With low-carb, Paleo, and gluten-free diets on the rise, bread (and grains in general) has fallen out of favor. Even in France, the birthplace of the baguette, they’ve had to resort to a “Got Milk” style ad campaign to stop sales from crumbling. However, the loaf isn’t dead yet.
To combat the trend of falling bread consumption, commercial bread bakers have been looking to formulate and market a healthier bread. In that quest, they’re using bread buzzwords such as “stoneground,” “gluten-free,” and “whole wheat.”
Nearly everyone has heard the advice to choose whole-grain bread over white bread (for the health benefits of whole-grain flour), but there’s still much discussion about even whole-grain options . And the advantages of other types of bread are less clear-cut. WTF does “sprouted grain bread” even mean, and are the health benefits enough to justify the extra $2 per loaf?
Here are some common (and commonly misunderstood) bread buzzwords and what they really mean.
White vs. Whole-Wheat Bread
Time to flash back to biology class: Wheat, in its natural, fresh-off-the-plant form, contains three components: the germ, endosperm, and bran layer. The germ contains loads of vitamins and minerals, while the endosperm is packed with protein and carbohydrate. The bran layer (the rough stuff… thinkbran muffin) is full of fiber . Whole-grain flours are made by grinding up intact wheat kernels; white flours have to be “stripped” of all the good stuff before they get sent to the grinder. To make white flour, manufacturers remove the germ and bran (along with 80 percent of the fiber and most of the nutrients), then send the stripped grains through the mill. White flours usually get a dose of B vitamins, folic acid, and iron during processing; this fortification process replaces up some of the lost nutrient content, but the flour is still missing many healthy compounds such as antioxidants and phytonutrients .
The Whole-Wheat Hang-Up
Think you’re all set buying 100-percent whole-wheat bread? Not so fast. The FDA says that a grain-containing product labeled “100-percent whole-grain” must be made of germ, endosperm, and bran in proportions that equal those of intact grains. Food manufactuers exploit this loophole and often process grain as white flour, then add the germ and bran back in. Believe it or not, this still counts as “whole-grain” flour . The reconstituted whole-grain flour often has dough conditioners and flavorings added, and probably loses some nutrients through processing too.
These buzzwords recall a simpler era in bread baking, when windmills would grind grain using compression from stones. But today, like the term “natural,” the marketing buzzword “stone ground” is essentially meaningless.
When you read “stone ground” on bread, it just indicates that a grain has been passed through a stone mill at least once during the manufacturing process. So if the first step in making Wonder Bread were a quick trip of the wheat through a stone grinder, it could be considered made of stone-ground flour. The FDA doesn’t police this phrase, so food manufacturers are free to use this as they wish.
Sprouted wheat breads are the darling of the health food set. All sorts of health claims have been made about sprouted grains, including increased digestibility, higher protein content, and more enzyme activity. Are any of these claims legit?
Well, sprouting grains increases the activity of certain enzymes, which allows nutrients to be more available for digestion. It also lowers carbohydrate content, changes the amino acid profile, and raises protein content . Sprouting ups the content of some nutrients such as antioxidants and fiber too . Due to these differences, sprouted-grain breads are technically more nutritious than breads made using unsprouted flour. However, the differences are pretty small—eating sprouted-grain bread over plain ol’ whole wheat won’t make much of a difference in a person’s nutritional intake.
Is Gluten-Free the Way to Be?
Several celebs have gone gaga for the gluten-free diet—including Lady Gaga herself—but following this dietary trend really isn’t necessary unless you have celiac disease . Although many report being sensitive to gluten, a condition known as non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS), scientific evidence isn’t up to speed on exactly why or how this occurs (or if it is even a real condition) . Claims of weight loss and increased energy from going gluten-free abound, but these effects are probably due to increased diet quality (think more fruits and veggies, fewer processed foods) rather than the elimination of the gluten protein.
The 411 on Gluten-Free Bread
For those without celiac disease, gluten-free breads may or may not be healthier. In general, a gluten-free diet is more likely to be low in vitamins and minerals such as vitamins B and D, zinc, iron, calcium, magnesium, and fiber . Eating gluten-free—without paying close attention to the quality and nutrient content of foods—can raise the risk for developing obesity and/or metabolic syndrome . Many gluten-free bread products are prepared with corn or rice starch, both of which have a high glycemic index and low fiber content . And because gluten-free grains don’t always play nice in forming bread dough, manufacturers of gluten-free breads often mix in fats or oils to dough increase palatability (which also ups the calorie content!) and additives like starches and gums to improve texture .
