Is Bread Bad for Your Heart? The Healthiest Breads You Can Eat

Is bread evil? It really depends. You probably don’t want to eat half your body weight in Olive Garden breadsticks too often if you’re watching your weight. I mean, you might WANT to, but you shouldn’t.

Some types of bread are definitely questionable, depending on how they’re made, what gets added to them, and what you eat them with. But that doesn’t mean all bread has to be totally off-limits — especially if you have health concerns such as high blood pressure. There are even healthy alternatives for people who can’t or don’t want to consume gluten.

Here’s why some bread isn’t worth the carbs or calories, and what you can use at home instead to make the perfect sandwich, pizza, or French toast.

Is bread bad for you?

Fresh bread

Fresh bread | VikkiePix/iStock/Getty Images

Bread has carbs and it has calories, like many other plant-based foods you can find at the grocery store. Does that mean it’s a “bad” food?

It depends on what kind of bread you’re talking about.

Many prefer white bread, for example, for its texture and taste. But it’s actually the worst bread you can eat in terms of nutritional value (or lack thereof). Refined bread like this has its most nutritious parts removed, making their calories basically useless compared to bread made with whole grains.

The “value” of your bread also depends on what it’s made with. Those bagels you get from your local bakery sweetened with cinnamon and smothered in multiple layers of cream cheese aren’t that great for you either. Just because it’s fresh doesn’t mean it’s always made with healthy ingredients or add-ons.

You can also usually get away with eating “sweet” bread and related products for breakfast even though they much more closely resemble dessert.

Bread made with whole grains = good. Highly processed bread (e.g., white bread) that adds calories and sugar but not much else = not so good.

You also have to be careful with bread if you have Type 2 diabetes, for example. Following a high-carb diet, regardless of where it comes from, usually doesn’t help you stay at safe blood sugar levels.

Not all carbs cause heart disease

So why is bread made with whole grains better than bread made without them (refined grains)?

It’s more fibrous, providing added benefits to your digestive system. Even though bread is naturally high in carbohydrates (carbs), in whole grain bread, a lot of those carbs come from fiber. Eating a high-fiber food will slow the rate at which your body absorbs the sugar in it, which can help keep blood sugar levels stable.

It’s also higher in protein, an important nutrient for many biological functions — including weight control.

Grains are good. They actually lower our risk of heart disease and other chronic health conditions. You just have to be extremely mindful of where those grains are coming from, how they are made, and the other foods you are eating alongside them.

To be clear, there are technically better grains than bread. Any type of processing is still processing, and you’re not going to get as many nutritional benefits from a slice of whole grain bread as you would from a cup of oats or whole grain rice.

But not all bread is bad. There may even be ways you can consume it in a healthy way.

Does healthy bread exist?

Freshly baked bread

Freshly baked bread | iStock.com/Photology1971

Yes!

You want to stay away from white bread or bread labeled with terms such as “multigrain.” They sound healthy, but there’s no guarantee they contain a large percentage of whole grains. Healthy bread does exist — and it generally looks like this:

  • Ezekiel bread (made from sprouted whole grains, no added sugar)
  • Flaxseed bread
  • Bread made from barley and rye (wheat-free, still not gluten-free)
  • Homemade bread, which will naturally contain less sugar or other additives — especially if you use whole wheat flour istead of white flour.

You can also buy bread made from oats, rice, and other whole grains. Just make sure you read any food labels or ask about other ingredients to make sure there isn’t too much added or refined sugar. Labels can be misleading.

If you can’t tolerate bread — you’re allergic or intolerant to gluten, you have a wheat allergy — or you just don’t want it, you can technically live without it. You can replace any nutrition you might get from bread by eating rice, for example, or by sticking with other plant-based foods for your fiber, vitamins, and other minerals.