The Healthiest Breads

The Healthiest Breads: European Style, Wheat, Whole Grain, Sprouted or Gluten-free?

A staple of many of our diets, finding a healthy bread is an important factor in making healthy nutrition choices. On the shelves and bread aisle, there are a wide variety of breads to choose from. Below is our Paradise Foods Nutritionist’s guide to choosing a healthy bread for you and your family.

European Style – Prepared In-house & from Local Bakeries
Fresh baked bread once was nothing more than flour, yeast, water and salt. Today it is produced on a mass scale commonly with chemical or natural additives to improve the flavor, consistency and appearance. Chemical and natural preservatives are often added to extend the shelf life. Many local bakers tend to shy away from the use of chemical additives and preservatives. Grace Baking, Acme, Artisan Bakers, Metropolis, Semifreddi’s, Judy’s Breadsticks, Alvarado Street Bakery, Vital Vittles and La Boulange may use natural preservatives such as sourdough. Fresh local breads are available as both table breads and sandwich loafs.

Whole Wheat & Multi-grain Vitamins, Minerals & Fiber make Healthy Bread
100% whole wheat bread contains the whole wheat kernel (the bran, the germ and the endosperm). The vitamins, minerals and fiber from the whole kernel make this a nutritiously superior bread to that of white and brown or wheat bread. Multi-grain bread may use flour that has been refined, similar to that of white or brown and wheat, losing much of the nutritional value. 100% multi-grain bread is not refined and contains the vitamins, minerals and fiber from the whole grain kernel, similar to 100% whole wheat bread. 100% multi-grain bread with a combination of spelt, kamut, barley, rye, oats and buckwheat tend to be dense. They have been found to slow digestion, leaving a feeling of fullness and satiety shortly after eaten.

White & Brown or Wheat Nutritionally Inferior to 100% Whole Wheat or 100% Whole Grain
White bread uses flour with the bran removed. Brown bread, also referred to as wheat bread, uses flour with most of the bran removed, leaving enough for color. Depending on the baker, often coloring is added back in to create darker bread in color. The bran is where the many of the vitamins, minerals and fiber are stored. When these nutrients are removed many white and wheat breads are enriched with B-vitamins and iron in an effort to add some of the nutrition lost in the extraction process. Some brands may also add in the form of an isolated fiber such as oat or soy fiber. Isolated fibers may not have the same health benefits as intact fibers that are in the bran. Without intact fiber the body processes this refined form of flour quite quickly, similar to how the body processes sugar.

Sprouted Similar Nutrition to Whole Wheat and Multi-grain
Sprouted 100% whole wheat or whole grain may be easier for some to digest because the whole grain kernel is soaked in water which may activate digestive enzymes. This may improve the absorption and utilization of the nutrients, but the sprouted bread in of itself does not provide a greater source of nutrition.

Gluten-Free – Whole Grain Gluten Free is a Good Alternative
Gluten-free breads are increasing in popularity as many people are living with celiac disease, wheat allergy or gluten sensitivity.  Brown rice, buckwheat, quinoa, millet, corn, potato, amaranth, sorghum and teff are gluten-free whole grain flours often used in baking. Nut, seed and legume flours are used as well, such as almond and garbanzo. Nutrient-for-nutrient gluten-free breads tend to contain less overall nutrients than 100% whole wheat and whole grain breads; however they do contain essential nutrients for those who cannot tolerate gluten.

Jen Martin

Jen’s Picks
Jen’s preference is for whole grain European style bread with sourdough to naturally preserve the freshness. She enjoys the nutrient-rich lovesticks by Judy’s Breadsticks. These breadsticks are whole grain, vegan and have added nutrients from sesame and sunflower seeds. Her sandwich bread of choice is Alvarado Street Bakery Ultimate Kids Bread. It’s 100% whole grain with sprouted wheat berries and molasses, a great source of iron. Jen recommends Canyon Bakehouse Mountain White Bread as an excellent gluten-free option that is 100% whole grain and seems to please even the pickiest of palettes.

