I eat too much bread. I like honey toast, PB&J, and the occasional tuna sandwich. But I know most bread is processed crap Â— it’s not a good addition to my diet. I’m particularly wary of the high-fructose corn syrup most commercial breads contain.
Because I’m that kind of guy, I recently decided to find the “best” bread at my local supermarket. I made a trip to Safeway and picked up all eight varieties of whole wheat bread the store stocked. Then I set to work analyzing each loaf.
I tracked how much I spent, how much each loaf weighed, how many slices were in each bag, the stated nutrition information, and the list of ingredients. To find out which bread tasted best, I sought input from five friends. The six of us conducted a blind taste test, and I jotted our impressions.
Here’s the product of my anal-retentive mind at work:
Oven Joy whole wheat (637g listed, 655g actual)
$0.99 for 22 slices (4.50 cents per slice, $1.55 per kilogram)
per 29g slice: 80 calories, 0.5g fat, 160mg sodium, 14g carbs (2g fiber, 1g sugars)
- “Sour, clumpy, doughy.”
- “Tastes like Wonder Bread.”
- “Wonder Bread with brown speckles.”
- “So soft! It’s difficult to spread anything on.”
- “For someone who grew up on white bread, this is very satisfying.”
Contains “enriched flour” and a bevy of junky chemicals. This bread does contain high-fructose corn syrup. The packaging makes no claims. It bugs me that because this is the cheapest bread, it’s really the only option for many families. This bread costs about a quarter what the better breads cost, but it’s crap.
Orowheat 100% whole wheat light (453g listed, 524g actual)
$3.79 for 20 slices (18.95 cents per slice, $8.37 per kilogram)
per 45g serving (two slices): 80 calories, 0.5g fat, 240mg sodium, 18g carbs (7g fiber, 3g sugars)
- “Tastes like honey.”
- “There’s fruits or nuts.” [There are neither.]
- “It’s difficult to cut with a knife.”
- “There’s a bitter taste.”
- “It’s dry. I don’t mind it, but I don’t like the spongy texture.”
- “It’s stretchy.”
- “This is the only one that tastes bad.”
Contains whole wheat flour and other fiber sources, brown sugar, lots of “gums” (guar gum, xanthan gum, carrageenan gum), no high-fructose corn syrup. The packaging claims that this bread has 40 calories per slice, no cholesterol (none of these breads has cholesterol), and 1/3 fewer calories than regular bread. Judged by weight, this is the most expensive bread I tested. It’s also the worst-tasting.
Sara Lee 100% whole wheat (680g listed, 680g actual)
$3.69 for 16 slices (23.06 cents per slice, $5.43 per kilogram)
per 43g slice: 120 calories, 1.5g fat, 210mg sodium, 21g carbs (3g fiber, 5g sugars)
- “This is visually pleasing Â— it looks like whole wheat.”
- “I like the chunks.”
- “It’s sweet and nutty.”
- “I can see actual grains.”
- “My favorite so far.”
- “My favorite of them all.”
- “This one’s good. I taste sweetness more than grain.”
Contains whole wheat flour, brown sugar, no high-fructose corn syrup. The packaging claims that this bread is 100% natural, and the ingredient list backs it up. This is the second-best bread based on quality ingredients, and it’s the best bread based on our taste test. (It’s my second-favorite.)
Orowheat Double Fiber (680g listed, 692g actual)
$3.79 for 18 slices (21.06 cents per slice, $5.58 per kilogram)
per 38g slice: 70 calories, 1g fat, 160mg sodium, 16g carbs (6g fiber, 2g sugars)
- “Very flavorless.”
- “This is bland and dry.”
- “It tastes sawdusty.”
- “It’s firm and there’s not much taste.”
- “It’s dry.”
- “It starts off well but doesn’t go anywhere.”
Contains whole wheat flour, lots of added fiber, gums, and chemicals. This bread does contain high-fructose corn syrup. The packaging claims this bread is an excellent source of fiber and vitamin D: “48% of daily fiber in two slices”.
