Bread is a contentious subject in the health food community these days. Low-carbers argue that all bread is evil because it’s high in carbohydrates. Paleo dieters argue that bread is evil because it’s made with neolithic grains that your body isn’t adapted to digesting. Fans of Wheat Belly argue that modern wheat is evil because it’s been so hybridized it’s no longer actually healthy for us. Others aren’t against bread, per se, but are against bread containing gluten.
But if you’re a health-conscious bread eater, chances are you stick to whole grain breads. You buy a loaf of sandwich bread that claims to be “Whole Wheat” or “Whole Grain.” You may have even bought Oroweat’s 100% Whole Wheat Bread.
While I do little cooking with grains anymore, it’s mostly out of laziness and not any abiding belief that grains are evil. That’s because I’ve researched how successful traditional cultures around the world eat grains. And trust me, they do — and these successful societies are HEALTHY.
Almost all traditional food cultures treat their grains through one of two methods — sprouting or fermenting. Sometimes they do a combination of the two. I’ve written before about How to Eat Grains, so I don’t want to repeat myself here.
I enjoy grain-free cooking because I don’t want to go through the effort of nurturing a sourdough culture or sprouting all my grains. Some of you may be avoiding grains for health reasons. More power to you! If you’ve got digestive issues, or some hormonal issues, or weight issues, or neurological issues, I strongly believe that going grain-free can be a critical part of your healing protocol.
But for the rest of us, grains aren’t evil. And because we choose to eat grains, we want to buy bread that will be good for us and our families.
So, let’s check out Oroweat’s 100% Whole Wheat Bread and see just how good for us it is.
Here’s what the manufacturer claims:
Our 100% whole wheat bread is made with whole grains, is a good source of fiber and every slice adds hearty flavor to sandwiches and more. No high fructose corn syrup. No artificial colors or flavors. 22g whole grains per serving.
Whole grains are good! Fiber is good! And who doesn’t love hearty flavor? So far, this is looking pretty good. AHA! No high fructose corn syrup. SCORE! No artificial colors or flavors sounds like a good thing, too.
Oroweat 100% Whole Wheat Bread: Ingredients
- WHOLE WHEAT FLOUR,
- WHEAT GLUTEN,
- RAISIN JUICE CONCENTRATE,
- WHEAT BRAN,
- SOYBEAN OIL,
- CALCIUM PROPIONATE (PRESERVATIVE),
- CALCIUM SULFATE,
- GRAIN VINEGAR,
- CITRIC ACID,
- SOY LECITHIN,
- NONFAT MILK
Oroweat 100% Whole Wheat Bread: DECODED
Whole Wheat Flour isn’t as innocuous as it sounds. On the one hand, it’s made from whole grains. In almost all cases, whole grains are preferable to refined grains. So, whole wheat flour is a good thing, right? Except this industrially-produced flour leaves much to be desired.
Those who mill their own flour (as I do when I use it), know one thing for certain. Freshly milled, totally unprocessed whole grain flour goes bad within 5-7 days. So how do the whole grain flours on store shelves and used in store-bought baked goods last so long? Many claim to stay fresh for 4-6 months.
In truth, they’re likely to treat the grains or flours in some way that extends shelf life. Often grains are irradiated, brominated, bleached or unbleached. Some things that sound good, like “unbleached,” really just mean that the flour was treated with something else — like potassium bromate or iodate. The point is, these so-called healthy whole grain flours are usually bitter tasting, oxidized, and just plain bad chemical maelstroms.
Water doesn’t bring to mind any objections. Sugar, however, is likely refined white table sugar made from GMO sugar beets.
Wheat gluten is not necessarily bad, but it is questionable. It’s added to whole grain breads to help them rise better. That’s because we’ve gotten used to fluffy white breads (which are higher in gluten since the bran has been removed). This added gluten can contribute to growing gluten sensitivities, so it’s not really all that desirable.
