10 healthy replacements for wheat bread
Wheat-based products are undergoing more and more scrutiny by nutritionists and dietitians as evidence continually piles up suggesting that wheat has many negative effects on our health. This may seem like bad news, as many of us do love our carbs, and the bakery section of the supermarket is a favorite for many consumers. However, there is a silver lining; as more evidence mounts against wheat’s favor, more and more products are becoming available as replacements for wheat-based breads.
Here, we’ll discuss what wheat actually is and why you may want to start excluding it from your diet. And possibly even more importantly, we’ll provide you with some great ideas for wheat replacements that will allow you to still enjoy your sandwiches, wraps and dips. And not only will you be able to enjoy them, you can rest a little easier and ditch the guilt knowing that the ingredients are healthier and more nutritious than the wheat bread you’ve become accustomed to.
What is wheat, and how is it bad for you?
Wheat is a class of grains that is composed of many different types including common wheat, durum wheat and spelt wheat. Next to rice and corn, wheat is the largest crop on the planet and has been a major part of the human diet for thousands of years. It’s the most widely consumed grain in the United States and is the main ingredient in the majority of breads, pastas and pastries that you see on the shelves at grocery stores.
Unfortunately, the wheat that is in most of the products you find in stores is refined wheat or white wheat, which loses most of its nutrients potential for satiety during the refining process. Whole grains are a healthier, more filling option, although even these are not technically whole, but are composed of pulverized grains[3,4,5]. While most wheat loses its important nutrients like fiber and protein, it still contains high levels of carbohydrates that can spike blood glucose levels and lead to issues like diabetes, obesity and heart disease[6,7,8,9,10]. Wheat also contains anti-nutrients like phytic acid that make it more difficult for your body to absorb certain nutrients.
Gluten intolerance and sensitivity
Along with these issues, wheat contains a family of proteins called gluten. So named for its sticky, glue-like consistency, gluten is the culprit behind many health issues, namely celiac disease and gluten sensitivity. Many people don’t fully understand the difference between the popular terms “gluten intolerance” and “gluten sensitivity.” Those suffering from celiac disease are gluten intolerant, while those who have difficulty digesting gluten but do not have celiac disease are gluten sensitive[12,13,14,15,16,17]. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease that affects over 0.7 percent of the population in the United States.
There are two main types of gluten, gliadin and glutenin; the gliadin protein is responsible for the negative side effects that include digestive issues, degenerative gut lining and nutrient deficiencies. In addition to these conditions, gluten has also been linked to other symptoms and medical conditions such as depression, fatigue, autism and schizophrenia[20,21]. Because of the ongoing research relating to gluten-related issues, wheat and gluten-free products and recipes are becoming increasingly popular[22,23,24]. Let’s take a look at ten great wheat replacements you can start trying today.
1. Ezekiel bread
One of the easiest alternatives to conventional wheat bread is another type of bread called Ezekiel bread. Ezekiel bread does still contain wheat, barley and spelt flour, all of which contain gluten. Therefore, it isn’t a suitable replacement for those suffering from celiac disease. However, for those just trying to find a healthier alternative to traditional wheat bread, Ezekiel bread is an excellent choice.
As we stated, Ezekiel bread contains wheat, barley and spelt flour. Additionally, it contains another type of grain known as millet, as well as two types of legumes, soybeans and lentils. All of these components are organically grown, and they are allowed to sprout prior to being turned into bread. Allowing these seeds to sprout increases their nutritional value, while it decreases the presence of undesirable anti-nutrients. And as an additional health benefit, Ezekiel bread also contains zero added sugars[25,26].
2. Rye bread
Rye is a type of grain that is closely related to wheat and barley. Because it belongs to the same tribe as wheat, rye does still contain gluten. So like Ezekiel bread, rye bread is not suitable for those suffering from gluten or wheat-based sensitivities. However, rye, like Ezekiel bread, is a suitable alternative for those searching for a healthier kind of bread than conventional wheat bread.
As you’ve probably noticed when eyeing the various baked goods at your local supermarket, rye bread is much darker than most types of bread. It is also denser, and it has a very strong, unique flavor. Because of this, it may be an acquired taste for some consumers. But for those who do enjoy the taste of rye, it does have its benefits. It doesn’t cause as much of a spike in blood sugar as regular wheat bread does, and it also offers much more fiber than many wheat breads This combination makes rye bread much more suitable for those suffering from diabetes. Rye bread is readily available at most supermarkets and bakeries, and it is very simple to make yourself[28,29].
