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Is Multigrain Bread Bad For You?



Short answer

Multigrain bread is not always a healthy choice. It's only nutritious if made with whole grains, which offer fiber, essential nutrients, and antioxidants. Refined grains, often used in multigrain bread, lack these benefits. Always read ingredient lists for whole grains, fiber content, and minimal added sugars and processing. Whole grain bread typically offers more health advantages than multigrain or white bread. For best health outcomes, choose bread with whole grains, high fiber, low added sugars, and minimal processing.



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Long answer

Dissecting Multigrain Bread: What Does "Multigrain" Really Mean?

When you navigate the bread aisle, you may encounter the term "multigrain" and envision a product brimming with whole grain goodness. However, the word "multigrain" is not as straightforward as it sounds. On a label, "multigrain" simply indicates that the bread consists of more than one type of grain. But the key to understanding its nutritional value lies in discerning whether these grains are whole or refined grains.

Whole grains contain the entire grain kernel, which includes the bran, germ, and endosperm. This trio provides fiber, essential nutrients, and antioxidants. In contrast, refined grains have been processed to remove the bran and germ, leaving only the endosperm. This process strips away most of the fiber and many nutrients, although some breads are enriched with vitamins and minerals to compensate partially for this loss.

To truly assess the benefits of multigrain bread, one must look beyond the enticing "multigrain" label and delve into the ingredients list. Here's what to look for:

  • Whole Grains as Primary Ingredients: Seek out labels where whole grains are listed among the first few ingredients. Common whole grains include whole wheat, oats, brown rice, barley, quinoa, and millet.
  • The Whole Grain Stamp: The Whole Grains Council provides a stamp which can make identifying whole grain products easier. However, remember that not all whole grain products may have the stamp, so checking ingredients is always crucial.
  • Fiber Content: Fiber is a good indicator of the presence of whole grains. A high fiber content suggests a significant amount of whole grains are in the bread.
  • No Added Sugars: Be wary of added sugars, which can turn your healthy choice into an unhealthy one. Bread with high sugar content can negate the benefits of the grains present.
  • Minimal Processing: The less processed the grains, the more nutritious the bread. Keep an eye out for terms like "stoneground" or "cracked," which might indicate less processing.

While the term "multigrain" itself is not a guarantee of a healthful choice, understanding the details behind the label empowers you to make an informed decision. By examining the types of grains and their processing, you can ensure that the multigrain bread you consume truly contributes to your dietary wellbeing.

Certain studies have investigated the impact of whole versus refined grains on health, finding associations between whole grain consumption and reduced risk of chronic diseases. For instance, the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition published a study that linked whole grain intake to lower risks of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

When we dissect "multigrain" and look at what it really means for our health, it becomes clear that not all multigrain breads are created equal. By understanding labels and choosing wisely, we can harness the potential benefits of multigrain products for our health and nutrition.

Nutritional Profile of Multigrain Bread

When assessing whether a food is beneficial or detrimental to health, it's crucial to delve into its nutritional composition. Multigrain bread, as its name suggests, is made from a mixture of various grains, providing a diverse spectrum of nutrients. Here's a detailed look at what typically comprises multigrain bread from a nutritional standpoint:

  • Caloric Content: A slice of multigrain bread usually ranges between 80 to 110 calories, depending on the brand and the size of the slice.
  • Carbohydrates: On average, it contains about 15 to 20 grams of carbohydrates per slice, a primary energy source for the body. Multigrain varieties tend to have a lower glycemic index compared to white bread, owing to the presence of whole grains.
  • Dietary Fiber: One of the main advantages of multigrain bread is its fiber content, typically around 2 to 4 grams per slice. Dietary fiber promotes digestive health, helps regulate blood sugar levels, and contributes to satiety.
  • Proteins: Multigrain bread is also a source of protein, offering about 4 to 6 grams per slice. The variety of grains can provide a more complete amino acid profile than bread made from a single type of grain.
  • Fats: Generally low in fat, multigrain bread contains approximately 1 to 2 grams per slice, with minimal saturated fat. The fat present often comes from healthy seeds and grains incorporated into the bread.
  • Vitamins and Minerals: Due to the multiple grains used, multigrain bread can be rich in B vitamins, including thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, and folate, which are instrumental in energy metabolism. It may also contain essential minerals such as iron, magnesium, and selenium.
  • Phytochemicals and Antioxidants: The different grains contribute various phytonutrients that may have antioxidant properties, supporting cellular health.

One must note that not all multigrain bread is created equal. The nutritional value can vary based on factors such as the type and proportion of grains used, whether the grains are whole or refined, and additional ingredients like seeds, nuts, or sweeteners.

Furthermore, research suggests that whole grains can play a role in reducing the risk of chronic diseases. A study published in the Journal of Nutrition pointed out that higher whole grain intake is associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer.