For Customers of Paradise Foods by Jen Martin, RHN, Registered Holistic Nutritionist & Nutrition Consultant

Understanding Healthy Bread Claims

Low Sodium – A single slice of most bread contains no more than 250 mg of sodium, but when consumed regularly or in large quantities, the sodium level is something to consider. Lower sodium is of increased importance for a diet that is moderate-to-high in processed or packaged foods, increased blood pressure or at risk for heart disease and stroke. Labels displaying “low sodium” claim the product contains 140 milligrams or less of sodium per serving.

Low Glycemic – The glycemic index (GI) measures the amount of blood glucose that is produced by the consumption of carbohydrates. The more glucose produced, the higher the GI. A GI of 55 or less is considered low. Whole wheat and whole grain bread has a naturally lower GI than white, brown or wheat bread. Sourdough bread has also shown lower GI due to the fermentation. 100% whole grain flour-less, or sprouted breads, containing no added sugar are the most nutritious of the low GI choices.

Light – Breads that indicate they are light commonly have about 50 fewer calories per slice. The whole grain versions tend to be smaller and airier.

High Fiber – Wheat breads that offer more fiber should be examined to see if the added fiber is in the form of bran or an isolated fiber such as oat or soy fiber. Isolated fibers may not have the same health benefits as intact fibers that are in whole grain.

All Natural & 100% Natural – While this may be true, read the ingredient label to know what the bread does contain. Natural does not mean whole grain and may have ingredients such as natural sugars that are not necessarily healthy.

Whole Grain – Many bread packages are marketed as “Whole Grain”, “Good Source of Whole Grain” or “Made with Whole Grain” – Be certain to read the ingredient label as these may contain only a small amount of whole grain.

No High Fructose Corn Syrup – There is a lot of controversy over whether or not high fructose corn syrup has a worse effect on the body than other forms of sugar. In addition to high fructose corn syrup, also look for other sources of sugar including dextrose, sugar cane, sugar beets, maple syrup, dates, agave and honey.

Additives and Preservatives

  1. Potassium Bromate – Strengthens the dough but may be remnant if the bread has not been baked long enough or under the appropriate conditions. It is classified as a potential carcinogen.
  2. Sodium Stearoyl Lactate – Gives the bread a lighter consistency. Those who have a difficulty digesting lactose may have harder time digesting bread with this additive.
  3. Partially Hydrogenated Oils – Read the ingredient label to be sure it does not contain any type of partially hydrogenated oil or fractionated oil as these are Trans fats. These fats may increase the risk of high cholesterol and heart disease, amongst other health problems.
  4. Calcium Propionate – Increases the shelf life. This preservative has been associated with sleep irregularity and hyperactivity in children.
  5. Food Coloring – Changes the appearance. Chemical food dye has been associated with hyperactivity in children.
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How to Pick the Best Yogurt For You & Your Family

Step 1: Pick the Milk Source – Cow, Sheep, Goat, Coconut, Almond or Soy Boy eating yogurt

The healthy bacteria added in the fermentation of milk may aide digestion assisting in the utilization of nutrients from other foods. Often people who have difficulty digesting lactose are able to comfortably digest dairy yogurt as much of the lactose has been turned into lactic acid as a natural occurrence of the healthy bacteria. Sheep and goat’s milk yogurt are reported to be even easier for some. Dairy yogurt is naturally high in protein, calcium, B vitamins and vitamin D and sheep and goat’s milk yogurt contain even greater levels of some nutrients than cow’s milk yogurt.

Plant-based yogurts such as coconut, almond and soy, are also highly nutritious yet dairy-free. Coconut milk contains fiber but is higher in fat than dairy yogurts. Almond and soy milk yogurts contain fiber but are lower in protein and calcium than dairy yogurts.

