Today we'll find out, what is the healthiest bread you can find in Australia? We’ll take a look at several popular bread varieties and compare their health benefits to find the healthiest option on the market.
The information presented in this article is based on the professional experience of a commercial and artisan baker who spent over a decade in the industry, and later became a personal trainer. This will also be supported by research and other expert opinions.
So, let’s dive into it! Starting from the bread variety with the least, and moving down to the most, health benefits.
7. Traditional Bread: The Most Popular, Quick, and Easy Snacks
Price: $1.70 - $5.00
This is probably the bread you’re most familiar with; think of traditional white bread. It’s a staple in many pantries across the world.
Most people choose traditional bread because it fits well within their comfort zone, they have had it since childhood. It is fluffy, tasty, cheap, and widely available.
In terms of its nutritional complexity, traditional bread may have a long list of unfamiliar ingredients. Have you ever looked at the ingredient label of your bread? It is not just flour, water, yeast, and salt like it used to be years ago. These days it’s much more than that…
Extra amounts of wheat gluten are usually added during bread making to make bread fluffier.
Over the past years agricultural industry has invented chemical and genetic technologies to make wheat resistant to pests, drought and blight and easier to harvest, dramatically increasing yield per acre. And, while they were tweaking genetics, they also figured out how to increase gluten for better “baking properties” (fluffier results). And we wonder why more people become gluten and wheat intolerant...
Ancient wheat varieties such as Spelt and Kamut (Khorasan), especially if they are organic, are better alternatives. Although most healthy adults can tolerate gluten, those with digestive issues may prefer a gluten-free diet. In fact, approximately half of patients suffering from irritable bowel syndrome see their symptoms improve with a gluten-free diet. (Source: Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute)
Although this type of bread offers minimal fibre, we often consume so much of it that it acts as our primary source of dietary fibre. Traditional bread may also be a source of trace amounts of iron, calcium, and phosphorus, but this is overshadowed by its carbohydrate content (Source: USDA).
Your body needs carbs to survive, but a surplus of carbs have been linked to illnesses like heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. As it has such a low nutritional value, yet makes up a large portion of our diet, bread often leads to nutritional deficits that need to be fulfilled by eating other more nutritious foods.
- Widely available in groceries, shops, and cafes, making it easily accessible to all consumers.
- An affordable option at any income level.
- A long history with a strong cultural presence.
- A versatile food that can be incorporated into many dishes.
- Has a low nutritional value.
- Processed food.
- Contains allergens such as gluten, which may also be added during bread making to make bread fluffier. Gluten may affect those with irritable bowel syndrome, celiac disease, and gluten intolerance.
- May contain preservatives, artificial additives.
- Contains yeast
- A relatively short shelf-life, which makes storage and long-term usage difficult.
6. Sourdough Bread: Low Gluten Foods
Price: $5.00 - $11.00
One of the oldest varieties of bread, sourdough was made as early as ancient Egypt. Making sourdough is a fascinating process using just water and flour. These two ingredients are mixed, then left at room temperature so the wild yeast in the atmosphere and grain will process it further.
After a few days, fermentation begins, and the starter can then be mixed into dough. However, the term ‘sourdough’ is not protected, and many commercial sellers inaccurately use it. As with any artisan craft, your milage will also vary depending on the baker, as no two starters are the same.
If you want to ensure you’re purchasing authentic sourdough, look at the ingredients. If anything, other than flour or seeds, water, and salt, are used, it’s not authentic sourdough! Just take a look at this ingredient list:
The microorganisms present in the starter are much better at making the nutrients in the grain more accessible to your body. Sourdough often has substantial amounts of nutrients such as selenium, folate, and thiamine, while also breaking down difficult to digest molecules like gluten. (Source: Healthline).
Although most sourdough bread are gluten containing foods, it is possible to make sourdough bread gluten free. This can be done by making your own gluten free starter or purchasing sourdough bread made from gluten free grains. However, this is often more expensive and harder to find.
- Healthier than traditional bread, with more easily accessible nutrients.
- Affordable to many, with a medium price point.
- Not a protected term, so frequently mislabelled. Customers are often misled by this, and purchase products labelled as ‘sourdough’ that are in fact traditional bread at a higher price.
- Inconsistent quality, taste, and nutrient content, across bakers and brands.
- May contain added gluten, which is used to improve structure, with no indication given especially when sold without packaging.
- May contain additives, preservatives, and other allergens
- Real sourdough is not widely available and difficult to find.
- A relatively short shelf-life, which makes storage and long-term usage difficult.
5. Gluten-Free Bread: Staying Free of Gluten
Price: $5.00 - $12.00
Although various gluten-free breads have been around for a while, their popularity in recent years is owed to research on gluten and its effects on digestion. Although most healthy adults can consume gluten, gluten is linked to problems in the digestive tract. (Source: Johns Hopkins Medicine)
The main difference between gluten-free bread and traditional bread is the type of flour used. While some gluten-free breads may act as a substitute for traditional bread, others are wholly unique.
