Dr. Robert Cook - Is It Bad For You? Approved by Dr. Robert Cook

Is Homemade Bread Bad For You?



Short answer

Homemade bread can be a nutritious part of your diet, especially when made with whole grain flour, moderate salt, and healthy add-ins. It allows control over ingredients, avoiding the additives and preservatives common in store-bought bread. Proper ingredient selection can lead to bread with more fiber, vitamins, and a lower glycemic index, beneficial for blood sugar management, digestive health, and satiety. For gluten-sensitive individuals, using gluten-free flours and preventing cross-contamination is key. Overall, homemade bread crafted with mindful choices can contribute positively to a balanced diet.



Long answer

Nutritional Value of Homemade Bread Ingredients

The quality and nutritional value of homemade bread largely depend on the ingredients you select. Traditionally, bread consists of flour, water, salt, and yeast. However, when baking at home, you have the advantage of incorporating a variety of ingredients to enhance the nutritional profile of your bread. Let's break down the common ingredients used in homemade bread and their nutritional contributions:

  • Whole Grain Flour: Using whole grain flour instead of refined white flour increases the fiber, vitamins, and mineral content of your bread. Whole grains include the bran (fiber-rich outer layer), germ (nutrient-packed core), and endosperm (starchy middle layer). This combination contributes to better digestive health and may help in managing blood sugar levels.
  • Refined Flour: On the other hand, refined flours are stripped of the bran and germ, therefore losing much of their dietary fiber, iron, and B vitamins. While bread made from refined flour can have a softer texture, it offers less in terms of nutritional benefits.
  • Yeast: Yeast is essential for bread fermentation. This process not only helps the bread to rise but also adds small amounts of certain B vitamins (like B1, B2, B3 and B9) and minerals due to the activity of the yeast.
  • Salt: While often viewed negatively due to its association with high blood pressure, salt plays an essential role in bread making by controlling yeast fermentation and enhancing flavor. The key is to use it in moderation to avoid excessive sodium intake.
  • Water: Water activates the yeast and helps to form the bread dough. It doesn’t add nutritional value per se, but it's essential for the texture and structure of the bread.
  • Add-ins: Here’s where homemade bread can outshine store-bought varieties. You can add a plethora of nutritious ingredients such as seeds (flaxseed, chia seeds, sunflower seeds), nuts, oats, dried fruits, or even vegetables (such as grated zucchini or carrots) to enhance the fiber, vitamin, and mineral content.

Each ingredient contributes in its way, and the proportions can be altered to meet dietary requirements and taste preferences. For those with gluten sensitivities or celiac disease, alternative flours like almond, coconut, or buckwheat offer a gluten-free option without sacrificing nutrition.

It's worth noting that the nutrient composition of your homemade bread will vary based on the flour used. Here is a comparison of the nutritional content in one cup of different types of flour:

Flour Type Calories Protein (g) Fiber (g) Iron (mg) Calcium (mg)
Whole Wheat Flour 407 16 15 3.6 40
All-Purpose White Flour 455 12.9 3.4 2.7 17
Almond Flour 640 24 12 5.6 240
Buckwheat Flour 402 15 12 4.0 41

While the above information provides general guidance, personalizing bread recipes according to specific dietary needs is one of the great benefits of making bread at home. Whether your goal is to increase your intake of whole grains, reduce simple sugars or avoid additives present in many commercial bread, the control is in your hands. Keep in mind that the fermentation process of dough can also impact the final nutritional content, as it may reduce phytate levels, which makes minerals more bioavailable.

Ultimately, homemade bread can be a nutritious addition to your diet when made with mindful selections concerning ingredients. It affords the baker control over what goes into the bread, allowing for a healthier and potentially more satisfying outcome.

Whole Grains vs. Refined Flours: Health Impact

Understanding the difference between whole grains and refined flours is crucial when assessing the health impact of consuming homemade bread. Whole grains contain all three parts of the grain kernel: the bran, germ, and endosperm. This composition ensures that whole grains provide a host of nutrients, including fiber, vitamins, and minerals that are often lost during the refining process.

Refined flours, on the other hand, are made by processing whole grains to remove the bran and germ, leaving mostly the starchy endosperm. While this gives bread made with refined flour a softer texture and longer shelf life, it strips away significant nutritional value. To counteract this loss, some refined flours are enriched with added vitamins and minerals, but enrichment does not replicate the complete nutritional profile of whole grains.

