Dr. Thomas Dwan - Is It Bad For You? Approved by Dr. Thomas Dwan

Are Breadcrumbs Bad For You?



Short answer

Breadcrumbs are calorie-dense and often low in essential nutrients, so moderation is key. Whole grain types offer more fiber and can be part of a balanced diet if used sparingly. Commercial varieties may have additives and high sodium, which may pose health concerns. Gluten content is a consideration for those with sensitivities. Homemade versions allow for control over ingredients and can be a healthier choice. Overall, breadcrumbs aren't bad if chosen carefully and consumed in moderate amounts.



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Long answer

Nutritional Content and Caloric Density of Breadcrumbs

When evaluating whether breadcrumbs are bad for you, it's essential to dive into their nutritional content and caloric density. Breadcrumbs are typically made from dry or stale bread that is ground into small particles. The nutritional value can vary widely based on the type of bread used—whole wheat, white, or gluten-free, for instance. Here, we'll explore the general nutritional components and how they might impact your diet.

Calories: Breadcrumbs are relatively calorie-dense due to their low moisture content, meaning that a small volume can carry a significant number of calories. An average serving of 1/4 cup of plain breadcrumbs contains approximately 100-120 calories. This caloric density means that moderation is key, especially for individuals monitoring their energy intake for weight management.

Carbohydrates: Constituting the major part of breadcrumbs, carbohydrates are present in a high amount, around 18-22 grams per 1/4 cup serving. While carbohydrates are a vital energy source, consuming high amounts through processed foods like breadcrumbs may not be the healthiest choice, particularly for those with carbohydrate-sensitive conditions such as diabetes. The fiber content, which is crucial for digestive health, varies significantly with the type of bread used and is typically lower in white breadcrumbs compared to whole wheat alternatives.

Protein: Breadcrumbs provide a modest protein content of 3-4 grams per serving. Though not a significant source, they can contribute to the day's total protein intake.

Fat: The fat content in breadcrumbs is generally low, around 1-2 grams per serving, unless additional fats were used during the manufacture of the bread or in the form of seasoning and additives in flavored varieties.

Vitamins and Minerals: The micronutrient profile in breadcrumbs can include a range of B-vitamins essential for energy metabolism, alongside minerals like iron, which is often added to enriched bread products. However, the content can be minimal, and relying on breadcrumbs as a source for these nutrients isn't advisable.

Nutrient Amount per 1/4 Cup Serving % Daily Value(1)
Calories 100-120 N/A
Carbohydrates 18-22g 6-7%
Fiber <1-2g 2-8%
Sugars <1g <2%
Protein 3-4g 6-8%
Fat 1-2g 1-3%
Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) Varies Varies
Iron Varies Varies

(1) Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

Processed breadcrumbs can also contain additives such as sugars, salt, preservatives, or other flavorings that increase their palatability but may not contribute positively to health if consumed in excess. For those with specific dietary restrictions or allergies, it is vital to check for potential allergens like soy or dairy, sometimes present in breadcrumb products.

In conclusion, while breadcrumbs can add a satisfying crunch and help to bind ingredients in recipes, it's important to consider their caloric density and relatively low nutritional benefit. Opting for whole grain varieties and using them sparingly can help maintain a balanced and nutritious diet.

Presence of Gluten in Breadcrumbs and Sensitivity Concerns

Gluten, a group of proteins found in certain grains like wheat, barley, and rye, plays a crucial role in determining the texture and structure of breadcrumbs. While gluten helps to bind the crumbs together, giving them the desired crispness and firmness, it can also be a source of dietary concerns for many individuals.

One major issue associated with gluten is celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder where ingestion of gluten leads to damage in the small intestine. According to the Celiac Disease Foundation, about 1% of the population worldwide is diagnosed with celiac disease. For those with this condition, consuming gluten-containing breadcrumbs could lead to a range of uncomfortable and harmful symptoms such as diarrhea, bloating, and malabsorption of nutrients.

Another group that needs to be cautious about the presence of gluten in breadcrumbs are people with non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS). The symptoms of NCGS are similar to those of celiac disease but are not accompanied by the autoimmune intestinal damage. Nonetheless, the ingestion of gluten can still cause discomfort and health concerns. It is estimated that up to 6% of the population may be affected by NCGS, as reported by a study in the World Journal of Gastroenterology.

While gluten does not pose an issue for everyone, with the growing awareness of gluten-related disorders, many individuals are choosing to limit or eliminate gluten from their diets for better health outcomes. For consumers without gluten-related disorders, breadcrumbs can be part of a balanced diet. However, they do lack significant nutritional value and are often high in sodium and preservatives, making them less ideal for frequent consumption.