However, for individuals with specific health conditions such as celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, choosing a bread that is not only multigrain but also gluten-free is essential to avoid adverse health effects.

For those looking to incorporate multigrain bread into a balanced diet, it's recommended to choose varieties that list whole grains as the first ingredient and that are free of excessive additives and preservatives. The combination of being high in dietary fiber and rich in various nutrients makes multigrain bread a predominantly nutritious choice when consumed in moderation.

The Glycemic Index of Multigrain Bread and Blood Sugar Control

When considering the impact of multigrain bread on blood sugar control, it's crucial to assess its glycemic index (GI). The glycemic index measures how quickly a food item raises blood glucose levels after consumption. Foods are ranked on a scale of 0 to 100, with pure glucose being 100. Typically, foods with a high GI are rapidly digested and absorbed, causing a quick rise in blood sugar levels. Conversely, foods with a low GI are digested and absorbed more slowly, leading to a gradual rise in blood sugar.

Multigrain bread can vary in its glycemic index, largely depending on the types of grains used and their processing. Heavily processed grains tend to have a higher GI due to the breakdown of complex carbohydrates into simpler sugars. In contrast, whole grains with minimal processing generally result in bread with a lower GI, which is more conducive to blood sugar control. The presence of fiber, protein, and fats in bread also helps slow down the digestion process, consequently lowering the GI.

Research has shown that diets with an emphasis on low-GI foods can support better blood sugar management and may reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that participants who consumed high-GI foods had a higher risk of type 2 diabetes than those who consumed low-GI foods.

Here are key factors that can affect the glycemic index of multigrain bread:

  • Types of Grains: The presence of whole grains like oats, barley, and millet may lower the GI.
  • Fiber Content: Higher fiber content typically equates to a lower GI due to the moderating effect of fiber on blood sugar spikes.
  • Level of Processing: Less processed grains ensure the retention of fiber and other nutrients, which can diminish the blood sugar impact.
  • Sourdough Fermentation: Sourdough multigrain bread might have a lower GI due to the fermentation process, which naturally impacts carbohydrate metabolism.

To optimally manage blood sugar levels, individuals, especially those with diabetes or insulin resistance, should aim to include lower-GI multigrain bread options in their diet. Pairing multigrain bread with healthy fats like avocado or proteins such as lean chicken can further help to stabilize blood sugar levels.

The glycemic index of multigrain bread doesn't need to be a deal-breaker for bread lovers seeking better blood sugar control. Instead, it can serve as a guide to make informed choices about the types of bread to include in a balanced and nutritious diet. As always, it’s a good practice to consult with a dietitian or nutrition expert for personalized dietary advice, particularly for those managing conditions like diabetes.

Hidden Sugars and Additives in Multigrain Bread

The term "multigrain" suggests a product made with several types of grains, which can offer diverse nutrients in our diet. However, not all multigrain breads are created equal, and some may contain hidden sugars and additives that could have a negative impact on your health if consumed in excess.

Presence of Added Sugars:

Some manufacturers of multigrain bread add sugars to enhance flavor, particularly when the bread contains whole grains that may have a bitter taste. Added sugars are not just limited to high fructose corn syrup; they can also be listed under various names such as dextrose, maltose, and cane sugar. Overconsumption of added sugars has been associated with an increased risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease, according to the CDC.

Common Additives:

  • Emulsifiers (e.g., mono- and diglycerides) - used to extend shelf life and improve texture but can cause digestive issues for some individuals.
  • Preservatives (e.g., calcium propionate) - utilized to prevent mold growth, these additives have been linked to irritability and restlessness in some children, as per the National Library of Medicine.
  • Artificial flavors and color additives - included to make the product more appealing but may contribute to hyperactivity disorders in sensitive people.

It's crucial to read the ingredients list when selecting multigrain bread. Opt for bread with whole grains listed as the first ingredient and ideally, without added sugars or unnecessary additives. The American Heart Association offers guidelines to help spot added sugars and encourages consuming less than 36 grams and 25 grams of added sugar per day for men and women, respectively.

Energy Density and Caloric Content:

Additionally, bear in mind the energy density and caloric content that sugars and additives may contribute to multigrain bread. These components can transform a seemingly healthy option into a calorie-dense food that potentially undermines weight management and nutritional goals.

Consumers seeking healthier bread alternatives should check the nutritional content and be wary of "multigrain" labels that may misrepresent the healthfulness of the product. The true nutritional profile of multigrain bread is hidden in the ingredient list, not just on the front package label.

For those with dietary restrictions, allergies, or chronic health conditions, consulting a registered dietitian or healthcare provider is advisable to determine if specific brands of multigrain bread are suitable for their dietary needs. Making informed choices can significantly improve overall health and contribute to a balanced diet.