Yeast is an integral part of any bread, right? But there’s a difference between wild, naturally-occurring yeasts found in traditional sourdough cultures and the newly-invented baker’s yeast. Before the advent of industrial food processing, yeast had to be cultured in ferments. This is how traditional sourdough ferments are made, as well as beer or other alcohol ferments. Traditional sourdough loaves would take anywhere from 12 hours to a few days to ferment and fully rise. With the invention of industrial centrifuges, yeast cultures could be concentrated to a degree never before known. Now bread that used to take days to make could take a few hours. Is this inherently unhealthy? I think the jury’s still out on that. What I do know is that I have an inherent distrust of industrial foods, including industrial yeast.
Raisin Juice Concentrate is included for flavor and sweetness, as is Molasses. Wheat bran is likely added to increase the fiber content of the bread and help create the “whole wheat” color that the public expects.
Soybean oil is a sad tribute to industrial food. It is likely made from GMO soybeans. BOO! And, it’s also a product of industrialization. Until we created high-temperature, high-pressure extraction methods at the turn of the last century, most seed oils weren’t available to us. They have no place in the human diet, and their high concentration of rancid or oxidized polyunsaturated fatty acids makes them hotbeds for promoting weight gain and cancer.
Now let’s investigate the chemical cocktail of ingredients towards the end of this list.
Monoglycerides are a type of fat, but in most industrial food uses they’re synthetically manufactured. In this case, they are added to thicken the bread, to make it lighter and softer.
Calcium Propionate is an anti-fungal that’s added to the bread to prevent mold growth. This is one of the primary reasons why your loaf of store bought bread can sit on your counter for weeks without going bad. It has been linked to the formation or exacerbation of stomach ulcers, migraine headaches, and mood disorders in children.
Calcium sulfate is something you may know by it’s crafty name — Plaster of Paris. When used in baking, it acts as a dough conditioner to help the dough not be soft and sticky. At home, you’d simply add flour or eggs to accomplish the same texture. In industry, adding calcium to the bread removes the stickiness without the need for these costly ingredients. Most other forms of calcium, like calcium phosphate, leave a chalky taste in the mouth. Industrial bakers can get away with using more calcium sulfate because its taste is less noticeable.
DATEM is short for Diacetyl Tartaric Acid Esters of Monoglycerides. It’s added to act as an emulsifier that strengthens the gluten in high-fiber, whole grain breads. It helps make the crust a bit “crustier” and less spongy. Of course, traditionally made breads will get crusty all on their own, without the added chemical.
Adding Grain Vinegar to the dough helps it rise faster and helps give it the slightly sour taste, as does the Citric Acid. Of course, using a sourdough starter would do the same, but this way the breadmaker can get a decent-tasting loaf of bread in a matter of hours. Both are likely made from GMO corn.
Along with the citric acid and calcium sulfate, Soy Lecithin, is added as a dough conditioner. It is likely made from GMO soybeans, and it’s replacing the lecithin found in normal, healthy bread ingredients like eggs.
Whey and Non Fat Milk are likely added as dough enhancers to help the bread be lighter. Skim milk is used rather than whole because yeast is less likely to dissolve and fully activate in the presence of fat.
Oroweat 100% Whole Wheat Bread: THE VERDICT
So, what should you use instead?
Of course, the best option is to make your own bread. You can grow your own sourdough culture, sprout your own grains, grind your own flour fresh, and know beyond any doubt that every ingredient in that bread is as natural and good for you as sunshine.
(Click here to buy sourdough cultures & sprouting kits, sprouted grain flours, grain mills & and baking supplies.)
But what if you’re like me and on the lazy side? What if you want nourishing bread made from sprouted grains and sourdough starters, but you don’t want to make it all yourself?
In that case, you should look for reputable sprouted grain or sourdough breads.
Many supermarkets carry such brands, but BEWARE. Many bread makers include some sprouted grains in their breads so that can call it “sprouted” on the marketing label, but a look at the ingredients label will show the primary ingredient is enriched wheat flour! Others will call a bread “sourdough,” but be made with yeast coupled with a little sourdough culture or vinegar to impart a sour flavor. This isn’t a true sourdough that’s been subject to the long ferments necessary to break down gluten and eliminate the anti-nutrients present in the grain! Instead, it’s just “normal” quick-rising bread that’s been made a bit extra sour.
