Bread, tortillas, wraps & bagels are a family staple for school lunches, summer picnics, barbecues, and warm weather meals. With so many options, there are limitless possibilities of meals that can be made. Although these products can fill up your family’s hungry bellies, they can also be full of unhealthy additives and chemicals that you may want to avoid. So which are the best brands to purchase? You’ve trusted Mamavation to bring you topics like breakfast cereal, peanut butter, and chips & salsa, now we’ll take a look at some of the ingredients inside bread, tortilla, wraps & bagel brands and which brands we recommend.
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links to Amazon and was fact-checked by Rebecca Elizabeth Sherrick Harks, Registered Nurse.
Giant Food Companies Trade Shelf Life for Unhealthy 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 you eat this kind bread, you digest it faster and it turns to glucose quickly in your bloodstream, spiking blood sugar. This is why runners bulk up on pasta and bread hours before a race. Even for popular whole-grain bread brands, you usually getting an extra dose of the following:
- Empty carbohydrates
- Gluten, which is a problem for a growing number of people and may even cause symptoms in those who do not have Celiac disease.
White Bread vs. Whole Grain Bread and the Fakers
Let’s get one thing out of the way first–You want to mostly consume whole grain 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.
This gets crazier when brands try to market themselves as healthier but are not. 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.
There are also differences between the whole wheat bread to be aware of:
- Whole Grain Bread: Whole grains contain the entire grain kernel together, including the bran, germ and endosperm. This is more of the complete package with all the nutrients intact.
- Whole Wheat Bread: This is refined grains that have been milled and the brand and germ removed from the hull. They end up having a finer texture and longer shelf life. But this process also means it has less removes fiber, iron, and B vitamins.
Acrylamide is a Serious Carcinogen in the Bakery Aisle
We don’t think about it very often, but there is a carcinogen that follows you around if you eat bread, especially processed bread you would get in a bakery. Everyone is exposed to this chemical because it’s also in coffee and fried potatoes. The good news is there are ways of keeping this carcinogen from getting too high in foods we are cooking. There’s also some rules of thumb for consumers who are purchasing food set up by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) in their manual. According to the FDA, you can get between 21-60 parts per billion per day. Obviously, Mamavation would recommend less than what the FDA recommends.
- Allow yeast fermentation and the time it takes to naturally proceed
- Lower the temperature when you bake and bake for longer times
- Lower the baking temperature at the end during final stages when moisture levels are low
- Lower the amount of sugar content you bake with
- Lower the amount of salt you bake with
- Avoid ingredients like calcium propionate
- Do not cook in a convection oven
- Infrared radiation and impingement reduce levels of acrylamide
- Avoid darker colors in baked goods because they will have more acrylamide
- Adding amino acids like cysteine or glycine
Acrylamide in the Bakery & Cereal Aisle
Years ago, the Federal Drug Administration published studies done on acrylamide in the grocery store aisle. They were trying to ascertain how much Americans were consuming. Here are some of those results.
- 36 ppb for un-toasted Pepperidge Farm white bread
- 216 for toasted Pepperidge Farm white bread
- 266 for Cheerios
- 497 for McDonald’s French fries (the highest tested out of 7 locations)
- 768 for Burger King hash browns
- 1,265 for Kettle potato chips, lightly salted variety
- 1,540 for Health Valley oat bran graham crackers
- 1,970 for Trader Joe’s veggie chips potato snacks
- 2,510 for Pringles BBQ flavor
- 4,080 for Blue Mesa Grill sweet potato chips
Unhealthy Ingredients In The Bakery Aisle
Additionally, bread can contain all kinds of unhealthy additives. Here are some that we found in popular brands.
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 the rest of 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. It’s also important to note that the presence of this ingredient may bring up the amount of acrylamide according to the FDA.
- High Fructose Corn Syrup.
Many breads contain added corn syrup made from genetically modified (GMO) corn crops. The content of sugar is very high. Some experts claim 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 ingredient could be genetically modified (GMO) because it may be made from corn and may also be a hidden source of MSG. This chemical can also be a neurotoxin that is linked to brain tumors, diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease, brain damage, learning disorders, and behavioral problems depending on the sourcing.
Wheat crops are heavily treated with pesticides and herbicides, so it’s likely that you are getting an unhealthy dose of glyphosate with every slice of non-organic bread you eat. This dangerous chemical is an endocrine disruptor, is linked to birth defects and tumors, kills healthy gut bacteria, and several other cancers 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.
- Genetically Modified (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 – maybe even toxic to some consumers. Also called “meat glue,” this additive is “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS) by the FDA, 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.
Do Organic Brands Add Vitamins to Bread & Cereals?
Organic brands typically do not add vitamins to their bread and cereals like conventional brands do. The reason for this is most of those vitamins are synthetic and are not allowable in organic standards. Our recommendation is if you decide to go with the organic bread brands like we are going to recommend, you should also start taking supplements to ensure you are getting enough vitamins in your body.