Step 2: Pick the Style – Traditional, Cream-top, Greek, Icelandic, Russian, French or Kefir

  • Traditional – Thin with a naturally sour taste
  • Cream-top – Made with un-homogenized milk and a layer rises forming a rich yogurt cream on top
  • Greek – Removes the whey through straining and leaves a thick consistency and a tangy taste with a higher protein content than other styles (be cautious as some marketed Greek style yogurts have added thickeners)
  • Icelandic – Similar to Greek style, the whey is removed through straining leaving a thick consistency and tangy taste with less sugar
  • Russian – Has a mild taste and gentle consistency while being a bit creamier and thicker than traditional yogurt
  • French – The ratios of the healthy bacteria are different than traditional yogurt leaving a milder yogurt flavor
  • Kefir – Contains more liquid and is a consumed as a drink

Step 3: Pick your Punch – Plain, Fruit, Flavored, “Smoothie” or Tube

Yogurt is a healthy food that is naturally high in sugar but does not taste sweet. The lactose that is fermented is actually a sugar represented on the nutrition label. On average, plain yogurt that has no added sugar has about 12 grams of naturally-occurring sugar in the form of lactose for every 6 ounce serving.  Adding sugar in the form of fruit, fruit juice or sugar can make this otherwise healthy choice a treat. Yogurt smoothies and tubes often contain fruit or flavored yogurt plus added sugar. When selecting yogurt know that fruit, flavored, smoothies and tube yogurt contain an average of 26 grams of sugar in every 6 ounce serving, approximately two tablespoons of added sugar.

Step 4: Pick Local – St. Benoit, Redwood Hill Farms, Bellwether Farms, Wallaby Organics, Clover Stornetta, Straus Family Creamery and Pavel’s

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For Customers of Paradise Market by Jen Martin, RHN
Registered Holistic Nutritionist & Nutrition Consultant

Jen’s Picks – Plain Icelandic yogurt because it is high protein, low in sugar and has a thick and creamy consistency that tastes great with fresh fruit.  She also regularly uses plain Kefir from Green Valley Organics in smoothies and Greek Yogurt from Straus with raw pistachios and honey for dessert.

What to do with Plain Yogurt

Dressings: Yogurt adds flavor and creaminess to a dressing. Use it in place of buttermilk in your favorite recipes.  Choose a traditional or Russian style yogurt for thinner dressing.

Dips: Mix with any flavors, herbs or spices to create a delicious dip for vegetables, fruits and other party platters. Choose Greek or Icelandic style for a thicker consistency.

Trying to get your kids to eat more veggies? Try mixing plain Greek or Icelandic yogurt with a packet of Simply Organics Ranch dip. Even if they use the vegetable stick as a spoon for the dip you can feel confident that the snack is still a healthy choice!

Marinades: The acid in yogurt can tenderize meat making it a good ingredient for marinades. Traditional style and Russian style yogurt are thin and well suited. Depending on your recipe, kefir may be another good choice as it is contains the most liquid.

Blended: All styles of plain yogurt are great for blending. When making a fruit or savory smoothie, kefir is a good choice as additional liquid may not be needed. You can also make yogurt based freezer desserts using plain Greek or Icelandic yogurt.

To make yogurt popsicles, add 1 C plain yogurt with 1 C chopped fresh fruit to a blender and puree. Fill an ice cube tray with the mixture. Freeze for 5 minutes, remove and add the sticks, then freeze again for about an hour and serve.

Soups: Plain yogurt is an excellent alternative to other forms of dairy in many soup recipes. Substituting yogurt can often reduce the fat and calories and increase the protein while improving digestion, all without sacrificing the creamy texture and taste.

Baked: Muffins, cakes and breads bake well with a little added yogurt as it tends to add moisture to the mix.

Banana Berry Cupcakes

Ingredients: 2 C whole grain flour, 2 bananas, 1 C berries, 1 egg, ½ C honey, ½ C plain yogurt, 2 Tbsp avocado, 1 tsp baking soda, 1 tsp baking powder, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp vanilla extract.

Instructions: Preheat oven to 325. Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder and cinnamon in a large bowl. In a food processor puree the bananas, egg, avocado, vanilla, honey and yogurt. Mix in the puree with the flour and fold in the berries. Pour batter into a cupcake pan and bake for 45 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Snacks: Add a little plain yogurt to a bowl of fresh fruit with nuts and a natural sweetener such as honey, or sprinkle a bit of fresh granola on top to make a protein packed snack.