(Click here to find sprouted grain and sourdough breads I wholeheartedly endorse and enjoy.)
Want Your Labels Decoded?
In this series on Decoding Labels, I’m highlighting deceptive labeling practices, hidden ingredients, and more! If you’ve got a particular label pet-peeve you’d like me to share, please feel free to email me with your idea. It may just turn into a blog post!
Bryan - oz4caster says
I used to buy Alvarado Street Sprouted Sourdough bread at Whole Foods, refrigerated for freshness instead of using preservatives. It’s made with organic grains. The only ingredient I didn’t like was “soy based lecithin”, although I figured the amount was likely small. I haven’t bought any in several years. I don’t know if their sourdough process is at least 12 hours or if it’s the fake sourdough. It was very convenient.
I used to buy their Sprouted Sourdough, too! I remember not liking the soy lecithin, but thinking it was a reasonable compromise given the convenience.
If I recall correctly, their sourdough contains “fresh yeast” and “cultured wheat.” Fresh yeast is a little bit better than dry baker’s yeast, in my opinion. It’s still a concentrated yeast culture, but it’s a bit more on the natural side since it’s moist and already living and active (i.e. it doesn’t need to be “activated” the way you’d do dry yeast). And I read “cultured wheat” as a sourdough culture, don’t you?
So, it’s a little bit of a compromise, but probably well worth it for many given the convenience!
What do you think of FOOD FOR LIFE? (Ezekiel 4:9 and GF products)
I don’t remember anything wrong with them off the top of my head. I’ve tried the Ezekiel 4:9 bread before and didn’t like the texture as much as others. It was a bit too dry and dense for my tastes, but some people really dig that! Sometime I’ve enjoyed buying some of their English Muffins so my kids (who eat more grain than me) can have a slightly more authentic Eggs Benedict for breakfast. I’ve taken to serving my own Eggs Benedict over steamed spinach instead.
Really good article – thanks for questioning commercial yeast as an ingredient and various other dough enhancers that are absolutely unnecessary in making a loaf of sprouted bread. It really bothers me that so many commercial sprouted-grain breads add gluten. With the right attention to detail (time, temp, handling), it’s not necessary. I’d love to send you a loaf of our sprouted grain bread. It’s 100% sprouted whole grain. We wet grind and never add any flour of any kind. It’s about 35% by volume of our own sprouted sourdough leaven, 1% by weight sea salt and 1% by weight of honey. The rest is sprouted wheat and water. Anyway, we’re a very small company but we think what we’re doing represents the epitome of what bread should be and, if personal accounts are to be believed, diabetics, and the no-gluten-can’t-eat-wheat-period-crowd seem able to enjoy our breads. I realize this is sounding like an ad – sorry about that – it’s just we’re very dedicated to making the best possible bread and that means adhering to very simple, time tested principals.
Thanks and, like I said, we’d be very pleased if we could send you a loaf of our bread, a bag of our pit and a package of our flat bread.
How can I get in touch with Doug regarding the sprouted whole grain bread?
The addition of gluten to sprouted breads like Ezekiel and Alvarado always puzzled me. Isn’t avoidance of excess gluten the reason most people would go for sprouted breads? It is for me, at least. I’m assuming the a completely ‘sprouted’ bread would be too dense for popular consumers’ tastes.
You didn’t even mention that the citric acid and vinegar are probably produced by GMO corn. I’m corn allergic, so this is where most store bought breads are out for me. I also see ascorbic acid, another corn product, sometimes added as a dough enhancer. Yuck.
Good catch, Darcie! I know I *meant* to. I went back and edited the post to reflect your contribution. Thanks!
Thanks for sharing this. I’m so suspicious of breads these days. My husband and I are continuing to eliminate grains from our diet until we are both healthier. One bread I do like is Dave’s Killer bread. Granted I know the best bread is that which I would make in my kitchen, but besides sugar and not being traditionally prepared this bread seems pretty good ingredients wise. http://www.daveskillerbread.com/killer-bread/21-whole-grains.html and it is delicious. Thoughts?
Looks pretty good! I bet it’s tasty.
