The best breads to eat and bake

Updated on 10 February 2011 | 0 Comments

Wholegrain breads are the hottest trend in the sliced bread market and with speciality breads increasing in popularity, there is a whole bread heaven out there to be explored.

Bread is always the enemy for the calorie conscious.  It is one of the first things to go when people are killing off carbs, along with its buttery accomplice. 

This seems a shame as bread can be a slice of granary heaven.  Admittedly you may not want to overdo your intake; standing at the toaster, Marmite-ing slice after slice, is rarely something your metabolism can handle when you’re over twenty. 

But a little bit of the right type of bread is still a winner.  So which breads are the healthiest to eat – and, if you’ve feeling adventurous, bake?

What’s in your bread bin?

Walking down my local Portobello market, the bread stall is easily one of the most enticing.  Large dark Hoxton Rye Levains looking like cracked, scorched earth, dusty pillowy Ciabattas, Onion Bloomers, Sourdough Baguettes, Brick Lane Bagels, Rosemary and Sea Salt Focaccias.  What a ravishing cast and all they need is a lick of extra virgin olive oil, or butter if you must.

It’s hard to resist, but best to steer away from anything too white, if you're in health conscious mode. 

Choose dark, hard, crusty breads

I remember meeting a man with an amazing physique in New York and asking him how he got his high definition look.  ‘Pineapple juice’ he replied ‘before work-outs, plus I never eat anything that looks grey and like it will turn to wallpaper paste in my stomach.  If I’m going to eat bread, it will be just the crusts’. 

Interesting, I thought.  And maybe it’s my subconscious quest for a six pack like his that has increasingly drawn me to dark, hard, crusty breads, the sort you swerve when you’re young.

Spelt bread in particular is a good option, strongly recommended by the Viva Mayr Diet as it’s high in fibre and protein and quite tough so needs a lot of chewing, which aids digestion. 

Sunnyvale Organic Sprouted Spelt Bread can be found in most health-stores and coupled with some low-fat Cottage Cheese or Fromage Frais is the ultimate low calorie, satisfying snack. 

In our supermarket bread aisles

Bread is one of the biggest UK grocery categories worth around £2.1 billion with the average household buying just over 80 loaves per year.  

White bread is still by far  the biggest representative of the British bakery market, with 67% value share last year.

But in our supermarkets there is a growing trend towards ‘healthier white’ (all the taste and texture of white bread but with added nutritional benefits) and ‘breads with bits’, predominantly malted, grainy and seeded. 

Thankfully, it appears that in our search for healthier options we are helping to drive innovation in this well established sector. Bread manufacturers are launching new products with premium finishes and quality ingredients. 

‘Breads of the World’, as they are referred to in market reports, are also enjoying good growth with sales last year of £206 million. 

Indian Naan bread, Mexican Tortilla wraps and Italian speciality breads like Ciabatta and Foccacia are becoming more popular as we try out different tastes and cuisines, opting for the convenience of these ready-made options. 

If you want to experiment at home, there’s an authentic and uncomplicated Italian bread recipe from The River Café in the lovefood Guide: Foccacia Col Formaggio. Mmmm.

Gluten-free options

There is also a growing selection of gluten free breads out there so no need to feel miffed that you're missing out if you're gluten intolerant. is an informative website that pings out free samples to the curious which is always nice and has a service that delivers fresh white and brown gluten free bread to pharmacists for their customers.   

Being gluten intolerant doesn't mean you have to limit yourself to a tiny selection in the supermarket, as you can always bake your own.  Here's a delicious gluten-free focaccia recipe from Phil Vickery, worth making even if you can eat everything....

Kneading or cheating?

Making bread is such a wonderful concept, and even a reality for some like bakery blogger Amy Davies, who likes baking on a Saturday

But if you don’t have time for kneading dough and throwing it about, there is a cheat’s device, thank god.  My lucky sister was given a bread maker for Christmas.  It boasts ten different bread and dough modes, so you can make tempting brioche, croissants and ciabattas in addition to your daily bread, plus further frills like a raisin and nut dispenser and crust control option.

What you get is your ultimate bespoke loaf - that is, if you take it out in time. Otherwise it dips a bit gloomily in the middle. 

Our tried and tested favourite, from the comprehensive recipe book that came with it, is the Seeded Rye with rye flour, which you add your own poppy seeds, linseeds and sunflower seeds to i.e. lots of extras full of goodness to appease for the bready bit. 

Bread-makers make sense

I’m converted: bread-makers so simple and easy to use, it makes me glad to be living in such a high-tech age. 

You can throw the ingredients in at night and set the timer so that when you wake at 7.30 there’s a little loaf awaiting. 

With three small nibblers and a hungry husband my sister’s household work their way through a loaf most days.  And waking up to the smell of freshly baked bread is clearly the most effective alarm clock available.

Say no to Mighty White and yes to bread

Here at, we want to revive bread's bad name.  OK, some bread is inedible, but that’s the same with most foods. 

You don’t have to eat the Mighty White sheets I was enraptured by as a child, which turn to glue when they get wet, so no doubt create a pretty Prit-stick digestion. 

There is a wealth of choice now, so jump on the bread-wagon and get kneading or cheating.  If nothing else, a nation of bread-makers would smell divine. 

Also worth your attention:

Website: The British Bakery Market

Journal: Why do we love toast?

Recipe: Henry Dimbleby’s Ultimate Mushrooms on Toast

Recipe: Philip Brocklehurst’s Savoury Pear Pudding

Recipe: Paul Merrett’s Barley and Bits Salad with Honey’d Goat’s Cheese Toast


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