However, there are a bunch of different flour options when it comes to GF baked goods. Some, such asoat flour and chickpea flour, have relatively good nutritional stats . Others, like tapioca flour, are pretty much pure starch. Recognizing consumer demand, food scientists are currently hard at work to develop tasty, delicious, and nutritious gluten-free breads using some of the more nutritious flours and novel preparation methods. In the meantime, if you’re eating gluten-free bread, be a label-reader—watch out for long ingredient lists, additives, and low fiber contents.
“Fermented Breads” and ”Yeasted Breads”
Old-School Bread Baking
Baking yeast bread is one of those intimidating kitchen projects that seems like you’d need a full weekend to accomplish (although it’s totally doable to DIY, as well as cheaper, healthier, and not as time-consuming as you’d expect). At its most basic, making yeast bread involves mixing together flour, water, commercial yeast, and salt, letting the mixture rise, and baking the risen dough. During the rising period, the yeast gobbles up some carbohydrates in the flour and digest them via fermentation. The end products are alcohol and carbon dioxide—which add flavor and volume to the dough.
Sourdough bread making involves similar steps, but the process starts with a “sourdough starter” or “sponge,” which is a mixture of live yeast, lactic-acid producing bacteria, flour, and water. Bacteria and wild yeast from the environment settle on the starter and start to ferment away, producing a mini-ecosystem packed with flavor-making potential. Both yeast and bacteria increase the acidity of the dough, which fends off harmful bacteria and gives sourdough its characteristic tangy taste.
The Health Factors
OK, now that we have Breadmaking 101 out of the way, let’s talk about the health benefits of yeasted bread. Some claim that sourdough bread made with a wild yeast starter is healthier and easier to digest than your standard loaf. While the wild yeast primarily contribute to the complexity of the flavor present in sourdough (and some would say its overall deliciousness), the long fermentation time required and acidity of the dough are what really contribute to its health benefits . This process makes the nutrients in wheat flour more available for digestion and the simple sugars less available, which may help with blood sugar control, particularly for people with diabetes . (Although portion control is still key for blood sugar issues.) Sourdough fermentation may also help make wheat bread easier for patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) to digest . One study found that sourdough bread made with a long fermentation time produced fewer symptoms (such as bloating and gas) than conventionally made bread .
But Is It “Probiotic”?
Kombucha, kefir, yogurt, and… bread? Some claim that sourdough bread is a probiotic food since it is made with a fermented dough containing tons of gut-friendly bacteria (Lactobacillus, we’re looking at you!). While the baking process kills off the bacteria, which may reduce its probiotic properties, there’s some evidence suggesting that even dead probiotic bacteria still have some health benefits, including anti-inflammatory properties . But don’t swap out your yogurt for toast just yet; the scientific evidence on the health benefits of live probiotics is much stronger .
Additives and Shelf Stabilizers: Words to Avoid
While it’s best to avoid the usual culprits when it comes to additives (hydrogenated oils, food dyes, and high-fructose corn syrup, to name some common not-so-healthy ingredients in highly processed foods), there are a few bread-specific additives to watch out for.
The first is the so-called “yoga mat” chemical of the infamous Subway bread controversy. Also used to improve the stretchiness of rubber products like flip-flops and yoga mats, this chemical—azodicarbonamide, abbreviated as ADA or ADC—is added to some commercial bread products as a bleaching agent and flour-improver. When heated, ADA forms two icky byproducts, one that’s known to cause cancer and one that might cause cancer.
Another problematic item on the ingredient list is potassium bromate, a chemical added to fluff up bread and give it a tender texture, which has also been shown to cause cancer in animals and may hurt kidney function in humans . It’s banned pretty much everywhere except in the U.S. and Japan.
Less scary-sounding but definitely unhealthy, added sugars such as dextrose appear in certain commercial breads. Dextrose contributes to the nice, toasty-brown color of baked loaves (and to Americans’ waistlines). Other names for sugar include sucrose or “evaporated cane juice.” There’s no need to completely eliminate added sugars, but limiting them is a good idea.