The health impact of whole grains versus refined flours has been well-documented in scientific literature:

  • Fiber Content: Whole grains are high in dietary fiber, which can help in maintaining a healthy digestive system. A diet rich in fiber has been associated with a lower risk of developing chronic diseases such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain cancers. For instance, a study published in the JAMA Internal Medicine found a strong inverse association between whole grain intake and mortality, particularly regarding cardiovascular disease.
  • Glycemic Response: Whole grains have a lower glycemic index compared to refined flours, meaning they cause a slower, steadier increase in blood sugar levels. According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, diets consisting of low-glycemic index foods, like those provided by whole grains, can improve blood glucose control in people with diabetes.
  • Nutrient Density: The presence of bran and germ in whole grains ensures a higher content of nutrients such as B vitamins, iron, magnesium, selenium, and antioxidants. A refined grain lacks these nutrients unless they are added back in through fortification.
  • Inflammation: Some studies suggest that whole grains have anti-inflammatory properties, while refined grains may contribute to inflammation. A systematic review in the Journal of Nutrition supports the role of whole grains in reducing inflammation markers.
  • Weight Management: Consuming whole grains can contribute to better weight management. The fiber in whole grains helps create a feeling of fullness, potentially leading to reduced calorie intake. The Nutrition Reviews journal outlined that higher whole grain intake is associated with lower body mass index (BMI) and reduced risk of obesity.

In summary, the type of flour used in homemade bread significantly impacts its nutritional value and health effects. Choosing whole grain flour over refined flour can lead to improved fiber intake, better glycemic control, higher nutrient density, reduced inflammation, and support for weight management. However, the benefits of whole grains can be affected by other ingredients added to homemade bread, which should also be taken into consideration.

Additives and Preservatives in Store-Bought Bread vs. Homemade

When considering the health implications of bread, one must make a clear distinction between store-bought and homemade varieties. Store-bought bread often includes several additives and preservatives to extend its shelf life, enhance texture, and improve taste. On the other hand, homemade bread usually contains a simpler, more natural ingredient list that many health-conscious consumers find appealing. Let's break this down to understand better what goes into each type of bread and what implications these ingredients may have on health.

Additives in Store-Bought Bread

  • Emulsifiers: Ingredients like mono and diglycerides are used to give bread a uniform texture. Studies like one published in the journal ‘Toxicology Reports’ have raised concerns about the potential health risks of emulsifiers, linking them to gut inflammation and the alteration of gut microbiota.
  • Preservatives: Calcium propionate and sodium benzoate are common preservatives in commercial bread to prevent mold growth. Research has suggested potential links between such preservatives and increased risk of allergic reactions and behavior changes, particularly in children, as discussed in studies from the ‘Journal of Pediatric Allergy and Immunology’.
  • Dough Conditioners: Ingredients like azodicarbonamide (ADA), which is used in some commercial breads as a conditioner, have come under scrutiny for their possible role as respiratory irritants, with some health professionals calling for its exclusion from food products.
  • Artificial Flavors and Colors: These are added to some breads to make them more appealing, but these additives have been implicated in various health issues, triggering reactions like hyperactivity in sensitive individuals, as indicated in research published in ‘The Lancet’.

Homemade Bread Simplicity

  • Ingredients in homemade bread typically include flour, water, salt, and yeast. There is complete transparency in what you are consuming because you are in control of the ingredients used.
  • Homemade bread lacks chemical preservatives, meaning its shelf life is shorter, but this also means you're avoiding potentially harmful substances.
  • By baking bread at home, you can also opt for healthier flour choices, such as whole grain or gluten-free options, further tailoring the bread to your dietary requirements.

While the ease of grabbing a loaf of bread from the store can't be overstated, the potential health downsides of the myriad additives and preservatives found in many commercial bread products could be a cause for concern. In contrast, homemade bread allows for a cleaner diet, where the baker has the power to select wholesome, unprocessed ingredients and avoid unwanted synthetic additives.

It's important to note that not all store-bought breads are created equal; some brands focus on clean labeling and minimal ingredients, striving to offer products closer in quality to home-baked bread. Consumers can look for bread with recognizable ingredients and free from unnecessary additives, but they should remain aware of the potential implications of the additives present in many commercial breads.

Ultimately, the choice between store-bought and homemade bread can significantly impact your intake of additives and preservatives. By preparing bread at home, consumers can enjoy the peace of mind that comes with knowing exactly what's in their food, possibly avoiding the negative health effects associated with certain commercial bread ingredients.

