What (should be) in your sandwich bread?

If you feel like you are doing the right thing by buying and eating “wheat” bread from your grocery store – you could be wrong. And if you are buying white sandwich bread or some sort of Whitewheat bread (like I used to buy) you might really be in for a surprise! Have you checked the list of ingredients on your sandwich bread? If you were to make your own bread at home, what ingredients do you think you would need? It really only takes a few essential ingredients to make bread: flour, water, yeast and maybe a little salt. Some bread recipes might also include some extras like honey (which does help preserve the bread), nuts, raisins, etc.

I used to buy Arnold “Whole Grains” Health Nut bread for my husband. I recently counted the ingredients on the label of his beloved bread – 40!  As most of you know the ingredients are listed in a certain order. According to the FDA’s website “Listing ingredients in descending order of predominance by weight means that the ingredient that weighs the most is listed first.” So here is the list of what I found in this supposedly healthy “whole grain” bread that also contains “unbleached enriched wheat flour” which may sound okay at first glance:


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image courtesy of www.grainmills.com.au

Now most of us have heard that white flour is “bad” for us. But, why is it so bad and is there anything wrong with “unbleached enriched wheat flour” as listed above? Well, I must break out the anatomy of a wheat kernel to properly explain this one. As you can see the wheat kernel has a few key parts: bran, germ and endosperm. Over a hundred years ago wheat was ground between big stone wheels, which removed the bran, but could not remove the germ (a.k.a. the embryo) of the wheat kernel. According to Michael Pollan the germ contributes “some of the most valuable nutrients to the flour, including much of its protein, folic acid, and other B vitamins”, although once the germ is crushed during the milling process it releases a nutrient rich oil that gives the flour a very short shelf life. So in the late 1800s rollers were developed for grinding grain, which “made it possible to remove the germ and then grind the remaining endosperm” which is basically a “big packet of starch and protein.” We were then left with a gorgeous white powder that could travel long distances without spoiling and was almost nutritionally worthless – Michael Pollan calls it “the first fast food.” Since then food scientists figured out what happened and began fortifying the refined grain with vitamins to try to add back what they thought was missing. This is why white flour – which is still technically made from the wheat plant – is often listed as “enriched” on your food labels. It also explains why when I recently compared the labels of my husband’s Arnold “whole grain” bread to my Nature’s Own “Whitewheat” bread it appeared – as if it was an illusion – that the Whitewheat had more vitamins and nutrients. But, studies have proven that there are “additional health benefits to eating whole grains that none of the nutrients (they added back in) could explain.” So you are better off eating real whole grain flour rather than white flour that tries to imitate what may or may not be important in the real thing. This summary also explains why whole grain flour should be kept in your fridge or freezer – did I really want to eat something like white flour that would stay “fresh” sitting on my pantry shelf forever anyway?

Back to the topic of what kind of bread we should eat! Now that we know it should only have whole-wheat flour and no enriched white flour what about all the other stuff they put in the grocery store bread that I can’t even pronounce? Well, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but my husband and I both picked through the majority of the sandwich breads (including the ones from the bakery) at our local Harris Teeter, Trader Joes and Earthfare and we could not find much of anything with suitable ingredients. So you could be adventurous and try to make your own bread or take a shortcut like I did and find a local bakery to make bread for you! I recently discovered and absolutely love Great Harvest Bread Company (which is a franchise with locations all over) because not only do they bake their bread daily, but they also grind their own wheat every morning – that is much better than I can do at home! You still have to pay attention though and make sure you don’t regularly buy their white breads that contain sugar, but instead stick to their whole-wheat options. Our new staple sandwich bread (which is also their most popular product) is their Honey Whole Wheat Bread that is made with the following FIVE ingredients:


At the Charlotte location this bread does cost $5 a loaf, but halfway through our first sandwiches with our new bread we quickly realized we were filling up fast – because it is REAL food! I used to fix my 2-year-old a whole peanut butter and jelly sandwich (she loves some PB&J), but now she usually fills up on a half. I only eat about a half sandwich of it myself. So the loaf does go a long way…and in my opinion it is very tasty for whole wheat bread (and that is coming from a previous white bread eater)!

