What Whole Wheat Really Means

Whole wheat, multigrain, 12-grain, "Made with whole grains" — there are many labels you can put on bread to make it sound healthy. What really counts when it comes to buying better bread? Fewer ingredients, key labels and basic weight maths.

Image via treehouse1977.

Marion Nestle, author of the San Francisco Chronicle's Food Matters column, does a great job making common sense of the myriad labels and marketing blather on bread:

To decide whether these have anything in them worth eating beyond their calories, you must inspect labels to make sure the first ingredient is whole grain, the total number of ingredients is small and devoid of unpronounceable chemicals, the fibre content is at least 2 grams per 1-ounce serving and the label says 100 percent whole wheat. Anything less is reconstituted white bread with occasional pieces of the original grain added back.

Nestle explains the basics of what makes bread whole wheat as opposed to just white, then offers up a simple, if not exactly easy, method of comparing apples to apples in terms of wheat content:

Food labelling rules do not make it easy to figure out fibre content. Some white breads list 1 gram of fibre, but watch out for serving size. It takes two slices to reach half a gram, which can be rounded up to 1.

Whole wheat bread with 2 grams of fibre per 1-ounce slice may have four times as much fibre as white breads. But watch out for breads listing 3 grams fiber; their slices may weigh nearly 2 ounces.

The whole column is a kind of revelation for this Lifehacker editor, who has been known to just stare at the 45 different breads on display at the supermarket, then just grab the Italian and admit defeat.

Whole wheat, but not the whole story [SFGate]


    Very interesting; Marion Nestle is actually speaking at a conference my employer is holding this weekend!


    Great to see Lifehacker is aware of her expertise as well!

    Does anyone else see the irony that an advocate of safe and sustainable food is called "Nestle"?

      Yeah I was about to mention that too, considering Nestle are probably ... No they ARE the worst food organisation in the world. See you in hell Nestle! (company not person)

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