Despite all the anti-carb rhetoric out there, most people still love their bread. So much so that consumption in the U.S. totals over 6 billion kilograms.. Man, that is a lot of bread being used for lunch sandwiches and breakfast toast. So, yes, this crusty, deliciously starchy food group is here to stay and we’re here to make sure you’re buying the healthiest breads possible to keep your fitness goals on point.

Like so much of the food out there you can pop slices in your toaster that are either nutritionally poor or can help you go the distance on better nutrition. Shopping for loaves that go bigger on whole grains and fiber can take the no-no factor way down and the nutritional value way up. (Spoiler alert: Wonder White is not it.)

How to Choose the Healthiest Breads at the Store

Grocery store shelves have a plethora of bread options these days, which is why it’s important to know what to look for on the package labels. Here are some of the key things to search for when trying to bag the healthiest breads for your avocado toast.

Prioritize Whole Ingredients

Look for breads that are made with all, or at least mostly, whole grain flour such as whole wheat or whole rye. This means that the germ and bran of the grain kernel, which harbors the lion’s share of its nutrients and fiber, are present in the bread. Refined bread flour has been stripped of its nutritious germ and bran leaving behind just the starchy endosperm, though some B vitamins and iron are typically added back in later on in the production process. This is a poor consolation prize. A study in The BMJ based on data from 137,130 adults found that people with high consumption of refined grains had a higher mortality risk and risk for major cardiovascular disease events, as well as increased systolic blood pressure, compared with those with low consumption of refined grains.

But watch out for breads that seem to be whole-grain but aren’t. Label claims like “multi-grain” “7-grain,” and “made with whole grains” make a loaf of bread appear more nutritious but they are often made mostly with white flour with just a small amount of whole-grain added in for good measure. Pay close attention to the ingredient list and look for an option that lists whole wheat as the first ingredient (‘whole’ being the keyword here) and not simply wheat flour or unbleached flour, both euphemisms for white flour.

Seek Out Fiber

Bread should be viewed as a good opportunity to work more fiber into your diet. Fiber from bread can help keep bowel movements regular, lower cholesterol, improve blood sugar control, and slow down digestion to help keep you feeling more full and satisfied after eating. But too many loaves on store shelves are fiber lightweights, especially those made mainly with white flour. Dietary guidelines recommend 14 grams of fiber for every 1,000 calories eaten, and you can have an easier time meeting this requirement if you choose bread with at least 3 grams of fiber in each slice.

Sack the Sugar

 Surprise, your favorite loaf of bread might be giving you more sugar than you thought — because, hey, sugar is being pumped into everything. Sugars are often added to packaged breads to help them rise during baking, improve shelf-life, and also mask the earthy flavors of any ingredients like whole wheat. Don’t fall for advertising claiming the bread is made without high fructose corn syrup when the manufacturer has simply used cane sugar instead which isn’t any better for you.

Ideally, choose a bread that supplies no more than 2 grams of added sugar per slice. Again, label reading is your BF.

Embrace Sour Power

Quarantine lockdowns spurred a sourdough renaissance among aspiring home bread bakers. So if there was any good news to come out of the COVID era it was exposing more people to this amazing style of bread. Unlike traditional breads that use baker’s yeast, sourdough is made with a fermented “starter” that contains wild yeasts and beneficial lactic acid bacteria along with flour and water. Not only does this process boost the flavor and texture of bread, it also improves the nutritional value including boosting levels of essential amino acids and phenolic compounds. What’s more, the lactic acid bacteria found in sourdough bread lowers its pH, which helps deactivate phytate. Because of this, sourdough bread tends to contain less of the anti-nutrient phytate than other types of bread to allow for improved nutrient uptake.

For the most part, the supermarket is not the place to find authentic sourdough. Your best bet for the real stuff comes from local bakery shops that make artisan-style breads. Although sourdough isn’t always a whole-grain bread, you can find bakeries that make it.

