make loaves bigger and to help them retain their softness for up to weeks after baking. One of these enzymes – transglutaminase – may be even toxic to some consumers. Also called “meat glue,” this additive is “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS) by the FDA when the, however, some studies have shown it be a toxin for those with Celiac disease or food sensitivities.
- Poor Yeast Exposure.
Today’s processing often reduces the amount of time dough is allowed to ferment, which may prevent the “natural bacteria” in the yeast from destroying harmful bacteria in the dough. This can reduce nutrient absorption and play havoc with your gut.
A recent study published in Nature showed that emulsifiers can “change the composition of bacteria in the gut.” This can lead to obesity and irritable bowel syndrome. Emulsifiers include: mono- and diglycerides, DATEM, and GMO soy lecithin. In addition, mono- and diglycerides can contain trans fats. DATEM is another GRAS product that has linked to “heart muscle fibrosis and adrenal overgrowth” in a past study.
This dough conditioner is banned in Europe because it is associated with respiratory issues, including asthma and allergies. Even Subway foods removed it from their products, so why won’t conventional bread manufacturers do the same?
- Potassium Bromate.
This is an endocrine disruptor that can negatively impact your thyroid and is a suspected carcinogen. While I didn’t find this in the bread products I researched, you should be aware of its existence and look out for the ingredient “dough conditioner” if it is not further clarified. This additive is also banned in the UK, Europe, Canada, China and several other counties.
- Calcium Propionate.
This additive is commonly used and considered safe here in the U.S., while it is banned in Europe. A 2002 study in the “Journal of Pediatric Child Health” linked this chemical to behavioral changes in children.
- High Fructose Corn Syrup.
Many breads contain added GMO corn syrup, so their sugar content can be very high. Mark Hyman, M.D., claims that this additive contributes to heart disease, obesity, cancer, liver failure, tooth decay and more even in small doses. Some corn syrup may even contain toxic levels of mercury, depending on the manufacturing process.
- Citric Acid.
This is not only a hidden GMO ingredient, it also may be a hidden source of MSG, a neurotoxin that is linked to brain tumours, diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease, brain damage, learning disorders and behavioral problems.
Wheat crops are heavily treated with pesticides and herbicides, so it’s likely that you are getting an unhealthy dose of glyphosate and GMOs with every slice of non-organic bread you eat. This dangerous chemical is an endocrine disruptor, causes birth defects and tumors, kills healthy gut bacteria, and is linked to autism, cancer an other illnesses. Read all about the dangers of glyphosate and RoundUp in your family’s food.
- Calcium Peroxide.
There’s not much information on this additive, but it is listed on Whole Food Market’s “Unacceptable Ingredients” list. This Australian food additives document also lists it as an item to beware of if you have asthma or allergies. Associated with “bleached flour,” we know it reduces the nutrient content of the bread.
- Ammonium Sulfate and Monocalcium Phosphate.
Both contain high amounts of nitrogen to benefit the yeast. Although this is not necessarily toxic, high amounts of nitrogen are not beneficial to your health.
- Artificial Food Coloring.
As with some brown breads, potato breads also get an unhealthy dose of Yellow Dye No. 5 & No. 6. Despite being approved by the FDA, studies link them to ADHD in children. Yellow dye also may contain PCB11, a substance banned in high doses by our own Toxic Substances Control Act. Dyes are prevalent in many processed foods – learn what other foods your child should avoid.
Brands to Avoid
The following conventional brands contain these additives:
- Great Value Wheat:
Dough conditioners (monoglycerides, ethoxylated mono & diglycerides, azodicarbonamide, calcium peroxide), yeast nutrients (calcium sulfate, monocalcium phosphate, ammonium sulfate), DATEM, soy lecithin, high fructose corn syrup, calcium propionate, monocalcium phosphate, citric acid.
- Wonder Bread:
Dough conditioners (mono and diglycerides, DATEM, monocalcium phosphate), yeast nutrients (ammonium sulfate and/or ammonium chloride), calcium sulfate, tricalcium phosphate, soy lecithin, high fructose corn syrup, calcium propionate.
- Martins Enriched Potato Sandwich Bread*:
Dough conditioners (mono and diglycerides), calcium propionate, monocalcium phosphate, DATEM, enzymes.
- Sunbeam Enriched White Bread*:
Dough conditioners (monoglycerides, calcium peroxide, DATEM), yeast food (ammonium sulfate), calcium sulfate, calcium propionate, monocalcium phosphate.
- Arnolds 100% Whole Wheat:
Monoglycerides, calcium propionate, DATEM, calcium sulfate, soy lecithin.
- Bunny Bread:
Dough conditioners (mono and diglycerides, calcium peroxide, DATEM, enzymes), yeast nutrients (calcium sulfate, monocalcium phosphate, ammonium sulfate), calcium propionate, corn syrup, soy lecithin.
- Holsum White Bread:
Yeast nutrients (calcium sulfate, monocalcium phosphate, ammonium sulfate), monoglycerides, azodicarbonamide, calcium propionate, calcium peroxide, high fructose corn syrup, citric acid, propionic acid, high levels of salt.
The Healthiest Bread Choices
While you may not agree with all these dangers of bread ingredients, the truth is you can choose cleaner, more nutritious bread options for your family – without all the questionable additives. Better bread choices include healthier grains, organic and Non-GMO products, sprouted and ancient grains, and products that avoid added sugar. These are Mamavation’s top 6 healthiest sliced bread options:
- Ezekiel/Food for Life: Offering a large selection of sprouted grain bread products, many of Food for Life’s items are also gluten free. Delicious – and you’ll never know the difference with their English muffins!
- Silver Hills Sprouted Bakery: USDA Organic, Non-GMO Project Verified, and vegan, Silver Hills also offers a variety sprouted and ancient grain options, as well as gluten free items.
- Rudi’s Bakery: Organic and Non-GMO regular and gluten-free bread options, this is our bread of choice for my kids’ extensive food sensitivities – and they love it.
- Dave’s Killer Bread: Organic and Non-GMO whole grain and seeded breads that look amazing!
- Manna Organics: They offer Vegan, USDA Organic and Kosher bread options, including a gluten free sampler!
- Canyon Bakehouse: This gluten free bakery is now appearing in many local supermarkets. They are gluten, nut, soy and dairy free and, while not entirely organic, they do integrate ingredients that are, such organic agave syrup.
Even if we are gluten free, most of us don’t need to eliminate bread from our lives completely. With smart choices, we can select healthier, fiber-rich breads to send in to school with our kids, for our next picnic or barbeque or to dunk in our soup. The choice is ours for a healthier tomorrow.
*Ingredients found on Fooducate.com.
Disclosure: Bookieboo LLC has worked with numerous brands in the natural space, including Rudi’s Bakery.