Over the years, pollution and chemically intensive farming practices have stripped the soil from nutrients. In fact, today the food we eat is far less nutritious than what our grandparents ate. This is why we recommend supplementation with clean and healthy supplement brands. Our favorite is Megafood Vitamins because not only are they organic and supported by small family farmers, but they also have the “Glyphosate Residue-Free” certification from The Detox Project proving they have no glyphosate present. (Under 10ppb which is the level they can accurately test for presently.)
Here are some of my favorite options:
- Megafood multivitamins for women over 40
- Megafood multivitamins for women under 40
- Megafood non-constipating Iron supplement
- Megafood multivitamin gummies for children (brand new!!)
- Megafood multivitamins for children (table form, not gummies)
Mamavation’s Investigation of Breads, Bagels, Tortillas, Wraps & Lavash
Mamavation investigated over 100+ products in the bakery aisle to bring you more information about which brands we would anticipate to have the least amount of problematic ingredients. We’ve separated this into bad, better & best brands for your convenience and shopping needs.
Bad Brands to Avoid
The following conventional brands contain these some of the ingredients listed above that are problematic to health.
- Arnolds 100% Whole Wheat
- Boboli Italian Pizza Crust
- BreadMartins Enriched Potato Sandwich Bread
- Bunny Bread
- Contadina Bread Crumbs Three Cheese
- Great Value Wheat
- Heiner’s Old Fashioned Enriched Bread
- Holsum White Bread
- Home Pride Wheat Bread Buttertop
- Joseph’s Lavash Bread TopFlax, Oat Bran & Whole Wheat Square
- La Banderita Corn Tortillas
- La Banderita Flour Tortillas
- La Tortilla Factory Non-Gmo Handmade-Style Tortillas, Yellow Corn and Wheat Tortillas
- L’oven Fresh White Bread: Aldi’s
- Mission Tortillas Fajita Flour Tortillas
- Mrs Baird’s Buttered Split-Top Wheat Bread
- Ole Xtreme Wellness High Fiber Low Carb Wraps
- Ortega Whole Wheat Tortillas
- Pepperidge Farm Dark Pump Pumpernickel
- Pepperidge Farm Natural Whole Grain Whole Wheat
- Pepperidge Farm 7 Grain Bread
- Pepperidge Farm Hearty White Bread
- Pepperidge Farm Original White Bread
- Rainbo Roundup White Bread
- Safeway Kitchens 100% Whole Wheat Bread
- Sara Lee Honey Wheat Bread
- Sara Lee Plain Mini Bagels
- Sara Lee Artesano™ Bakery Bread
- Sunbeam Enriched White Bread*:
- Wonder Bread
The Better Brands
These brands do not have the additives and preservatives the bad brands do, but they are not organic so may have higher rates of glyphosate residue within.
- Angelic Bakehouse Wheat Bread
- Berlin Natural Bakery Whole Grain Spelt Bread
- Canyon Bakehouse
- Genius Triple Seeded Farmhouse Loaf
- Great Seed
- Grindstone Gluten-Free Sprouted Seeds Quinoa/Millet Loaf
- Guerrero White Corn Tortillas
- Happy Campers Gluten-Free Classy Slice
- Heidelberg Baking Company Multigrain Bread
- La Tortilla Factory NON-GMO Handmade Style Tortillas
- Maria & Ricardos Whole Wheat Plus Tortillas
- Nature’s Own Honey Wheat Bread
- Nature’s Promise Ancient 12 Grains Bread
- Rudi’s Bakery (non-organic options)
- San Luis Sourdough Deli Bread
- Siete Tortillas Cassava Tortillas
- Smart Flour Foods; Ancient-Grain Pizza Crusts
- Trader Joe’s Sprouted Wheat Sourdough Bread
- Udi’s VDelicious Soft White Sandwich Bread
- Whole Foods Sourdough Sandwich Bread
The Best Brands
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 healthiest bread options.
- Alpine Valley Multi Grain with Omega-3
- Dave’s Killer Bread
- Ezekiel/Food for Life
- Food For Life Sesame Sprouted Whole Grain Bread
- Great Baking Organic Multigrain Quinoa Bread
- Kroger’s Simple Truth Organic™ 100% Whole Wheat Bread
- La Fey Tortilleria Organic Corn Tortillas Yellow Corn and Wheat
- Manna Organics Multigrain Bread
- Mi Rancho Organic Corn Tortillas
- Mission Organic Flour Tortillas
- One Degree Organic Foods Sesame Sunflower Bread
- Oroweat Rustic White
- Primavera Tortillas Organic Tortillas
- Rudi’s Bakery Organics Honey Sweet Whole Wheat Bread (organic only)
- Silver Hills Sprouted Bakery Organic Soft Wheat
- Stacey’s Organic Whole Wheat Flour Tortillas
- Three Sisters Nixtamal Blue Corn Tortillas
- Vermont Bread Organic Multigrain
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.