Desserts: Add a dollop of yogurt to a fresh fruit crisp or favorite baked treat to add a bit of creaminess.

Our Love Affair with Everything but the Wine

As Wine Manager of Paradise Foods and a wine enthusiast, I spend a fair amount of time researching, sampling and enjoying wine on an almost daily basis.   This exposes me to a wide variety of wines and wineries from all over the world.  Over the years, it has become quite apparent that many wines seem to have strayed from their roots.  The last time I checked Wikipedia or Encyclopedia Britannica (now free online!), the definition of wine was “fermented fruit juice, usually from grapes” or the “fermented juice of the grape.”  Whether it’s consumer demand or the winemakers playing with their juice a bit too much, there seems to be a preponderance of secondary flavors unrelated to this fermentation of said grape.

I hate to pick on one wine as it has certainly been beaten to death, but Chardonnay is the most obvious wine that seems to have strayed from its beginnings. Primary flavors like tropical fruit, green apple, or citrus have given way to vanilla, hazelnut, crème brulée, or toasty oak.  In the proper hands which allow the varietal to express itself, Chardonnay is beautiful wine.  When did it become dominated by other flavors, such as wood and butter?  Butter? Really?  That creaminess which is so popular comes from diacetyl, a by-product of a chemical reaction in the winemaking process and is the same flavoring used to butter popcorn.  Has Chardonnay just become a cocktail without the high booze levels?  Wine should be the expression of the varietal from which it’s made as well as the soil and climate from where it comes, what the French call “terroir”.  Sauvignon Blanc is known for its grassiness and grapefruit; Viognier its peach and honeysuckle; Gewurztraminer its lychee and spice; Riesling its lime and flinty minerality.  And these are pure flavors natural to the varietal, not unassociated secondary characteristics which just get in the way.

Wood is another component that is totally overused, especially with New World wines (any winemaking country outside of Europe).  I understand that for centuries wood has been a tried and true aging vessel, but how long is too long for a wine to sit soaking up all that oak?  This excessive woodiness leads to wines that are clumsy, heavy, and palate-fatiguing.  These days when assessing wines, the first thing I look for is wood.  Do I smell a lumber mill when I stick my nose in the glass?  Or do I detect just pure fruit?  It goes without saying there are oodles of terrific wines from the US, South Africa, and South America.  (As for Australia, the jury’s still out).  And don’t think that just because it’s European, it’s a superior wine.  Spanish wines often ooze excess amounts of cedar that is totally distracting from the wine.

So, if you’re interested in some wines that show off their true personalities, naked in all their glory, then try some my favorites.  I guarantee you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

-Lenz Moser Gruner Veltliner Kamptal, Austria
-Domaine Pinson Chablis, France (Chardonnay!)
-Lucien Albrecht Pinot Blanc Alsace, France
-Cantina Terlano Bianco Classico Alto Adige, Italy
-Justin Sauvignon Blanc Paso Robles, California
-Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc/Viognier Clarksburg, California
-Botani Moscatel Seco Malaga, Spain
-Louis Jadot Macon-Villages Bourgogne, France (also Chardonnay!)
-Manifesto Zinfandel Lodi, California
-Henri Fessy Moulin a Vent Beaujolais, France
-Mencos Joven Rioja, Spain
-Planeta Cerasuolo Sicily, Italy