My only hesitation with the Dave’s Killer Bread is the same one for the Alvarado Street Bakery bread mentioned above. It includes both “yeast” and “cultured wheat” in the ingredients list. That means it’s not a true, long-ferment sourdough.
With the Alvarado Street Bakery bread, the flour is at least ALSO from sprouted grain. So, it’s essentially a commercial-yeast-based sprouted grain bread plus a little extra sourdough culture. I think that’s a good compromise bread (not IDEAL, but a good compromise for the sake of convenience).
With the Dave’s Killer Bread, the remaining grains aren’t sprouted first. Add in the fact that it’s not a long-ferment sourdough, and suddenly you find that almost NOTHING’s been done to neutralize the anti-nutrients in the grain.
So, in this case, it’s even more of a compromise. The good news is it’s all organic, has no GMOs, no funky dough conditioners. You really could make this bread at home!
As to whether or not it’s a decent-enough compromise for you to feel good about buying it? Well, that’s up to you. How important is it to you that your grains be treated traditionally? That the gluten be “pre-digested” by a natural fermentation process? That the phytic acid be neutralized?
Food allergies and night shifts lead to my type II type diabetes. Bread is the worst thing I can eat. Now I eat spelt or other types of grain and my gut stays happy and my sugars low. Over eating is not always the cause of type 2 diabetes. Our culture and our food are more to blame.
Ah, man! I appreciate getting this information, but I’m always bummed to discover how crappy mass produced food really is. I’ve bought Oroweat bread because it doesn’t contain corn syrup. I thought it would get a better review when dissected. I swear, I’m going to have to start making my own bread. My husband and I bought a new house recently with a big yard. I’m planning to have a garden, chickens, and honey bees. You inspire me, Food Renegade. Thank you.
I wish I had a garden, chickens, and honey bees!
Sorry to burst your Oroweat bubble. At a lot of stores across the country, it really is one of the “healthiest” options. That’s just plain sad.
This is a GREAT series! Thanks for another fantastic article. I saw mention of Alvarado Street Bakery in the above comments and wanted to mention that we have been buying their sprouted wheat tortillas for a long time. They are the best tortillas I can find on the market, but the safflower oil is a compromise for me. I would love to see you decode some “healthy” tortilla labels one day.
Thanks for the suggestion! Do you think you could email it to me? I’ve got an email folder going with suggestions for this series.
Kristen M. Oh Dear Lord. How did you take that amazing picture? I want one. I need one. It is so cute!!!
Kathleen K says
I hope the manufacturer’s pay attention to blogs such as this one. The GMO ingredients are a deal breaker for me, especially when I can make my own foods so easily. Soybean oil and soy lecithin just aren’t necessary in real food.
Fantastic piece! Always love reading your posts. Do you have a post on sprouting your own grains? Currently make our own bread with white whole wheat flour (100% organic – Bob Mills), but I’m hearing more about sprouted grains. Always feels like just when you think you have your arms around something, another piece of information helps you go a little further. Thank you!
One more lovely tidbit to add to this label decode bread blog: DATEM is banned in many countries around the world! Don’t you love how our government gives us the freedom to eat all of the chemicals we want but not all of the real foods!?!
whoops, my bad, I got DATEM confused with azodicarbonamide – sorry! But still feel the same about eating chemicals vs. real ingredients!
What about Ezekial Bread?
Please see my reply to Debbie above! Thanks. 🙂
We have an awesome local bakery (Essential Bakery) that makes a sourdough wheat – water, organic whole wheat flour, organic unbleached wheat flour and salt. Can I assume that because it has no yeast it has been fermented a proper amount of time?
Yes. Sounds like it.
Thanks for this analysis. The sad truth is that virtually all breads on the grocery store shelf contain soybean oil, making bread and sandwiches untouchable for those of us with soy allergies or intolerances.
I know a lot of people claim to be gluten intolerant, but I wonder if some of those people might not be soy intolerant instead, given that so many gluten containing substances – bread, crackers, cookies, cakes, torlillas – also contain soybean oil.
Anne Temple says
Those of us lucky enough to live in the Milwaukee area can buy Cybros Sprouted bread products. I love their pizza dough!