Comparing Multigrain Bread to Whole Grain and White Bread Options

When perusing the bread aisle, consumers are faced with a plethora of choices, each boasting their own health benefits. Among these options, multigrain, whole grain, and white breads are commonly encountered. Understanding the distinctions between these types is crucial for making an informed decision that aligns with your dietary needs and health goals.

Let's sift through the floury details:

Multigrain Bread is often misunderstood. The term "multigrain" simply means that the bread contains more than one type of grain. However, this does not imply that these grains are in their whole form. Manufacturers may use refined grains, which strip away the nutritious bran and germ layers, leaving only the starchy endosperm. While multigrain bread can be high in fiber and nutrients if made with whole grains, the presence of multiple grains doesn't inherently make it more nutritious than other breads.

Whole Grain Bread is made with grains that have all three parts, the bran, germ, and endosperm, intact. Consuming whole grains has been linked to a reduced risk of several chronic diseases, including heart disease and type 2 diabetes. A study published in the Journal of Nutrition states that whole grains can improve cholesterol levels and lower the risk of cardiovascular disease.

White Bread is made from wheat that has been refined to remove the bran and germ, leaving behind the starchy endosperm. This process also removes fiber and many essential nutrients. White bread is often "enriched" to replenish some of the lost vitamins and minerals, but this does not restore the original nutritional value. The rapid digestion of refined grains leads to quicker spikes in blood sugar levels, as indicated by research in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

To further compare these breads, consider the following nutrient aspects:

  • Fiber Content: Whole grain bread typically contains more fiber than both multigrain and white bread, supporting digestive health and satiety.
  • Vitamin and Mineral Content: Whole grains retain their natural vitamins and minerals, unlike white bread that requires fortification after processing. Multigrain bread can also be high in nutrients if made with whole grains.
  • Glycemic Index (GI): Whole grain bread often has a lower GI compared to white bread, meaning it has a less significant impact on blood sugar levels. Multigrain bread can vary significantly in GI depending on the type and proportion of grains used.
  • Presence of Antinutrients: While whole and multigrain breads contain phytic acid, an antinutrient which can reduce the absorption of minerals like iron and zinc, proper preparation methods such as fermentation can mitigate these effects.

Here's a table summarizing the basic nutritional comparison (please note that these values can vary widely depending on the specific brand and recipe used):

Bread Type Fiber (per slice) Protein (per slice) Calories (per slice) GI Range (approximate)
Multigrain Bread 1-3g 3-5g 80-110 45-65
Whole Grain Bread 2-4g 4-6g 100-120 40-59
White Bread < 1g 2-3g 70-90 70-90

In terms of overall healthfulness, whole grain bread generally reigns over white bread, and potentially over multigrain bread, unless the latter is composed entirely of whole grains. The takeaway here is to read labels carefully. Look for the term "whole" in front of each grain listed and consider the fiber content and glycemic index as a part of your healthy diet. Additionally, be conscious of any added sugars, preservatives, or unhealthy fats that can often lurk in commercially prepared breads, irrespective of their grain content.

Frequently asked questions

Multigrain bread can be included in a weight-loss diet if consumed in moderation. It's important to choose a variety with whole grains, high fiber content, and minimal added sugars and unhealthy fats, which can help provide satiety and control calorie intake.

To identify hidden sugars in multigrain bread, carefully examine the ingredients list for sugar by any of its names, such as sucrose, high fructose corn syrup, dextrose, maltose, cane sugar, or syrup. It's also advisable to check the nutritional label for the amount of ‘Added Sugars’.

Multigrain bread can be a moderate source of protein, providing about 3-5 grams per slice depending on the brand and the specific grain combination used. The variety of grains used in multigrain bread can contribute to a more complete amino acid profile compared to bread made from a single type of grain.

Multigrain bread can be suitable for individuals with diabetes, especially varieties with a lower glycemic index (GI) due to whole grains and high fiber content. It is important for those with diabetes to monitor their portion sizes and choose breads that do not cause significant spikes in blood glucose levels.

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

Possible short-term side effects

  • digestive issues from additives
  • blood sugar spikes
  • irritability and restlessness from preservatives

Possible long-term side effects

  • increased risk of chronic diseases with refined grains
  • obesity
  • type 2 diabetes
  • heart disease

Ingredients to be aware of


  • source of fiber
  • essential nutrients
  • lower gi than white bread
  • diverse nutrient spectrum
  • reduced risk of chronic diseases with whole grains

Healthier alternatives

  • whole grain bread
  • sourdough bread
  • bread with whole grains as first ingredient
  • minimal processed grains

Our Wellness Pick (what is this?)

Dave’s Organic Bread

  • Whole grains inclusion
  • Organic ingredients
  • Rich in seeds
  • Non-GMO
  • High in fiber
Learn More!

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Diane Saleem
Published on: 01-19-2024

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Diane Saleem
Published on: 01-19-2024

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