Cheers!
Erskine Gallant, Wine Manager, Paradise Foods

Marin Mama Cooks Recipe: Kale Salad

lacinato kale salad

I know this photo is not quote on quote “food porn” quality or pinterest worthy, but I guarantee it’s tastebud worthy.  It’s so tastebud worthy that I was literally licking the bowl after this salad.  I never thought I would be licking the bowl of a kale salad, but I was licking this one, seriously!  Who am I these days?  When did I start getting excited over kale of all things?  You won’t even realize that you’re eating kale as the garlic and lemon take away the bitterness of the kale.  You might surprise yourself and find that you just ate a whole head of kale with this salad.
I was interviewed the other day for the Marin IJ and the first question that the interviewer asked me was, “what’s your obsession with kale’?  I laughed, (you know that kind of snicker laugh that John Travolta does in the movie Grease) because I honestly didn’t think I was obsessed with kale.  I mean I have a few kale recipes posted, but nothing to over the top.  Do six recipes equate a kale obsession?
So, I did the phone interview the other day, and today the photographer is coming over to take the pictures for the paper.  He is going to photograph me while I make this salad and my sausage skillet pizza (see photo below).  I’m a bit nervous about being photographed cooking as I am not a pretty gal when I am cooking.  I get all flustered and crazy messy as I am constantly using my apron and clothes as a towel.  This time I have to look pretty and relaxed while cooking.  I’m not sure I can pull that off.
So let’s get back to this salad.  I made this for lunch on Monday because I had too much birthday cake over the weekend as we celebrated Zoe turning 12.  I wanted to do a mini Monday cleanse, so I made this salad for lunch and then paired it with some of my cauliflower soup for dinner.  I couldn’t have been happier and my body was thanking me for this mini cleanse.
This salad pairs with just about anything because the dressing is so simple.  It’s also a great make-ahead salad.  I made it in the morning and had some for lunch then refrigerated it and had some for dinner as well.  It’s the perfect bring to work salad because it gets better as it sits.  Do you hear this Yvonne?  Here is a salad you can bring to work!   Yippee!
Lacinato kale salad
Recipe adapted from Dr. Weil
  • 1 bunch Lacinato/dinosaur kale, large stems removed, thinly sliced
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 3  tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • pinch of salt & pepper, to taste
  • pinch of red pepper flakes, to taste – If you don’t like things spicy you can omit the red pepper.  I loved it though.
  • 2/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese – you can use more or less here, it’s up to you.  I used about 2/3 cup as I love cheese!
Ok, I thought I would treat you all to some step-by-step photos for de-stemming kale as well as cutting it into thin strips.  Thank you to Cathie for photographing me 🙂
Grab a stalk of freshly washed and dried kale, holding it by the stem with one hand while placing the pointer or middle finger and thumb of your other hand around the stem just above the leaves.  Pull your fingers along the stem, tearing the leaves off.
 See how easily the leaf pull away from the stem?
Here is how to cut your kale into thin strips.  You can also use this technique for any sort of lettuce and herbs.  Take the kale leaves and lay them on top of one another and then roll them up tightly.
 Take your knife and slice the kale into thin strips until you get to the end.
Aren’t the kale slices so pretty?
Throw your kale slices into a large bowl.
This recipe calls for the juice of one lemon.  Now, if I was to hand squeeze the juice out of a lemon, I would not get ton’s of juice, but when I use my hand juicer below, I get an ample amount of juice. I would highly recommend picking one of a hand juicer.  You can literally find them anywhere from your local kitchen supple store to your grocery store.
Now lets move onto the dressing.
Whisk together in a small bowl or glass measuring cup the following:
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • pinch of salt
  • pinch of freshly ground black pepper
  • pinch (or more to taste) of red pepper flakes
Make sure to whisk the ingredients together well.
Pour the dressing over the kale and mix well so that all the kale absorbs the dressing.  I actually massaged my kale a bit so the kale really absorbed the dressing.  You don’t have to go crazy massaging this kale salad.  When I say, “massage” your kale, I literally mean, get your hands in there and massage it.
After your kale is well tossed, add 2/3 of the parmesan cheese and toss again.
Let kale rest for at least 5 minutes to an hour.  This salad can be made hours ahead of time, even in the morning.
I think my body and taste buds are both thanking me today, as this salad is uber healthy and uber delish! This is such a simple salad but sometimes it’s the simplest things that turn out the best.
If you’re a fan of kale or just want to try more recipes that include kale, then check out my other kale salad here and my kale smoothies here .
Please let me know how any of these recipes turned out for you.  I would love to hear what you thought of this salad as well. My friend Cathie tried this for the first time the other day (and she is not a kale salad fan). She was amazed that she was eating kale as it tasted so good.  She is now a kale salad fan!
I want to make you one as well if you’re not already!
Have a blissful weekend and please include some kale in your plans 🙂