PS – There are a few other things I have learned about buying bread from a bakery. You are not supposed to keep it in the fridge (for better consistency) and the shelf life is about 7 – 8 days. The bread can easily be frozen. We splurged one week on their Cinnamon Raisin Bread (INGREDIENTS: OUR OWN FRESHLY STONE-MILLED WHOLE WHEAT FLOUR, WATER, RAISINS, MOLASSES, YEAST, SALT, CINNAMON) and I froze half the loaf because we wouldn’t be able to get through the whole thing in a week. Also, they offer some items that can be special ordered like hamburger buns (minimum order is a dozen – freeze some for later!)

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    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hi there Janelle. I’m not familiar with that brand but for a commercial product, their ingredients look pretty good for both breads. ~Amy

  1. What’s your take on soya flour? I’ve read good and bad things so not sure if I should completely avoid it or if it can be ok if not so processed (if possible)!

  2. I recently discovered your blog and am loving it. I totally forgot that we have a Great Harvest Bread here. I rushed over there last Saturday and nabbed a loaf of honey wheat. It was mid afternoon and they didn’t have much bread left. I stopped back this morning and had much to choose from…and still warm. I asked if they sold their fresh ground whole wheat flour as I had been thinking of possibly grinding my own. Yes, they do. And at fifty cents a pound. Really can’t see doing it myself when I can buy it for that price.

  3. Hello,
    I’m completely new, still in the researching process of converting my family into clean eating. I have a 1 1/2 year old, active 11 year old son and a hard working construction man. I don’t own a bread machine so I was trying to find a local bakery that may have clean bread (we live in a rural area with no Whole Foods/Trader Joe’s etc within 50 miles) The local bakery I found has these ingredients in their bread and I’m not sure if they are clean or not: Unbleached, Unbromated Artisan Flour (Wheat Flour, Malted Barley Flour, Ascorbic Acid, Niacin, Iron, Thiamine, Folic Acid), Whole Wheat, Water, Oil, Salt.

    Please help,
    Thank you

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hi Amber. Welcome! The most important ingredient would be the flour. It should read 100% whole grain. Their flour looks to be an enriched flour. The water, salt, and oil are just fine. Ask them if they have a 100% whole grain bread. Also, many readers have used Lisa’s honey whole wheat recipe: https://www.100daysofrealfood.com/2011/08/17/recipe-honey-whole-wheat-sandwich-bread-for-bread-machine/ and baked it in an oven with success. Good luck. ~Amy

  4. Wildflours grinds their own wheat, has only 5 ingredients in their bread, and also sells whole wheat flour. Wonderful small family owned buisness here in TN. They do online orders. Look them up! Wildflours.org

  5. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

    Hi. Yes, Great Harvest has delicious bread! Lisa used the whole wheat sliced loaf in this recipe. ~Amy

  6. Hi I bought my first whole wheat loaf from Great Harvest and I am in love. Is this the same one you made the French toast with?

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hi Courtney. As store-bought brands go, Rudi’s is far better than most. It does not meet the 5 ingredient requirement, however, if you are considering it for the pledge. ~Amy

  7. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

    Hello Elizabeth. The most prominent thing that the label seems to be missing is the 100% whole grain part. That is the one thing you should look for first. Hope that helps. ~Amy

  8. Can you give your opinion on this bread? To me it is new at Harris Teeter—LaBrea Organic Wheat bread:
    Organic Wheat Flour, Water, Organic Rye Flour, contains less than 2% of each of the following: Sea Salt, Yeast, Organic Whole Wheat Flour, Organic Semolina, Organic Malted Barley Four, Sour Culture.