Here is a brief outline of breadcrumb types and their gluten content:

Type of Breadcrumbs Gluten Content
Traditional Breadcrumbs Contains Gluten
Panko (Japanese-style Breadcrumbs) Contains Gluten
Gluten-Free Breadcrumbs Gluten-Free Alternatives Available

For those sensitive to gluten or wishing to avoid it for other reasons, a market exists for gluten-free breadcrumbs made from various alternative grains like rice, corn, and quinoa. It's important that consumers read labels carefully to ensure that the product fits within their dietary requirements.

Furthermore, those without diagnosed gluten sensitivities but experiencing symptoms such as gastrointestinal discomfort or fatigue should consult with a healthcare professional to determine if gluten could be a contributing factor.

Additives and Preservatives in Commercial Breadcrumbs

When evaluating the health impact of consuming commercial breadcrumbs, one cannot overlook the additives and preservatives commonly found within them. These ingredients are often included to enhance flavor, improve texture, and extend shelf life. Let's break down some of the additives and preservatives you might encounter in breadcrumbs and discuss their potential effects on health.

Artificial Preservatives: Many brands use preservatives such as calcium propionate and sodium benzoate to inhibit mold growth and extend shelf life. While deemed safe by regulatory agencies at certain levels, studies suggest that excessive consumption can lead to adverse effects. For instance, calcium propionate has been linked with irritability, restlessness, inattention, and sleep disturbance in some children when consumed in large amounts (Black, 2021; Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health).

High Sodium Content: Sodium is frequently added to breadcrumbs for flavor and preserving qualities. However, a high intake of sodium can lead to increased blood pressure and a higher risk of cardiovascular diseases (American Heart Association). It's important to monitor sodium intake, especially if a person is sensitive to salt or has existing health conditions that require sodium restriction.

Emulsifiers and Thickeners: Ingredients like mono and diglycerides are used to maintain consistency and prevent separation. These are generally recognized as safe by the FDA when used in moderation. However, research has suggested that certain emulsifiers might disrupt gut bacteria and potentially contribute to inflammatory bowel conditions (Chassaing, Van de Wiele, De Bodt, Marzorati, & Gewirtz, 2017; Nature).

Artificial Colors and Flavors: To achieve a golden-brown color or specific taste, some breadcrumbs may contain artificial coloring and flavoring agents. Concerns have been raised about artificial colors increasing hyperactivity in children and the potential long-term impacts of artificial flavors, although more research is necessary to establish definitive connections (Nigg & Holton, 2014; Neurotherapeutics).

Added Sugars: Breadcrumbs can also contain added sugars for a slightly sweet taste. A high intake of added sugars is linked to various health issues like obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease (CDC). It's important to check labels for hidden sugars, especially if managing carbohydrate intake.

In summary, while breadcrumbs are a common ingredient in many dishes, the additives and preservatives in commercial varieties may present health concerns if consumed in excessive quantities. Paying attention to labels and opting for brands with minimal and recognizable ingredients can help mitigate potential health risks associated with these additives.

Homemade vs. Store-bought Breadcrumbs: Health Implications

When considering the health implications of consuming breadcrumbs, it is instrumental to differentiate between homemade and store-bought varieties. The distinction lies not only in the control over ingredients but also in the presence of additional preservatives, sodium, and potential allergens.

Ingredient Control

Homemade breadcrumbs offer the advantage of selecting whole grain bread or bread that meets specific dietary requirements, such as gluten-free or low-sodium options. By contrast, store-bought breadcrumbs can contain refined grains, which are associated with a higher glycemic index and fewer nutrients.

Sodium Content

Store-bought breadcrumbs are often high in sodium, a known contributor to hypertension. A survey of various brands may show sodium content ranging from 400 to 600mg per cup. Homemade breadcrumbs allow for the adjustment of salt content to align with dietary guidelines, which recommend less than 2,300mg of sodium per day.

Additives and Preservatives

The shelf-stable nature of store-bought breadcrumbs necessitates the inclusion of preservatives such as calcium propionate. Experts suggest that some of these additives could have adverse health effects when consumed in large amounts. In contrast, homemade breadcrumbs can be made without any additives, offering a cleaner alternative.

Fats and Oils

Commercial breadcrumbs may contain unhealthy fats, such as partially hydrogenated oils, which are sources of trans fats linked to cardiovascular disease. Homemade breadcrumbs can be prepared using healthier oil options or even without added fats, depending on the preparation method.

Nutrient Retention

Choice of bread for homemade breadcrumbs can drastically affect the nutritional profile. Opting for whole-grain bread retains more fiber, vitamins, and minerals. The International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition highlights the benefit of dietary fiber in maintaining gut health and reducing the risk of chronic disease.

Flavor Enhancers and Allergens

Many store-bought breadcrumbs contain flavorings, such as monosodium glutamate (MSG), which may lead to headaches in sensitive individuals. Additionally, they can possess allergens like dairy, soy, and nuts not present in the chosen bread for homemade versions.

