Supermarket and bakery bread review

Modern bread processing methods have completely changed the way our daily loaf is made.
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06.Choosing the right bread

Wholemeal and wholegrain flour retains more nutritional value than “wheat flour” (white flour) because white flour loses protein, vitamins and minerals when the bran and germ are stripped away, leaving only the endosperm. Still nutritionist Rosemary Stanton says that as Australian wheat is high in nutrients, white flour still retains significant quantities of nutrients and just under half the fibre of wholemeal.

The words wholemeal and wholegrain are often used interchangeably and while wholemeal is often perceived as a healthier choice, when very finely ground it can give bread a high glycaemic index (GI).

Pre 2005, wholegrain food was defined by FSANZ as “unmilled products of a single cereal or mixture of cereals”. However, as a result of petitioning from the cereal processing industry, the definition was changed to a food that uses every part of the grain. This means grains can be processed and separated into three constituent parts (bran, germ and endosperm) but a food can still be classified as wholegrain as long as the three parts are added back into the food in the same proportions as the original unmilled grain.

Multigrain breads usually have white flour with added whole grains, which slow digestion and lower the GI, resulting in a lower GI than for wholemeal loaves.

High-fibre bread has three grams of fibre per serve, or five grams per 100g. White bread labelled “high fibre” often contains Hi-maize, a corn-based, resistant starch that passes undigested into the small intestine, where it can encourage the growth of beneficial bacteria.

Sourdough is traditionally made using a “starter”, where wheat and water ferment to create a culture that gives the sour taste. This requires specific temperatures to survive so commercial bakeries often replace it with dried powdered yeast, which adds colour and smell as well as the sour taste but is not considered authentic by connoisseurs. There is no regulation defining sourdough, so the only way to know if it is authentic is to ask the baker.

What about salt?

High sodium levels may help extend shelf life, but they also concern health authorities. In 2010, large commercial breadmakers agreed to a target of 400mg of sodium per 100g by the end of 2013. Many sliced packaged breads we saw have already achieved that target, although Bakers Delight white breads still have 501mg per 100g and Brumby's white loaf has 477mg. Be aware that four slices of bread at 400mg a pop adds up to 1600mg of sodium - that’s more than 70% of the daily upper level of intake recommended by the National Health and Research Council.

Choice verdict

Look for bread where wholemeal flour is the chief ingredient but there is also a high percentage of whole or kibbled grains and visible seeds. Also, it should have less than 400mg of sodium per 100g of bread. 


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