While commercial food producers splash all sorts of health-related claims on packaging, a lot of thefront-of-package labeling is just to entice consumers. For your healthiest bread options, look for whole-grain breads with short ingredient lists (not too much longer than flour, water, yeast, and salt). Bonus points for buying from artisan bakers or making your own.
Fermented breads, a.k.a. sourdough made with a long fermentation time, could reduce blood sugar spikes or icky abdominal symptoms in some people. (Although keep in mind, portion control still key if you’re trying to lose weight or have blood sugar issues.) And sprouted-grain breads may offer some nutritional advantages above and beyond the basic whole-grain loaf, but eating sprouted bread isn’t likely to lead to significant improvements in health (though you’ll get hippie street cred). As far as gluten concerns go, if you have celiac disease (or suspect other sensitivities), look for gluten-free bread made from beneficial ingredients like chickpea or oat flour. But if you’re a-OK with gluten, there’s no reason to break up with everyone’s favorite comforting carb.
If we’ve learned anything from our Instagram feed lately, it’s that smoothie bowls are one of the biggest breakfast trends out there—and for good reason. Whether packed with leafy greens, tropical fruit, or creamy avocado, these super-bowls are filling, nutrient-packed, and most importantly, absolutely delicious.
To make a smoothie that’s best eaten with a spoon (we’re talking extra thick) use slightly less liquid than usual. The result: a thicker, richer, and creamier consistency that’s almost ice cream-like. (Doesn’t this sound way more fun than snoozy oatmeal?)
Better yet: Going sans glass lets you go nuts with delicious additions like sliced almonds, chia seeds, shredded coconut, and other fun toppings. Try one of these amazing recipes this week and get ready to feel like you’re digging into a bowl of fro-yo at the breakfast table.
Soak oats in water overnight to make them super blendable, then whip together this satisfying (but not too heavy) smoothie in seconds. The base, made with blueberries and raw honey, packs an antioxidantand anti-inflammatory punch to up your energy levels. To further boost your nutrient intake, top with goji berries, cacao nibs, slivered almonds, chia seeds, or toasted coconut.
Not escaping to the tropics this winter? Right there with you. But before you resort to fake-cationing, make this refreshing recipe with the crazy-good combo of coconut and mango. Less caloric than granola, baked quinoa cereal provides a nice contrast to the creamy base, while gluten-free oats bulk it up to ensure you’ll stay full ‘til lunch. A sprig of mint finishes the bowl off with a pop of springtime freshness.
You could go out and spend $9 (or more) on an acai bowl. Or you could whip up your own equally-as-delicious (and healthier) version at home! Switching standard coconut milk for almond milk slashes fat and calories, and don’t be intimidated: While it sounds exotic, acai powder, which gives the bowl that vibrant purple color, can easily be found at a health foods store or online.
We know, veggie-filled smoothies can sometimes taste like a freshly mowed lawn. But this recipe, featuring avocado, banana, and blueberries, masks the taste of the greens so well your tastebuds will never detect the disease-fighting nutrients you’re downing with each bite. The blogger goes so far as to say it tastes like “melted ice cream,” which in our book is always a breakfast #win.
This vegan blogger is spot on when she says that once you try a smoothie bowl, you never go back—especially if your first experience involves her decadent (yet healthy) chocolate-infused version. While a chocolate smoothie may not sound the healthiest, the hemp seed hearts are a great source of plant-based protein, iron, and omega-3 fats. Their slightly earthy yet neutral taste pairs perfectly with cacao, banana, and hazelnuts for a breakfast that definitely beats your standard oatmeal.
This blend of berries, banana, kale (spinach works too!), chia seeds, almond milk, and agave is sweet, healthy, and even has the creamy texture of frozen yogurt (um, yum). Get creative with your add-ons—from granola to almonds to berries—for a killer breakfast, snack, or light lunch. Since you’re not limited to slurping this drink out of a straw, the topping possibilities are endless. In the words of this blogger: Hallelujah.
Believe it or not, this bright pink bowl is au naturel. Thanks to the vibrant color of pitaya, or dragon fruit, this breakfast bowl is almost—almost—too pretty to eat. Pitaya, which is slightly sweet and tastes similar to melon, is a great source of antioxidants, magnesium, fiber, and B vitamins, making this an ideal post-workout snack. Look for the pure, frozen purée at a health foods store or online.
