How much bread can you get away with eating each day?
UNLESS you've been living under a rock, you'll be well aware of the bad rap that bread gets these days.
A quick Google search will tell you to avoid bread for a raft of reasons: it has no nutritional value, it's packed with 'junk' or even because it contains the dreaded 'g' word: gluten. Some websites go as far as saying that bread is 'toxic'. Yikes.
But rest assured, as a dietitian I can say with confidence there's absolutely no need to avoid bread. Here's why.
Nutrient density in bread
Bread is a staple food from one of the core good groups - and for good reason.
To start with, bread can be a good source of fibre, which is important for a healthy gut.
It can also provide slow-release quality carbohydrates that'll give you sustained energy and keep you feeling satisfied (AKA low GI).
Bread is also a source of a range of micronutrients, both naturally occurring and fortified. For example, it is mandatory for folic acid to be added to bread-making flour, which plays a key role in the synthesis of our DNA and is important to reduce the risk of certain birth defects (known as neural tube defects). To be sure of added nutrients, you should always check the ingredients list.
Look for wholegrains
Of course, some options on the supermarket shelf are better than others.
Choosing a bread made with wholegrains is key, as they contain more fibre, have a lower GI and are more nutrient-dense than their refined counterparts.
My top tip is to look for a brown loaf with visible grains and seeds. So, bye-bye white bread.
Now you know the 'why', it's time to understand the 'how'.
To get you up to speed, men and women between the ages of 19 to 50 are recommended to have six serves of grains a day. To put that into perspective, one serve equals one slice of bread, half a bread roll or half a cup of cooked grains like pasta, rice or quinoa. Other examples are a quarter of a cup of muesli or two thirds of a cup of cereal flakes.
But, hold your horses! Before you chow down on six slices of bread every day for the rest of your life, it's important to enjoy a variety of grainy foods - so don't put all of your eggs (or bread) in one basket (or meal).
For healthy adults between the ages of 19-50, a day on a plate might look like this: muesli for breakfast, a sandwich for lunch and some rice with a stir fry at dinner. Another nutritious day could include oats for breakfast, a quinoa salad at lunch time and some pasta with dinner. After all, variety is the spice of life.
So, what's the key message? It's okay to eat bread! I repeat - put that bread back in your shopping basket, and don't feel bad about enjoying a couple of slices. Just be sure to choose a healthier option and spread a variety of grains across the day.
Melissa Meier is a Sydney-based Accredited Practising Dietitian. You can follow her @honest_nutrition.