Franz Oregon Trail 100% whole wheat (737g listed, 737g actual)
$3.59 for 17 slices (21.18 cents per slice, $4.87 per kilogram)
per 43g slice: 110 calories, 1.5g fat, 220mg sodium, 21g carbs (3g fiber, 4g sugars)
- “Yuck. This tastes like soap.”
- “It doesn’t taste good. There are floral notes.”
- “This is the same bread as the first [Oven Joy], but maybe a little sweeter.”
- “It’s overbaked.”
- “This is my favorite flavor so far, but not my favorite bread.”
- “This is much sweeter than the other breads.”
Contains whole wheat flour, honey, “refinery syrup”, “soft white wheat flour”, “dough conditioners”, no high-fructose corn syrup. The packaging claims the bread is healthy, low fat, and a good source of fiber, “with delicious pockets of honey”.
Orowheat 100% whole wheat (680g listed, 706g actual)
$3.89 for 18 slices (21.61 cents per slice, $5.72 per kilogram)
per 38g slice: 90 calories, 2g fat, 190mg sodium, 18g carbs (3g fiber, 3g sugars)
- “This is like the first one [Oven Joy].”
- “There’s lots of air.”
- “When you chew it, it bounces back.”
- “It has a hint of multigrain flavor.”
- “This is rubbery.”
Contains whole wheat flour, honey, cracked wheat, molasses. This bread does contain high-fructose corn syrup. The packaging claims this bread is whole wheat with a touch of pure molasses. This used to be my staple bread before I discovered Milton’s Whole Grain Plus.
Milton’s Whole Grain Plus (680g listed, 816g actual)
$3.79 for 18 slices (21.06 cents per slice, $5.57 per kilogram)
per 38g slice: 90 calories, 0.5g fat, 125mg sodium, 16g carbs (5g fiber, 3g sugars)
- “Decent texture Â— a more earthy flavor.”
- “There’s little bits of stuff. It’s my favorite.”
- “This bread is more heterogeneous, but the flavor is kind of blah.”
- “It’s nutty. It has a good crust.”
- “This is grainy. It’s tasty. It has the best texture.”
- “It looks better than the others. It’s firmer. I like the whole grains.”
Contains whole wheat and other whole grains, brown sugar, honey, no high-fructose corn syrup. The packaging claims that this bread has 24g of whole grains per servings, and that it may reduce the risk of heart disease. Note that my loaf had 816g of actual bread, making this the second-best bargain at $4.64 per kilogram.
Franz Big Horn Valley (737g listed, 757g actual)
$3.69 for 17 slices (21.71 cents per slice, $5.01 per kilogram)
per 43g slice: 100 calories, 1.5g fat, 200mg sodium, 20g carbs (3g fiber, 3g sugars)
- “It’s soft and light.”
- “This is gummy. It’s too airy.”
- “There’s not much whole wheat flavor.”
- “There are no chunks of anything.”
- “It’s sweet. It’s okay.”
- “This tastes processed.”
- “It’s not particularly great.”
Contains whole wheat flour, honey, brown sugar, no high-fructose corn syrup. The packaging claims no artificial preservatives, flavors, colors, or ingredients. This bread has the “purest” ingredient list of all those I tested. Unfortunately, the great ingredient list is undone by the taste.
The cheapest bread we tried was the Oven Joy whole wheat. Unfortunately, it’s also the worst bread for you. It has little nutritive value. The best-tasting bread was the Sara Lee 100% whole wheat, which everyone liked (and most liked best of all). Unfortunately, this bread is a little “spendy”, containing more calories and carbs per slice than most other breads.
My favorite bread turns out to be Milton’s Whole Grain Plus. This was the only bread other than the Sara Lee that most of us liked. (I thought it tasted best.) It has a fine ingredient list (though there are a couple of chemicals), decent nutritive value, and reasonable cost.
It frustrates me that it’s so difficult to find a decent bread at the supermarket. Not everyone can afford to shop at a natural foods store or a Trader Joe’s. (I didn’t even look to see what these places had to offer.) Most people shop at stores like Safeway, and if they want to eat well, their choices are limited to breads like the ones I tried.