Nicole M says
Thanks for your recommendation – they are online – https://thesproutedbakehouse.com/
What about ingredients like wheat berries? I found a type of bread at Whole Foods once and all the ingredients included berries of some sort. I enjoyed the bread, but was never able to find it again.
Also, I watched on Dr. Oz once, that he himself recommended pumpernickel bread over whole wheat or whole grain. What is your thought on that?
Here are my thoughts on bread… it takes too long to make sourdough bread, and I am not a big fan of the taste. I make a couple loaves a couple times per month, when my family comes over to eat, because they love it. And in between, I have to feed my sourdough starter that I keep in the fridge. I throw out half of it each week. It takes me a good 24 hours to make 2 loaves of bread and that is with my kitchenaid mixer. They love it with my homemade spinach dip, but honestly, I love white bread the best.
I know it isn’t healthy for me, but I use organic white flour (still not super healthy, I know) but I just stick a batch in my bread maker, it is a simple recipe, and presto, after 5 minutes of prep time, and 3 hours later, we have a loaf of easy to slice bread that is delicious.
So, it isn’t whole grain or sprouted, or even sourdough, but I am guessing it is a lot healthier than what is at the store. 6 ingredients (if you count water). Super simple, and tasty.
I just don’t have the time to do much more than that, and I want a bread that my husband will eat, as well, so that is why I am going with the white flour vs. whole wheat flour.
Totally agree on grain issue. I make my bread exactly the way you described.Just wanted to add break down of time spent.
*Milling flour from whole grain (my husband)about 35 min. on a hand mill, doubles as upper body workout for him.
*Dough preparation 20 min, including “sourdough nurturing” and clean-up.
*First rise – overnight, no action required
* Forming the loaf 10 min. including clean up.
* Second rise 1-2 hours, no action required
* Baking 45 min ( no action, just put dough in the oven and take it out).
Totals: 3-4 times a week workout for the husband, that would hardly happen without bread preparation,
30-35 min. active time, about 15 hours total process.Granted, this requires thinking ahead, but are we so disabled and brain fogged that we can not do it? For our own health?
To Irene- a decent bakery maintains a sponge starter which is the ferment for sourdough. You can probably compare this to maintaining a culture for homemade yogurt.
I would suggest that people find and encourage local small bakers rather than buying prepackaged mass-distributed bread. One of the benefits of modern times -fast world travel- is also its bane; in that most food is just not able to stay fresh and travel without being adulterated in undesirable ways (picked before ripe, artificially preserved, etc). Concentrating production in fewer larger factories instead of spread out to many local producers creates the same problems. Larger companies then lobby for regulations that create barriers to entry for small business -but that’s another topic.
Since fresh bread stales quickly, find creative uses for extra bread- slice and freeze or slice and dry in the oven to make homemade bread crumbs and croutons, etc.
I would also like to add that seed oils are not a product of the industrial age. Various seed oils have been around for millennia, produced using cold pressed methods.
Your comments about yeast are peculiar to me. Improved yeast production methods to produce yeasts uncontaminated by other bacterias and concentrated for improved performance is not necessarily a bad thing. They are all the same strain of bacteria. Making fresh bread at home with dry yeast or dough starter, using a healthy flour without soy and other added unnecessary ingredients, should be a viable alternative to anyone wanting to eat healthy more natural foods.
A great insight into keeping it healthy and natural thanks
Pamela Cohen says
After the Portland Oregon water fluoridation issue failed (TG), I did some quick research as to how we still ingest fluoride. I read about sulfuryl fluoride used on everything from wheat to beans, rice, etc.
I was initially curious about Oroweat, as it tastes so horrible to me, I wanted to ‘decode’ it myself.
Bromine is added to so many things, bread included, and is a poison, banned in the UK and Canada, and California.
Any processed food, any use of water, and things like reconstituted juices, etc. have fluoride in them. Then there is the sulfite additives to every boxed food, and even sprayed on salads.