  9. Hi,

    I love your site and visit it regularly as I’m embarking on my own journey of eating primarily real foods and have found it to be a valuable asset! My question is about “germ restored wheat flour”. From what I understand it’s wheat flour that has had the germ removed in the milling process and then added back in after milling is complete. Is this correct and would this be considered a real food by your standards? There’s a great bakery here in the Boston area that uses germ restored wheat flour in many of their breads and is quite convenient as it’s offered in many local stores… so while I enjoy making my own bread I’d love to find something that’s both yummy and convenient!


  10. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

    Hi Kim. I can’t speak to the specifics of how that might weigh out. Certainly, you would know exactly what was in the one you make yourself. My question would be, though, why not try white whole wheat flour which is 100% whole wheat but a lighter grain? It is a great way to bridge the transition from white to whole wheat. ~Amy

  11. Would making homemade white bread using unbleached bread flour be healthier than buying a loaf of wheat bread loaded with preservatives from the store?

  12. I was looking on the web for meal plan ideas to revamp for my ailing father. You have a very thorough and helpful blog here. I just want to point out a concern. Just like the typical American diet, there is a tremendous amount of wheat in your list of menu ideas. With Celiac, Crohns disease, IBS, ADHD and various other conditions popping up everywhere, wheat is repeatedly found to be a culprit. I have been learning that thanks to GMO’s, wheat is a very different beast than it used to be. I am not so sure it is such a great go-to grain for anyone anymore. There are many different other grains along with nut & legume flours that are very rich in a variety of nutrients for making wholesome cereals and breads. I encourage you to research this as well.

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Jill)

      Hi LeesaJ. I am not familiar with that bread and a quick look at the site I didn’t see the ingredients. Jill

  13. I was a baker for a Great Harvest franchise for a number of years (and I loved it!). One thing you’ll notice about GH is that there are great varieties of bread from one location to another. GH is setup on a ‘freedom franchise’; it is not a cookie cutter place. You will not find identical menus in any given location and owners are able to adjust recipes (we made plenty of awesome new recipes). So if you have specific questions the best thing you can do is call your location directly. For instance, in ours we never used white (or brown) sugar in our breads; only honey. We would soak grains for use in say, a 9-grain loaf. Or for our sourdough. However, other locations could very well do things slightly different. So feel free to call!

  14. I just read this on the Great Harvest site:

    Q: Why don’t you recommend that all your bakeries use organic wheat?

    A: A few local Great Harvest bakery owners use organic wheat, but we don’t recommend or require it for all Great Harvest locations. The term “organic” tells us about the history of the wheat, not the nutrient value. We do not use any GMO wheat. Very rarely is there a need for our farmers to use a chemical treatment after the wheat kernel forms on the plant but they do apply a post-emergent herbicide and pesticide to the plant when it’s in the leaf stage. This is to ensure that our wheat gets the right nutrients and has a consistent level of quality that we need to make the level of products we desire.

  15. I am about to embark of the 10 day challenge and one of the biggest challenges I had at the local grocery store was buying bread. I ended up with Baraowsky’s Organic Flaxseed and Chia. The ingredients are: Organic whole wheat flour, water, Organic honey, Organic wheat gluten, Organic soybean oil, yeast, Organic flaxseeds, Organic cultured wheat flour, Organic chia seeds, salt, Organic malt, Organic soy lecithin.

    I was wondering if this was acceptable and if not what ingredients should be removed in the next loaf I buy?

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Jill)

      Hi Lacey. There are a few too many ingredients there, besides the soybean oil, malt and soy lechitin probably not being anything you would add to your own bread. In case you would like to try and make it yourself, here is a recipe…https://www.100daysofrealfood.com/2011/08/17/recipe-honey-whole-wheat-sandwich-bread-for-bread-machine/. Also, there is a brand Breadsmith that only has 5 ingredients and I know it’s sold at Earthfare and Whole Foods here in Charlotte. You could also try the Ezekial breads. Good luck. Jill

      1. Soybean Oil? Soy Lecithin??? Absolutely not! Any unfermented soy (ie. Edamame, soy milk, soy protein, soybean oil and soy lecithin) interferes with thyroid production! It also has an estrogen effect in our bodies, which, like the BPA problem, we should be avoiding at all costs! These ingredients are in most processed foods, even some with the requisite 5 ingredients!
        For more info, simply google “soy & thyroid”.

