Diet & Nutrition, Mind & Body

what’s the best bread for weight loss?


Our dietitian sets the record straight on bread.

If you’re trying to lose weight, chances are, you’ve sworn yourself off bread. Diet after diet has told you it’ll add unwanted kilos to your hips, thighs and backside, so we’ve been conditioned to think bread = bad.

As a dietitian, however, I’ve got other ideas on this humble, carby staple. In my world (read: a world of evidence-based nutrition science), bread isn’t all that bad for you. In fact, bread can be very good for you and even help (yes, help) you in your weight loss endeavours. Here’s why.

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What’s the deal with carbs?

It’s time to forget everything you’ve ever thought about carbohydrates. Why? Carbs are an essential component of a healthy diet. I repeat: essential. They provide your body with the fuel it is wired to use most efficiently and help you to feel energised.

You might be surprised to learn that carbohydrates should actually contribute the vast majority of the calories in your diet – up to 65 per cent, to be precise. That’s based on the raft of top-quality scientific studies that underpin the Australian Dietary Guidelines.

Obviously, however, this isn’t supposed to be carbohydrates from hot chips, ice cream and soft drink. Instead, I’m referring to carbohydrates from core, whole foods like fruit, starchy veg, dairy foods and grains like rice, pasta and, our topic for today: bread.

What’s the healthiest bread?

Bread gets a bad rap thanks to its carb content – but as I’ve just pointed out, it doesn’t exactly deserve it. So, here’s your permission to start thinking of bread as something that can be a part of a healthy, wholesome diet… even if you’re trying to lose weight.

There are, however, two basic ground rules when it comes to bread. They relate to quality and quantity.

In terms of quality, you’re after a dense, wholemeal option with lots of visible grains and seeds. These ‘wholegrain’ breads contain far more gut-loving fibre and good-for-you micronutrients than their fluffy white counterparts. That’s because wholegrain foods contain all three natural, nutrient-packed layers of the grain, while refined grains contain only one, as two are removed during processing.

Another perk of wholegrain bread is it tends to have a lower glycaemic index (GI) than refined options. That’s a good thing, because low-GI foods lead to a gentle rise and fall of your blood sugars, rather than the rapid spike and crash that refined foods provide. This leaves you feeling satisfied for hours after your meal, which is handy when you’re trying to cut calories to whittle your waistline.

Whether you’re into wraps, loaves or rolls, the good news is all bread varieties can be a part of a weight loss diet – but there are some things to keep in mind. While wraps tend to have a health halo, they can be higher in fats and sodium, so it’ll pay to check the label. Similarly, some loaves are extra-large and cut into super thick slices, so you should keep your eye on portion size. Same goes for jumbo rolls, too.

You might’ve noticed the ever-expanding range of low-carb options on supermarket shelves and wondered whether or not they should take up real estate in your shopping trolley.

While they can be a good alternative for some, I don’t think they’re always the best option – so don’t be swayed by clever marketing tricks. Read the nutrition information panel and see how they stack up in comparison to your go-to wholegrain loaf.

And now for the elephant in the room: quantity. How much bread can you actually eat as part of a healthy diet?

Well, adults under the age of 50 are recommended to have six serves of grains a day. As you get a little older, this drops to four for women from the age of 50 and men from the age of 70.

One serve is equivalent to one slice of bread, but before you dive into six slices a day for the rest of your life, remember that variety in your diet is incredibly important.

So, whether or not you’re trying to lose weight, I’d suggest a couple of slices of wholegrain bread each day is perfectly healthy – but the rest of your grain serves should come from a range of other grainy foods like rice, pasta, rolled oats and quinoa.

Melissa Meier is a Sydney-based accredited practising dietitian. You can connect with her on Instagram @honest_nutrition.