Gluten-free is certainly a buzz-word these days in the supermarket aisle. Gluten is a mix of proteins found in certain grains, like wheat, rye, and barley, and products made with these grains, including bread. If you have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, avoiding gluten is essential. However, unlike popular media claims, avoiding gluten isn’t necessary (or even healthful) for those without such medical conditions. Avoiding gluten needlessly can make it challenging to obtain enough fiber and other minerals found in gluten-containing grains.
If you need to eat gluten-free for health reasons, the availability of sliced gluten-free breads, from your morning toast to your lunch sandwich, is a great convenience. Gluten-free products use a variety of ingredients to replace wheat and other grains. The most common are tapioca, potato starch, and rice (brown or white) flour or starch. Be aware that these ingredients may be more calorie-dense than gluten-containing grains, making many breads higher in calories than their traditional counterparts. Consider checking the Nutrition Facts panel so you know how many calories you’re getting. And while you’re there, check the serving size. Some gluten-free breads consider one slice a serving, while others list two slices.
Helpful Hints. Keep the following thoughts in mind when selecting gluten-free breads.
- Fiber Check. To ensure you don’t miss out on fiber, look for products containing at least two grams per serving.
- Whole Grain? Check the ingredients list and make sure a whole grain, like brown rice flour or millet, is at or near the top of the list to ensure you’re getting the healthy whole grain benefits.
- Sugar Loaf. Some manufacturers add extra sugar to their gluten-free products. If you’re trying to limit added sugar, be sure to check the Nutrition Facts panel so you know how much sugar you’re getting.
—Heidi McIndoo, MS, RD