Glycemic Index of Homemade Bread and Blood Sugar Response

Understanding the glycemic index (GI) of homemade bread is crucial to evaluating its impact on blood sugar levels. The glycemic index is a scale that ranks carbohydrate-containing foods by how much they raise blood glucose levels compared to pure glucose (which has a GI of 100).

Homemade bread can vary widely in GI, depending on the ingredients used:

  • Whole grain bread: Typically has a lower GI, meaning it causes a slower rise in blood sugar levels. This is because whole grains have more fiber, which slows the digestion of carbohydrates.
  • White bread: Made from refined flour, it usually has a higher GI and can lead to quicker spikes in blood sugar levels.
  • Bread with seeds and nuts: The addition of seeds and nuts can lower the GI as these ingredients contain healthy fats and proteins that can help slow the absorption of sugar.

The exact GI of homemade bread can be influenced by:

  • The type of flour used (whole wheat, white, spelt, rye, etc.)
  • The presence of sourdough culture which can lower the GI due to organic acids produced during fermentation.
  • Additional ingredients such as fats, sugars, dairy products, and eggs.
  • The method of preparation and the length of fermentation.

A study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition (AJ Wolever et al., 2003) suggests that bread's GI can vary within a range, even when coming from the same bakery. As for homemade bread, controlling the cooking process and ingredients can help tailor the GI to your dietary needs.

A moderate GI for bread is considered to be in the range of 56-69, and homemade breads can be formulated to fall within or below this range. Patients with diabetes or anyone looking to manage their blood sugar levels should aim for bread with a lower GI. Pairing homemade bread with protein-rich or fiber-rich foods can also moderate the glycemic response, making this a practical strategy for meal planning.

It's also essential to consider the glycemic load (GL) — this measures the GI in conjunction with the serving size. Even breads with a moderate or high GI can be incorporated into a healthy diet when consumed in sensible portions that align with individual nutritional goals.

Beyond the glycemic index, the overall nutritional profile of homemade breads merits consideration. Incorporating whole grains, nuts, seeds, and using natural sweeteners like honey could balance the bread's impact on blood sugar while providing additional health benefits.

In summary, while the GI of homemade bread can influence blood sugar response, it's the combination of ingredients, portion size, and accompaniments that ultimately determine its place in a balanced diet. Adjusting recipes to align with health goals can make homemade bread a nutritious component of any meal.

Homemade Bread and Gluten Sensitivity Concerns

Before diving into the intricacies of homemade bread and how it may affect individuals with gluten sensitivity, it's essential to understand what gluten is. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. For some, this protein can cause health issues. People with celiac disease, non-celiac gluten sensitivity, or wheat allergies can experience a range of symptoms from consuming gluten-containing foods, which may include homemade bread.

Here are the key points to consider for individuals with gluten sensitivities when it comes to homemade bread:

  • Variability of Flour: The type of flour used in making homemade bread plays a crucial role. Typical all-purpose, whole wheat, or bread flours are rich in gluten. However, gluten-free flours are also available and can be used to make gluten-free homemade bread—essential for those with gluten-related disorders.
  • Cross-Contamination: When preparing gluten-free bread at home, it is necessary to prevent cross-contamination. Even a small amount of gluten can trigger symptoms in sensitive individuals. This means using clean equipment and surfaces that haven't come into contact with gluten-containing substances.
  • Fermentation Process: Some anecdotal evidence suggests that the fermentation process involved in making sourdough bread can reduce gluten content to some degree. Scientific studies are inconclusive, but for those with non-celiac gluten sensitivity, sourdough may sometimes be better tolerated.
  • Hidden Gluten: Be mindful of added ingredients — such as malt extracts or certain preservatives — which can contain hidden gluten and cause adverse reactions.

A 2019 study published in the Gastroenterology journal examined the effects of a gluten-free diet versus a gluten-containing diet in individuals without celiac disease or wheat allergy and found that individuals with self-reported non-celiac gluten sensitivity reported more symptoms when unknowingly consuming gluten. This suggests that even if the gluten content is potentially reduced through certain bread-making processes, those with sensitivities still need to exercise caution.

For those with gluten sensitivity who still want to enjoy homemade bread, here are some practical tips to reduce the risk of reaction:

  • Use certified gluten-free flour.
  • Read the labels of all ingredients to ensure they are gluten-free.
  • Ensure that all baking utensils and surfaces are thoroughly cleaned if they have previously been used for gluten-containing ingredients.
  • Consider a trial-and-error approach to determine personal tolerance levels, especially when introducing new gluten-free bread recipes.