Economic and Environmental Considerations

Beyond health implications, homemade breadcrumbs also have the potential for reducing food waste by utilizing stale bread and may favorably impact the environment and household budgets by avoiding packaged goods.

In conclusion, while the convenience of store-bought breadcrumbs can be appealing, homemade breadcrumbs provide a healthier alternative due to their customizable nature and the absence of added preservatives, excess sodium, unhealthy fats, and potential allergens. For those aiming to uphold dietary quality, homemade breadcrumbs are an advantageous choice, while store-bought options should be selected carefully, and their ingredients scrutinized.

Incorporating Breadcrumbs into a Balanced Diet

Breadcrumbs can be a versatile and convenient item in the kitchen, often used for coating, binding, or as a topping. When considering breadcrumbs as part of a balanced diet, it's important to assess their nutritional content and understand how they fit within an overall healthy eating pattern.

Traditional breadcrumbs are made from processed white bread, which means that they can be high in calories and carbohydrates, while low in essential nutrients like fiber, protein, and certain vitamins and minerals. However, by selecting the right type of breadcrumbs and using them sparingly, they can be included in a balanced diet. Here’s how:

  • Opt for Whole-Wheat Breadcrumbs: Choosing whole-wheat or whole-grain breadcrumbs can provide more fiber, which is beneficial for digestion and can help you feel full longer.
  • Homemade Breadcrumbs: Making your own breadcrumbs from leftover whole-grain bread is a healthier option as you can control the ingredients and avoid additional preservatives and additives often found in commercial brands.
  • Moderate Use: When using breadcrumbs for coating or as a topping, be mindful of the portion size. A small amount can go a long way in adding texture without contributing excessive calories and carbs.
  • Balancing with Nutrient-Dense Foods: Pair breadcrumb-coated foods with vegetables, lean proteins, and healthy fats to create a more nutritionally rounded meal.
  • Alternate Breadcrumb Options: For those looking for lower-carbohydrate or gluten-free options, substitute traditional breadcrumbs with alternatives such as almond meal, crushed flaxseed, or oats.

It's also essential to be aware of how breadcrumbs are employed in cooking. For example, frying breadcrumb-coated foods can significantly increase their fat and calorie content, while baking can be a lighter cooking method that maintains the crunch with less oil.

Expert opinions suggest that while it is not necessary to completely avoid breadcrumbs in a balanced diet, it is advisable to use them judiciously. According to a study published in the Journal of Nutrition, higher whole grain intake is associated with a lower risk of chronic diseases, suggesting that choosing whole-grain breadcrumbs could contribute positively to health outcomes.

In summary, breadcrumbs can be included in a balanced diet when chosen wisely and used in moderation. By selecting healthier varieties and pairing with nutrient-dense foods, breadcrumbs can contribute to the diversity of diet without compromising nutritional goals.

Frequently asked questions

For a low-carb diet, alternatives to traditional breadcrumbs include almond meal, crushed flaxseed, or ground oats. These options provide a similar texture while aligning with low-carbohydrate dietary preferences.

Yes, breadcrumbs can play a role in weight management, but they should be used in moderation due to their caloric density. Opting for whole grain varieties and controlling portion sizes can help avoid excess calorie intake.

Individuals with gluten intolerance can opt for gluten-free breadcrumbs made from alternative grains such as rice, corn, or quinoa. Always read labels to ensure the absence of gluten and prevent cross-contamination.

The best way to include breadcrumbs in a balanced diet is to choose whole-wheat or whole-grain options, make your own to limit additives, use them sparingly, and balance meals with vegetables, lean proteins, and healthy fats.

Ask a question about Breadcrumbs and our team will publish the answer as soon as possible.

Possible short-term side effects

  • increased blood pressure
  • elevated blood glucose levels
  • gastrointestinal discomfort
  • allergic reactions
  • headaches from additives like msg
  • irritability and restlessness (in sensitive populations, particularly from preservatives like calcium propionate)

Possible long-term side effects

  • weight gain
  • cardiovascular diseases from high sodium and trans fats
  • risk of chronic diseases due to low nutrient intake
  • potential disruption of gut flora from emulsifiers
  • nutrient malabsorption, especially in individuals with gluten-related disorders

Ingredients to be aware of


  • source of energy from carbohydrates
  • can be included in a balanced diet when used sparingly
  • homemade versions can offer more fiber and nutrients
  • flexibility in diets with homemade or specific breadcrumb options

Healthier alternatives

  • whole-wheat breadcrumbs
  • homemade breadcrumbs
  • almond meal
  • crushed flaxseed
  • oats
  • baked over fried breadcrumb-coated foods

Our Wellness Pick (what is this?)

Organic Panko Breadcrumbs

  • Large 63-ounce pack
  • Certified Organic
  • Japanese-style texture
  • Non-GMO Project Verified
  • Vegan-friendly
Learn More!

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Diane Saleem
Published on: 01-22-2024

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Diane Saleem
Published on: 01-22-2024

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