Sprout it Out Loud

You’ve likely seen Ezekiel bread on grocery store shelves, which has garnered a cult-like following. To make this style of bread, ingredients like grains and legumes are germinated, then typically dried before being milled into flour. The nutrient and antioxidant content of ingredients like whole wheat are increased during sprouting, while levels of the anti-nutrient phytic acid are reduced which may allow your body to absorb more of the micronutrients in each slice. Research also demonstrates that consuming sprouted bread improves blood sugar levels after eating the carbs compared to other styles of non-sprouted bread. So if your budget allows, choosing whole-grain sprouted bread is a smart choice for better nutrition. They often don’t contain any preservatives so are best stashed in the fridge to keep each slice tasting fresh.

7 Healthiest Store Bought Breads

These breads rise about the rest. (See what I did there.)

Ezekiel 4-9 Sprouted Whole Grain

Ezekiel 4:9 Sprouted Whole Grain

Per Slice: 80 calories,0.5 g fat , 15g carbs ( 3g fiber, 0g added sugar), 5g protein, 75mg sodium

This extra-healthy bread is made with sprouted grains, lentils and soybeans making it high in protein, fiber and a range of vital micronutrients. It’s also fairly modest in calories and doesn’t include any added sugars, which is surprisingly rare in the commercial bread world.

Oroweat Bread

Oroweat Whole Grains Double Fiber

Per Slice: 100 calories, 1.5 g fat , 21 g carbs ( 6g fiber, 2g added sugar), 4g protein, 160mg sodium

An infusion of oat fiber gives this whole-wheat bread a lofty fiber content making it easier to reach your daily need for grit. And it’s one of the more economical healthier breads you’ll find in stores.

Dave Killer Bread

Dave’s Killer Bread Power Seed

Per Slice: 100 calories, 2.5 g fat, 18g carbs (4g fiber, 1g added sugar), 5g protein, 135 mg sodium

This whole wheat, low-sugar bread is infused with a healthy dose of nutritious seeds including flax and sunflower. There is a solid amount of protein and fiber and the slices toast up nice and crispy. A killer choice in the bread aisle, indeed.

Equii bread

EQUII Multi-Grain + Fiber

Per Slice: 120 calories, 2.5 grams fat, 16g carbs (4 g fiber, 1 g added sugar), 8g protein, 160mg sodium

This bread goes nuts on protein, so much so that a sandwich made with 2 slices will give a whopping 16 grams of protein. The yeast protein provides a complete plant-based protein. Bread that builds muscle…who knew? You also get a solid amount of fiber and a nice mix of nutritious grains and seeds including quinoa and flax. And, yes, this next-level bread still tastes great despite this solid nutrition profile.

Mestemacher Whole Rye Bread

Mestemacher Whole Rye Bread

Per Slice: 120 calories, 1 grams fat, 26g carbs (6 g fiber, 0 g added sugar), 3g protein, 320 mg sodium

Most rye bread on store shelves is fake and made mostly with white flour. Not this German import. Each hearty slice is made only with whole rye so you end up with impressive amounts of hunger-busting fiber.  There is also no added sweet stuff. The long slices are perfect for open-faced sandwiches – try a slather of cream cheese topped with smoked salmon, sliced roasted red pepper, and a hunk of cucumber. Just keep in mind that the sodium content is a bit on the high side for bread.

Silver Hills Sprouted Bread

Silver Hills Omegamazing

Per Slice: 90 calories, 1.5 grams fat, 15g carbs (4.5 g fiber, 2 g added sugar), 5g protein, 150mg sodium

The lower-carb bread goes bigger on heart-benefiting omega-3 fats from chia and flax. Each slice also supplies 5 grams of plant-based protein from ingredients like sprouted whole grains, chia seeds, and vital wheat gluten. And remember, sprouting the grains (wheat and oats) makes the nutrients they contain more available for your benefit.

Canyon Bakehouse Bread

Canyon Bakehouse Heritage Style Whole Grain

Per Slice: 110 calories, 2.5 grams fat,  21g carbs (1 g fiber, 3 g added sugar), 3g protein, 190mg sodium

If you need to slather your PB on gluten-free bread this is one of your better options. Mainly because it’s made with whole grain flour (brown rice and sorghum) instead of the highly refined starches that dominate the gluten-free bread market. It has a taste and texture that is close to the regular slices as opposed to sawdust.