It is advised for individuals with gluten-related disorders to consult with a healthcare professional or a registered dietitian before attempting to introduce homemade bread into their diet. Having expert guidance can help tailor a dietary plan that accommodates personal tolerance levels and nutritional needs, ensuring that one's health is not compromised by their dietary choices.

The Role of Homemade Bread in a Balanced Diet

The inclusion of homemade bread in your diet can be a delightful and nutritious choice when approached with balance and understanding of its components. Unlike many commercial bread options which may contain preservatives and added sugars, homemade bread gives you control over the quality and type of ingredients used.

Nutritional Value: Homemade bread can be a valuable source of nutrients depending on the flour used. Whole grain flours, for instance, retain more fiber, vitamins, and minerals than their refined counterparts. A slice of whole grain homemade bread can provide essential nutrients such as B vitamins, iron, magnesium, and selenium.

Fiber Content: Dietary fiber, particularly from whole grains, is pivotal for digestive health. Using whole-grain flour will significantly enhance the fiber content in homemade bread. Fiber can help manage blood sugar levels, provide a feeling of fullness, and aid in maintaining a healthy gut environment.

Glycemic Index (GI): The GI of bread indicates how quickly blood sugar levels rise after consumption. Homemade bread can have a lower GI if made with whole grains and sourdough fermentation. The latter can further reduce the rate at which glucose is released into the bloodstream.

Control Over Additives: Crafting bread at home allows the baker to skip unnecessary additives often found in store-bought bread such as emulsifiers, artificial preservatives, and high fructose corn syrup, which can have adverse health effects when consumed in excess.

Portion Sizes: When integrating homemade bread into a balanced diet, it's pivotal to consider portion sizes. Due to its density and potential calorie content, mindful consuming aligns more with dietary recommendations.

Including homemade bread as part of a balanced diet can be accomplished by:

  • Prioritizing whole grain flours for extra nutrients and fiber.
  • Experimenting with seeds, nuts, or other nutrient-dense mix-ins to increase the health benefits.
  • Keeping portions appropriate to your daily caloric and nutrition needs.
  • Pairing bread with balanced accompaniments, such as lean proteins, healthy fats, and plenty of fruits and vegetables.

Research, such as the study conducted by the Whole Grains Council, has highlighted the benefits of whole grains in reducing the risk of chronic diseases. When homemade bread is made with these principles in mind, it can fit harmoniously even into diet plans focused on health and weight management.

Ultimately, the role of homemade bread within a balanced diet is multifaceted. It can be a vehicle for both nutrients and pleasure, as long as each slice is considered within the context of one's overall nutritional requirements and goals.

Frequently asked questions

Including nuts and seeds in homemade bread can enhance its nutritional value, adding healthy fats, proteins, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. They can also have a positive impact on the glycemic index of bread by slowing the absorption of carbohydrates, leading to a more gradual increase in blood sugar levels. Furthermore, they contribute to the bread's taste and texture.

Yes, the fermentation process can reduce the levels of anti-nutrients like phytates in bread. Phytates can bind to minerals like iron and zinc and impede their absorption. Sourdough fermentation, in particular, has been shown to lower the phytate content, which makes the minerals in the bread more bioavailable for absorption by the body.

Salt plays a crucial role in bread-making as it strengthens the gluten network, providing structure and elasticity to the dough. It also enhances the flavor of the bread and controls yeast fermentation, preventing the dough from rising too rapidly. The key is to use it judiciously to impart these benefits without contributing to an excessive intake of sodium.

Homemade bread can be included in weight management diets when made with whole grain flours, as they are higher in fiber and can provide a sense of fullness that may help control appetite. However, portions should be monitored, and bread can be paired with balanced accompaniments like proteins and vegetables to create a satisfying meal that aligns with weight management goals.

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

Possible long-term side effects

  • excessive sodium intake

Ingredients to be aware of

  • refined flour
  • salt
  • additives in store-bought bread
  • gluten (for sensitivities)


  • better digestive health
  • manage blood sugar levels
  • nutrient-rich
  • lower glycemic index
  • whole grain intake benefits
  • better blood glucose control
  • reduced inflammation
  • weight management
  • avoidance of additives
  • personalized nutrient profile

Healthier alternatives

  • whole grain flour
  • gluten-free flour options
  • sourdough culture
  • natural sweeteners
  • certified gluten-free ingredients

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Diane Saleem
Published on: 05-03-2024

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Diane Saleem
Published on: 05-03-2024

Random Page

Check These Out!