With all the flavor of carrot cake—minus the calories and sugar—this gluten-free, vegan smoothie bowl may very well revolutionize your morning routine. Not only does it taste like the classic dessert, but it’s highly filling thanks to vanilla protein powder. It even sneaks in veggies that aren’t leafy greens for a change!
Avocado isn’t only for savory recipes. The green fruit is not only a stealth ingredient in healthy chocolate cupcakes, pancakes, and more, but it also makes smoothie bowls thick, tasty, and insanely filling. Top it with pretty pomegranate perils and rich, nutty cashew cream for the perfect finishing note.
It’s easy to think that sweets and protein never mix, given that most baked goods are decidedly lacking in protein status. To be fair, the muscle-building macronutrient is tops when it comes to savory dishes (chicken breasts, anyone?). But it also stars in some legitimately satisfying sweet recipes. All the more reason to add some protein to your dessert? A meal high in protein helps promote feelings of fullness for longer, reducing cravings and the chances of overeating.
To have your cake and eat your protein too, try one of these protein-rich sweet recipes, most of which pack 20 or more grams of the good stuff per serving!
10 Protein-Packed Dessert Recipes
We know the facts: Preparing meals at home is good for your health and your wallet. But let’s face it, with minimal free time and other priorities taking up space in our schedules (think: long hours at work, significant others, keeping in touch with family, maybe even a workout here and there), spending hours or even minutes in the kitchen isn’t always at the top of our to-do lists.
But before you give in to endless Seamless clicking, becoming a regular at the Chinese place near the office, or living off of frozen meals, know that in the time it takes to watch your favorite cat videos on YouTube, you can make a nutritious, home-cooked meal. All of these recipes are easy and healthy—and ready in 10 minutes, tops. No matter what meal of the day—including make-and-take breakfasts and lunches—this is fast food that health experts would approve of.
Photo: Buns in My Oven
1. Cheddar Garlic Grits With Fried Eggs
A Southern classic, cheesy grits don’t have to be a complete fat and calorie bomb. Cook them in water rather than milk and omit the butter. But keep the cheddar (the two tablespoons per serving here keeps this gooey and rich and provides almost 10 percent of your daily calcium), then add eggs for staying power, chopped chives to lend a slightly oniony flavor, and garlic, which makes everything taste better.
2. Open-Faced Sandwiches With Ricotta, Arugula, and Fried Egg
Morning sandwiches can be so much more than a smashed bacon, egg, and cheese eaten behind the wheel. Yes, this one does call for a fork and knife, but it’s worth it. Toasted bread is topped with spicy arugula, a good source of vitamin K, which helps blood clot. Then add an egg, salty ricotta (it has more protein than cottage cheese), Parmesan, and thyme, and it’s a sandwich like no other.
3. Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal
The number of pumpkin-pie-spiked foods turned ridiculous when Pringles debuted chips in 2012 in the flavor. That said, some foods really do taste better with the spice—and you can make them at home year-round. This healthy, autumn-inspired oatmeal combines pumpkin puree, pumpkin pie spice, cinnamon, and vanilla to give it a pie flavor, then tops it all off with dried cranberries to natural sweetness.
4. Blueberry Pancakes
A stack of homemade flapjacks doesn’t take that long—and these are free of gluten, dairy, eggs, and nuts. But they still taste amazing and fluffy thanks to bananas, coconut, cinnamon, and of course blueberries, which may prevent memory problems and heart disease.
5. Scrambled Tofu
When properly prepared, tofu is anything but blah—and this version provides as much protein as a scrambled egg. Toss the vegan staple with cheesy nutritional yeast, turmeric, cumin, and paprika (buy smoked for even more flavor), and even egg lovers will enjoy it.
READ MORE at 31 Healthy Meals You Can Make in 10 Minutes or Less.
Invented by a former U.S. Navy SEAL, the TRX (short for total-body resistance exercise) turns every exercise into a challenge for the core by using two very accessible resources: gravity and our own bodyweight. All you have to do is anchor the TRX straps to a secure spot (think a weight machine, a door frame, or even monkey bars or a basketball hoop pole if you’re getting creative) and use either your feet or hands—depending on the exercise—to hold onto the straps.