The variety found in this category often leads to issues in assessing the quality of gluten-free breads, as different flours have different nutrient compositions. Here’s an ingredient list that is common for gluten free bread:
However, it is important to be conscious of the fact that gluten-free bread does not necessarily mean healthy bread.
Many gluten-free breads are higher in starches, fat, sugar, and salt, which are added to improve the taste or texture, while being lower in fibre and other trace nutrients. (Source: The New York Times) These are the nutrients found in typical gluten free bread:
Gluten free options have become so easy to find, that you can usually find a gluten free bakery near you, if you live in a medium to large city. It’s also one of the easiest options to include in your diet, with many accessible gluten free recipes available on the internet.
- Gluten-free, and therefore easier on the digestive tract for people with irritable bowel syndrome or gluten sensitivity.
- Depending on the flour used, it may have more nutrients than traditional bread.
- Relatively high in fat, sugar, and salt, as well as overall calorie content.
- Contains substantial starch, which are simple sugars.
- May contain additives, preservatives and questionable gluten substitutes.
- Does not contain wholegrains, or very little amounts.
- Often contain yeast.
- A substantially shorter shelf-life, which makes storage and long-term usage difficult.
4. Paleo Bread: Foods High in Fibre
Price: $12.00 - $16.95
The paleo diet is designed to mimic the diet of the Palaeolithic Era, hence it’s nickname, the ‘caveman’ diet. You may even benefit from its emphasis on nutrient rich foods, and reduction in highly processed foods. Although there aren’t any officially classified paleo breads, there are several recipes for common bread alternatives that paleo dieters enjoy.
Along with eliminating over processed foods, the paleo diet focuses on veggies and protein while cutting out grains and legumes. Many paleo breads happen to also fit into the gluten-free category, but if you're sticking to the ideals of the paleo diet, you'll definitely need to look for the most nutrient dense options. Not all paleo breads are the same. In fact, they are very different when it comes to the ingredient list.
One of the healthiest types of bread, paleo bread is rich in many nutrients, such as Vitamin C and Vitamin B6, it’s also among foods high in fibre. Benefits of paleo bread, as well as the paleo diet as a whole, may include improved blood sugar levels, and improved blood pressure. (Source: the Mayo Clinic). Here are the nutrients often found in a most common paleo bread:
Note, that most paleo breads are higher in calories per slice than other breads. Moderation is the key, definitely pay attention to portion control.
- Grain-free, known to reduce inflammation and improve blood sugar levels, among other benefits.
- Gluten-free, making it easier to digest and gentler on those with irritable bowel syndrome and other digestive issues.
- High in fibre.
- Some varieties may be high in nutritional value.
- Not an affordable option.
- May feel dense and heavy after eating.
- High in calories and fat content, may lead to weigh gain if no portion control.
- May contain yeast.
- Difficult to find in shops.
- May contain allergens, such as nuts and seeds, as well as additives such as vegetable gums and starches.
- Short shelf-life, so it’s often kept frozen.
3. Keto Bread: Low Carb Bread
Price: $13.95 - $16.95
If you’re familiar with the keto diet, you’re probably surprised there’s a bread that can pass its strict requirements. This diet entails high fat, moderate protein, and low carbohydrate consumption. As many breads are high in carbohydrates, finding a bread to suit this diet has proved difficult.
Whether you’re on the keto diet or not, there’s no arguing against the cultural movement towards higher protein and lower carb meals. In fact, bakeries around the world have found that consumers are rapidly moving towards keto friendly breads. (Source: Baking Business)
However, keto bread is also some of the most expensive bread you will find, they might be very dense and not well palatable. They are also very high in calories and fat content and may include the unhealthy trans-fat.
Keto foods are known to not only reduce your appetite but speed up fat burning as well. (Source: Healthline). Aside from protein, keto breads also hold nutritional value elsewhere as well:
Another important health concern for many is controlling their blood sugar levels. Foods with higher protein content and lower carbs also contribute to more manageable insulin production. Keto diets have been shown to be a great option for those who are diabetic or pre-diabetic. (Source: American Diabetes Association)
In Australia, it may also be difficult to find commercially available keto bread, so you may be stuck trying to find artisan bakers or trying your hand at making it yourself.
- Its low carb status comes with many health benefits, including weight loss, blood sugar management, and blood pressure management.
- Keto diets were originally used to reduce epilepsy in children and have shown promise in improving overall brain health.
- Growing in popularity and becoming more available commercially, although it is still quite difficult to find on a shop shelf.
- The most expensive option on this list, it is likely not a sustainable addition to your pantry.
- The highest in calories and fat content, may include the unhealthy trans-fat.
- Often denser and may be unpalatable to some.
- May contain allergens, such as nuts and seeds, as well as additives such as vegetable gums.
- Contains yeast.
