Some trendy diet plans hold that grains in general are responsible not just for excess weight but also for diabetes, dementia, and a host of other ills. But a large body of research shows that whole grains, including bread, cut the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain cancers. Whole grains may also tame inflammation and boost healthy gut bacteria and immune system function.
Gluten is another reason some say to shy away from certain grains. Found in wheat, rye, and barley, this protein can cause problems for the approximately 7 percent of Americans with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity. But for others, there’s very little evidence that avoiding it has health benefits.
And gluten-free bread may not be a healthier choice. “Most gluten-free flours and products are not enriched, which means they will be lower in nutrients compared to even white breads,” says Nicola McKeown, PhD, a nutrition epidemiologist at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University in Boston. Gluten-free breads are also likely to be lower in fiber than whole wheat, though it depends on the flour used to make them, she adds.