In general, a part of your body will be suspended above the ground or you’ll be leaning into or away from the straps to create resistance and destabilization. Knocking our balance out of whack gives us no other option but to adjust, which means engaging the midsection and back and firing up the shoulders and hips to maintain control throughout the movement. Even better? Since the straps roll up into practically nothing, it’s a take-anywhere, do-anywhere kind of workout—provided you have somewhere stable to serve as your base.
Ready to hang tough—and build SEAL-worthy strength? Give these 45 TRX moves a try!
If, like many of us, you’ve already indulged just a bit too much this holiday season (what, pie and wine aren’t a balanced meal?), it might be a good time to detox (but don’t run away just yet).
The word “detox” tends to bring to mind scary-intense juice cleanses or a gluten- dairy-meat-grain-sugar-caffeine-free diet that will make you run away screaming (and hungry). But never fear—when we say “detox,” we’re talking about refocusing the mind, body, and palate on healthy, tasty, and nutritious foods. Instead of going crazy-restrictive and nixing all food groups except kale and steamed fish (not exactly a sustainable diet), let’s explore new tastes, textures, ingredients, and cooking techniques. Most of these recipes are based on healthy staples like whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, and both vegetarian and meat protein sources.
The following collection of recipes will get you psyched about eating well again (and might even help kick that cookie-a-day habit you picked up over the past week). For a super-easy meal plan, just pick one recipe from each category per day.
Photo: Marla Meridith / Family Fresh Cooking
1. Blueberry-Coconut Baked Steel Cut Oatmeal
This year, make your New Year’s resolution to eat a healthy breakfast every morning. Kick off 2014 on a tasty note with this flavorful, baked version of steel-cut oats. Since it’s a baked oatmeal dish, you can make it the night before and heat it up for on-the-go mornings.
2. Vanilla Chia Pudding
Start the day right with a healthy dose of chia seeds, which are loaded with protein, calcium, antioxidants, magnesium, iron, and potassium. Not bad for a bunch of tiny seeds, right? Whip up this tasty breakfast-worthy pudding by mixing seeds with a cup of milk (soy, almond, or cow’s), a dash of vanilla, and a drizzle of maple syrup. Let the mixture sit for a few hours (or overnight) and watch the chia seeds create a creamy, pudding-like texture.
3. Gluten-Free Blueberry Muffins
These gluten-free beauties are far from ginormous (gut-busting) bakery muffins. Instead of a carb-fest of processed sugar and white flour, these healthy little guys are made with brown rice flour, flax seeds, and applesauce. They’re sweetened with dried dates and topped with fresh blueberries and sliced almonds. Healthy enough for seconds, we think.
4. Veggie Quinoa Breakfast Bowl
Is your breakfast style more savory than sweet? With just a tiny bit of olive oil and plenty of veggies and protein, this bowl is the real breakfast of champions. Pro tip: If your stomach isn’t ready for so much protein (egg, cheese, and quinoa) in the morning, this dish would make a bomb-diggety lunch or dinner, too.
5. Charred Tomatoes with Fried Eggs on Garlic Toast
Elevate your breakfast ritual with this flavorful take on eggs and toast. Rub slices of whole-wheat toast with garlic and a touch of olive oil, then top ‘em with charred tomatoes and fried (or poached) eggs.
6. Banana-Apple Buckwheat Muffins
Who needs sugar or white flour when you can make delicious, healthy muffins out of buckwheat flour, mashed banana, apples, walnuts, and not much else? With plenty of fiber and healthy fats, and a bit of protein (from the eggs and buckwheat), these wholesome pastries will keep you full all morning.
7. Chia Seed Breakfast Bowl
Loaded with bananas, chia seeds, almond milk, raw almonds, hemp seeds, cinnamon, and dried fruit, this breakfast is a veritable superfood spectacular. Since most of the work takes place the night before, it’s ideal for busy mornings.
8. Wholesome Winter Fruit Granola
Pre-packaged granola (and especially granola bars) are often loaded with sugar, preservatives, and other unsavory ingredients that won’t exactly help you recharge after a decadent holiday season. The solution? Make your own! This easy recipe contains just whole grains, a tiny bit of oil and maple syrup, and nuts and dried fruit for flavor.
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