2. Sprouted Bread: Healthier than Wholemeal Bread
Price: $10.00 - $14.95
Sprouted bread, also known as Ezekiel bread, is bread made from whole grains that were allowed to sprout before being milled. Sprouted bread has been in use all over the world for countless years. As you would expect, the ingredients of this bread are quite simple:
In terms of nutrients, sprouted bread contains more nutrients than any other breads mentioned above. A single slice of sprouted bread contains substantial amounts of protein, fibre, and folate, as well as vitamins like vitamin C. This is an example of the nutrients you can expect from sprouted bread:
Where it differs from other breads is its nutritional absorption, as sprouted grains offer their nutrients in a form that is more easily digested and absorbed. Sprouting also increases the overall content of fibre, folate, and a host of other nutrients.
As sprouting plants begin to break down their starch and other nutrient stores for use, they also begin producing antioxidants and enzymes. With this information, sprouted bread bakers bake their bread at a lower temperature to ensure these helpful enzymes remain intact. (Source: Healthline)
The texture of the bread is somewhat denser and crumblier and its very filling. However, sprouted bread does generally have less gluten that other breads. So, although it might be a gluten containing food, it is also a low gluten food. As the bread is also a niche product, it is difficult to find in regular stores, so you may have to look in health food stores that may be pricier.
- Nutritious, with many easily accessible nutrients for your body.
- Higher in enzymes and antioxidants, further improving digestibility.
- Palatable taste and texture.
- Most varieties contains gluten, although in lesser quantities than whole grain and traditional bread.
- Difficult to find in stores, although progressively becoming more popular and accessible.
- An expensive option, it is likely not a sustainable addition to your pantry.
- Some may find it too dense and heavy.
1. Crispbread: The Best Bread Alternative
Price: $3.50 - $12.95
And finally, very popular bread alternative available today is crispbread. Loved for their affordability and long shelf-life, they have now become very popular.
However, as with many of the breads we’ve discussed on this list, crispbread comes in several varieties. Your experience with them will change depending on the type of crispbread you select, both in their palatability and the health benefits you can expect. This is the list of common crispbread varieties:
Rice Cakes are primarily used for weight loss because of their filling effect, but they are wholly underwhelming when nutrients are considered. Not suitable for people who follow grain-free and paleo diets.
Seeded Crispbread offer a higher nutritional value, but they also carry unwanted elements. Seeded crackers may be baked or dehydrated. Dehydrated crackers are the healthier option comparing to baked ones. They are usually very thin and don't hold toppings well.
Wheat Crackers contain gluten, may contain yeast and multiple additives. Those accustomed to other breads may also have trouble preparing crisp bread, which may struggle to hold toppings.
Buckwheat Bread Alternative is packed with nutrients, gluten free, grain free and low in calories. These buckwheat cakes have a pleasant nutty toasty flavour and can hold toppings well, don't crumble, and yet are very light and crispy.
Crispbread is also often used as a healthy to substitute for breadcrumbs, as well as bread. Most crispbread boast considerable quantities of core nutrients, such as fibre, iron, and potassium, as well as trace nutrients like selenium, thiamine, and riboflavin. (Source: USDA)
Buckwheat, Gluten Free and Nutrient Packed!
If you don’t have much experience with buckwheat, you may ask yourself ‘is buckwheat good for you?’ In fact, buckwheat has been proven to be one of the healthiest seeds available, full of the nutritious vitamins and minerals you need.
Buckwheat Cakes come in several varieties that are versatile and palatable, easily being integrated into your diet and daily meals.
In fact, buckwheat is known for being considerably higher in nutrients than many other grains. (Source: Healthline). These gluten-free, wholegrain crispbreads are also yeast-free and a source of fibre. This means they may be great for weight loss and help improve your digestive health, blood sugar levels, and blood pressure management.
- Packed with nutrients and easy on your digestive system.
- Easily paired with toppings and spreads, crispbread can be seamlessly integrated into your diet.
- Buckwheat is gluten free.
- Buckwheat is not a grain, its a seed and suitable for people on a paleo diet.
- Low sodium content.
- Low in calories, can assist with weight loss.
- Free from additives, preservatives and allergens.
- Made from wholesome ingredients.
- An affordable, convenient and widely available option.
- Long shelf life. Can keep in your pantry for months.
- You might run out of them too fast, because everyone loves them.
So, what is the Healthiest Bread?
Having gone through this entire list, it’s clear that every bread has its advantages and disadvantages. It all comes down to what you need. For example, if you have a very active lifestyle, a high calorie bread would be fine, while if you have a more sedentary lifestyle, you may need a low calorie snack option.
Whatever you decide, you need to carefully balance the pros and cons of each bread, and the convenience, nutritional value, and price point that suits your lifestyle best. If you have any health conditions it is best to consult with your doctor. Try out different options and see what works best for your body. You can likely eat any one of these breads, as long as you eat with discretion.