During a cancer surgery, the hospital had nothing to feed me afterwards that didn’t contribute to cancer. After I said no to sulfites (allergic) caffeine, MSG and sugar, I got a tray with only jello and caffeinated tea? Had a friend not brought homemade chicken noodle soup and yogurt, the hunger pains when I needed nourishment would have surpassed the surgery woes. Food is our medicine…in the US?
Daves Bread stays vegan, so no honey or GMO sugarbeets they say, but they just sold 50% of their biz. Personally, I’ve noticed all those whole seeds doing sneak attacks w/ inadequate chewing of each one can stimulate intestinal problems. Some breads out there use whole flax seeds, which the body can’t break down.
And as to ‘unbleached flour’, instead of sulfoxone? causing diabetes, I guess we get more chemicals. Kind of like the ‘protective’ act of the FDA irradiating all the almonds or spraying them w/ fire retardant chemicals.
It’s getting to the point of, do we stay in the US and starve, or go elsewhere?
David M. P. says
This bread bought in Canada has none of the chemicals or preservatives. It is made without flour, using sprouted organic grains. Any chance of doing a review of that particular bread?
”You can grow your own sourdough culture, sprout your own grains, grind your own flour fresh, and know beyond any doubt that every ingredient in that bread is as natural and good for you as sunshine.”
Sunshine isn’t good for you, it causes skin cancer.
Not everything natural is good for you (like belladonna), and not everything `unnatural` or `chemical` is bad for you (like acetic or citric acid, which is just what makes vinegar or lemon juice taste sour).
I agree and this article makes a lot of assumptions (like everything is GMO, and that GMO = bad) and there isn’t a single bit of science to back up any of these claims.
Oh I am so confused. I just happened on your website And have been reading all your articles and feel like all the food I have been eating and feeding my family are horrible and are killing all of us slowly with all these chemicals and processed ingredients. I found sourdough bread at my grocery store from a local bakery called Zingermans, and the ingredients on the label they printed out were unbromated unbleached wheat flour, water, organic wheat flour and sea salt. This sounds good right? But when I went to their website the ingredients were totally different and included enriched wheat flour! Ugh. Have you heard of this brand and If so what are your thoughts?
Susan Littell via Facebook says
Raisin juice concentrate is used as a natural mold inhibitor. It is used primarily in dark breads because of the color. Grain vinegar raises the acidity to also help prevent mold. These are both very old baking techniques. Dry milk is for added richness, it does not prevent yeast growth. Many holiday breads are made with eggs and whole milk and they literally jump in the oven. No yeast inhibition there. Not a really accurate eXplanation of ingredients. Don’t like the chemicals in the label, but the basic ingredients are quite normal and ordinary. Been a professional bakery for 38 years, and I make hundreds of loaves a day at my bakery.
Michele Sawyer Shultz via Facebook says
We eat homemade sourdough bread.
Jenna Hunter says
I believe in the importance of buying healthy, organic food for my family. Thank you for the tips on what kind of wheat bread I should look for. I’ll be sure to check the labels for sprouted grains as the primary ingredient in the future.
“It has been linked to the formation or exacerbation of stomach ulcers, migraine headaches, and mood disorders in children.”
Linked by whom, and with what evidence?
Yvonne Taylor says
I bought a loaf of 12 grain bread at Superstore on Sat 8th Dec it was ticketed bb16th Dec.I put the bread in the freezer when I got home.Today I took it out to make a sandwich only to smell a stale smell from it .Twist tag has the codesb2 lfo9 12 32. S does that mean this bread is from Sept and re dated?Not happy if it is.
michaela morgan says
its hard to accept her advice on what kind of bread to eat once i find that she drinks scotch. no amount of alcohol is good.. for anyone. with that, i think i will have another piece of oroweat .. with cheese..
I’m on the lazy side too, and dont really have the means to bake fresh bread, however, is there ANYONE of the “commercially produced” kind that you might possibly consider for those with thyroid issues who need to stay away from “white” bread? I’m looking for something that does NOT have “Bromate/Bromine flour”, which is used in almost everything as well. Please don’t tell me the ONLY option is to make it myself.
How starnge…the oroweat 100% whole wheat bread in my hand doesn’t have those weird ingredients in your list. Same bread, same company, different ingredients…how odd. Or perhaps just a bias.