  16. I am wondering if anyone knows of a good wheat free whole grain bread. I would love to consider this plan, but my daughter has a wheat allergy.

  17. Here is one story that I read from the Huffington Post…


    which states, “The Bible says, “Give us this day our daily bread.” Eating bread is nearly a religious commandment. But the Einkorn, heirloom, Biblical wheat of our ancestors is something modern humans never eat.

    Instead, we eat dwarf wheat, the product of genetic manipulation and hybridization that created short, stubby, hardy, high-yielding wheat plants with much higher amounts of starch and gluten and many more chromosomes coding for all sorts of new odd proteins. The man who engineered this modern wheat won the Nobel Prize — it promised to feed millions of starving around the world. Well, it has, and it has made them fat and sick.”

    There are other articles as well (which I’ll try to find) which refer to this genetically manipulated wheat as “FrankenWheat.”

    I just find this very concerning, as I have 5 kids and they eat sandwiches quite often. I currently buy Trader Joes Whole Wheat bread (only 5 ingredients) but am concerned as it is not organic wheat.

  18. I don’t think Great Harvest uses Organic Wheat. I’ve been reading a lot of information that wheat is quickly becoming all GMO. Are you concerned not buying organic wheat bread?

  19. I really want to switch to a whole wheat bread, but I can’t find ANY bakeries near me that have bread with only the 5 ingredients you’ve listed. I can find some made with whole wheat flour, but then they seem to always have other ingredients such as soybean oil, cracked wheat, or wheat bran. Here is one example of the ingredient list in the whole wheat bread offered at a local bakery: Organic Germ Restored Wheat Flour, Filtered Water, Organic Whole Wheat Flour, Natural Sourdough Starter, Sea Salt

    Are these ingredients okay? I’m feeling a bit frustrated that even the local bakeries seem to have more ingredients than necessary.

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Jill)

      Hi Carol. Yes, Ezekial breads are a great option. They would not be allowed during the pledge, but, beyond that they are great. Jill

  20. I live in Oshkosh and found a bread at Pick n Save that is called Breadsmith. It is made in Appleton. It is only made with the 5 ingredients also. I can’t believe how heavy it is. Makes me wonder what is in white bread?

  21. I am so happy to have found this! I look at bread ingredients all the time and had yet to find one for my daughter that doesn’t contain soy! Thanks for the great idea.

  22. I like this information about the bread. For years now I have been grinding my own Spring Wheat and making bread. Recently I have been baking all of my bread in home made solar cookers and the come out just perfect. A loaf of real bread goes a long way.

  23. I am loving the 100 day challenge , and doing very well . My problem is finding a good bread to eat. This bread that of I have found sounds good but has more than 5 ingredients. Please tell me what you think –
    unbleached wheat flour, water,sesame seeds,oats,millet,sunflower seeds,brown flax seeds,rye flour, honey,
    whole wheat flour, salt,cultured wheat starch, yeast, malted barley flour.

  24. So I finally found a bakery that makes fresh bread with only a few ingredients. I believe it wheat, yeast, water, salt and shortening. It still sounds better than any store bought bread I have found , but is shortening “ok”?? Ugh, I really don’t want to have to make my own:/ LOL!!

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Jill)

      Hi Bobbi. I might just suggest calling them and ask exactly what they are using as shortening to make a determination. Jill

  25. What about Ezekiel brand bread? It’s sprouted grain bread and sold at Trader Joe’s, which is where I do all my grocery shopping.

