Bread is back. Like a pop star re-emerging from public hiatus, popularity of the soft stuff has returned with its innovative, reinvented self image.
Americans are leaving the low-carb craze behind and embracing their undeniable urge for the ultimate comfort food. In fact, 98 percent of households nationwide include bread at the center of the table. Today consumers are clamoring for "quality" carbs. With the new dietary guidelines emphasizing whole grain, a higher caliber of products--from white to wheat--are available for a wide range of tastes. That means there's something for everyone.
Good Ol' Fashioned White
No longer is guilt associated with enjoying the taste of white bread. More people are finding solace in the fact that white bread is not devoid of nutrients, but enriched with a bevy of beneficial nutrients. Minerals, such as iron, and B-vitamins like folic acid, niacin, and riboflavin are baked right into white bread. Even with the undue bad rap that white bread has sustained in the past, market research has shown white bread products to be top sellers--earning 57 percent of total bread sales last year.
White Meets Wheat
Now, white breads are going beyond the status quo with the introduction of breads that combine whole grain with white bread flour. The blending of a "special white whole-grain flour" with traditional white flour allows the authentic taste, texture, and softness of white bread to remain--with the added health benefits that come from whole grain. The popularity of Sara Lee Soft & Smooth Made with Whole Grain White Bread prompted the introduction of white hamburger and hot dog buns made with a whole grain blend. "Consumers are searching for a way to get more whole grain into their diet," says Frances Coletta, Ph.D., R.D. and director of product nutrition for Sara Lee Food & Beverage. "Products made with a blend of whole-grain and white flour will help many white bread lovers make the transition to whole-grain foods without shocking their taste buds."
Whole Grain Virtues
For some consumers, it's whole grain or nothing. Is it the nutty taste, hearty texture, or health benefits that make whole-grain bread so appealing? Perhaps it's all of the above. With more than 400 whole-grain foods introduced last year, according to ProductScan, there is no denying that whole grains are in.
New dietary guidelines encourage consumers to aim for a daily dose of three or more one-ounce servings of whole-grain products, and shoppers are urged to get at least half of their grains from whole grain sources. Not only does whole grain bread aid in weight loss and management, but studies have shown it to reduce high cholesterol levels, stave off type 2 diabetes, certain cancers, and normalize blood pressure levels. For more straightforward, no-nonsense nutritional information about bread, visit www.breadrules.com.
White or brown, enriched or whole wheat--what is the real difference? Whole wheat flour is made from the "whole" wheat grain or all three parts--the bran, germ, and endosperm. White flour is made just from the soft endosperm of the wheat grain and is typically bleached for a whiter color. But white whole wheat is made from all three parts of a special variety of wheat that is milder in taste, lighter in color, and softer in texture.
For years, shoppers have associated brown bread with health. Then, the paradigm shifted when whole-grain white breads hit the shelves in 2005. The question on everyone's mind is, how is it possible for a white bread to be made with whole grain? By using the white whole wheat, even if it is blended with regular white flour, white wheat bread contains more nutrients than before, thanks to the addition of whole grain. "We're using a blend of enriched white flour and white whole wheat flour to create breads, buns, bagels, and English muffins that taste, look, and have the appearance of traditional products, but offer the nutrition of whole grain," says Frances Coletta, Ph.D., R.D. and director of product nutrition for Sara Lee Food & Beverage. Consumers are responding favorably, as Sara Lee's Whole Grain White bread is the No. 1 selling bread in the country.
Vegetarian Bagel Sandwich
1 Sara Lee made with Whole Grain Plain Bagel
Spread hummus over both halves of bagel. Layer on cucumber slices, lettuce leaves, tomato slices, onion and pepperoncini. Makes 1 sandwich.
In addition to opting for breads that are made with whole grain, try these tips to make your next sandwich a healthier one:
Do some crunches: Add sliced fresh bell peppers to your sandwich for an extra crunch and a healthy dose of vitamin C.
Fire up the grill: Toss some veggies over the flame, then slice and pile them on top of your meat, or eat them alone for added flavor and nutrients.
Spice things up: Add salsa to your next sandwich in place of other condiments for a fat-free kick.
Get taste with even less fat: Instead of regular mayonnaise, try using hummus as your spreadable condiment of choice. Hummus is not only a heart-healthy, low-fat substitution, it will also add texture!
Go wild with fish: Get a dose of healthy omega-3 fats by layering a couple of thin slices of lox on top of sliced tomato and low-fat cream cheese.
Spread your nuts: Spoon on a tablespoon of natural almond butter and all-fruit spread for a delicious, cholesterol-lowering treat.