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Jill)

      Hi Taylor. In general, Ezekial is a great option for bread. I would just say though, that if you are currently following the 10 day challenge, it would not fall within the rules in terms of the number of ingredients. Jill

  26. Hi, I’m from a country town in Australia, we have one chain bakery here and a couple of local bakers. I was looking at the chain bakery’s website which lists all of the products and ingredients. But no where does it say ‘whole wheat flour’. The caption on their Wholemeal Loaf says they use 100% wholegrain wheat flour, but the ingredients list says –
    Wholemeal Wheat Flour (65%), Water, Yeast, Iodised Salt, Vegetable Oil (Canola), Emulsifier (481), Wheat Flour, Soy Flour, Vitamins (Thiamin, Folic Acid)
    Is wholemeal the same as wholegrain? What are your thoughts on the ingredient list?

  27. I recently read the ingredient list for a loaf of bread from a local bakery that included unbleached unbromated flour. How does unbleached unbromated flour compare with whole wheat flour?

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Jill)

      Hi Lindley. I believe that the flour you mention is actually white flour, so, I would still look for one that uses 100% whole wheat flour. Jill

  28. 2 Questions:
    1) I’m sure you’re familiar with GMO’s…..does Great Harvest claim they use no GMO wheat?
    2) How do you feel about the Paleo diet where you don’t eat any wheat?

    1. Hi Margaret –

      1) According to the Great Harvest website “We can confidently say that none of our wheat is GMO”
      2) There is no one diet that is perfect for everyone. We consume whole wheat and other whole grains because no one in our family personally has any issues with them, however we do keep consumption to a reasonable level given all the other fruits, veggies, etc. that we consume. Variety is important. There are many lifestyles that may be appropriate for an individual, such as Paleo or vegetarianism, but we don’t (personally) feel the need to go to such extremes (again, for us). We have reduced the amount of meat we consume since our switch to whole foods and increased fruit and vegetable consumption. I personally have had a bit less desire than before for grains, mainly in the past year. Regardless of whatever specific whole foods diet you prescribe to, hopefully the resources we provide have significant overlap and therefore provide value to you.

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Jill)

      Hi Kathy. Ezekial is a great choice. I like their tortillas as well. They say the sprouted products are easier to digest, so, they are a great option as well. Jill

  29. Trader Joes now carries a “Harvest Whole Wheat Bread.” Ingredients: Stone Ground Whole Wheat Flour, Filtered Water, Honey, Cracked Wheat, Sea Salt, Fresh Yeast and Whey. And it’s only $1.99 a loaf!!

  30. How do these ingredients looks for bread? I am new to this and just trying to find all the info I can.

    Ingredients: Organic Whole Grain Wheat Flour, Organic Wheat Flour, Water, Organic Honey, Organic Red Wheat, Organic Oats, Organic Barley, Organic Corn, Organic Rye, Organic Flaxseed, Organic Millet, Organic Cracked Wheat, Organic Wheat Bran, Organic Cultured Wheat Flour, Organic Vinegar, Sea Salt, Yeast, Natural Enzymes. Contains: Wheat

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Jill)

      Hi Jennifer. I don’t necessarily see anything bad, although, that is a lot of ingredients. I’m also not certain what “natural enzymes” are. I know Trader Joe’s has one now I believe with maybe 6 ingredients…that might be worth checking out if you have one nearby. Jill

  31. Hi. I live in a small WV city and we have no options for bakery fresh bread. Am I just doomed to buy store bought or is there a recipe that I can make for my family?

  32. I am new to your site and to be honest I am a bit freaked out. I am confused on what is healthy and what is not. there is so much to know and understand. Could you help me out? I buy Prairie Grain Bread Co. Honey Whole Wheat Bread. These are the ingredients:100% stone ground whole wheat, water, honey, raisin juice concentrate, salt and yeast. Is this a good choice?

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Jill)

      Hi Tiffany. I would just question the raisin juice concentrate. Do you have a Great Harvest Bread Company closeby? They have a honey whole wheat with only 5 ingredients. Jill

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Jill)

      Hi Kim. Even the “contains less than 2%” ingredients count in the ingredients list. There are a few ingredients I would not consider “real”. Jill