3. Oopsie bread
If you’re looking for a flourless, low-carb, gluten-free bread, oopsie bread may be just the thing for you. In case you couldn’t guess, oopsie bread was first made by mistake. But it turns out that combining eggs, cream cheese and salt actually creates a pretty delightful bread alternative. Although it isn’t technically a bread, oopsie bread is suitable for a variety of diets, including a gluten-free diet, a low-carb diet and even a diet suitable for diabetics.
Because it only requires three ingredients, oopsie bread is incredibly easy to make and goes with just about anything. You can use them as hamburger buns, or even fill them with creams and jams as a dessert. If you like a little more flavor in your bread, try adding a touch of garlic or onion powder for a more savory version, or a bit of cinnamon or nutmeg for a more decadent treat.
4. Leafy greens
From vegetarian lettuce wraps to burger wraps to chicken salad wraps, sandwiches wrapped in leafy greens are taking the foodie world by storm. While gnawing down on a sandwich encased in lettuce may not provide you with the same warm, squishy satisfaction that only bread can offer, lettuce wraps have their own kind of fresh, crunchy satisfaction to bring to the table.
For one, leafy greens are generally very cheap and easy to come by at grocery stores and supermarkets. And there are plenty of recipe ideas available online to help you get started making your own leafy wraps at home. Many restaurants and even fast food chains are even offering lettuce and other leafy greens as alternatives to their sandwich breads, making eating out on a budget and a diet that much easier. And speaking of diets, replacing your sandwich bread with a leafy alternative significantly cuts the amount of calories, carbs, sugar and salt you’re consuming.
5. Butternut squash flatbread
While lettuce wraps may be en vogue at the current time and are great for a variety of sandwiches, many of us still like warm, squishy doughy goodness every once in a while. A healthy, grain-free flatbread is the perfect solution if you’re looking for an alternative to traditional wheat-based flatbreads. Flatbreads are a versatile bread that can be used to make sandwiches, wraps, pizzas or just to dip in guacamole or hummus.
Gluten-free flatbreads are also very simply to make at home, and they don’t require too many ingredients. Many recipes use hearty vegetables like butternut squash, acorn squash or sweet potatoes as the main ingredient, with coconut flour, butter, coconut oil and eggs being a few of the lesser ingredients. Like oopsie bread, butternut squash flatbread works great with savory as well as sweet dishes, and it’s entirely wheat and gluten free.
6. Almond flour bread
One simple way to cut wheat bread out of your life is to start utilizing other types of flour that do not contain wheat, such as almond flour. Almond-based products have been on the upswing over the last few years, from almond oil extract to almond milk to almond flour. Almonds have a variety of health benefits to offer, and almond flour is a healthy wheat alternative that is low in calories and carbs and contains zero gluten.
Because it’s gained so much popularity in recent years, almond flour can be found at many health food stores and even many common supermarkets. Pre-made almond flour breads are also available at many health food stores and farmers markets. But if you’re serious about your bread, making your own almond flour products at home has the most to offer in terms of variety. There are dozens of recipes available for almond flour breads, such as almond buns for your burgers, cheesy garlic bread, almond flour sub sandwich bread and even almond flour French toast to get your day started[35,36,37,38,39,40].
7. Coconut flour bread
Coconut is another nutty product that is becoming increasingly trendy within the health food community. Coconut water, coconut milk coconut flour are just a few delicious and nutritious products that can be made from this tropical fruit. Like almond flour, coconut flour contains no gluten, and it’s relatively low in calories and carbs. However, also like almond flour, coconut flour does pose an allergy risk for anyone who is allergic to tree nuts or coconuts. So those with tree nut allergies should take care to always inspect pre-bought grain-free products before consuming them to make sure they don’t contain any allergens.
Coconut flour is often added in small amounts to many kinds of grain-free breads, such as the butternut squash flatbread, but it can also create a tasty bread all on its own. It can be more difficult to get coconut flour products to rise, however, so many of the currently available breads made from mainly coconut flour are flatbreads. Don’t let that dissuade you from trying out some of the great recipes out there, though, that range from a delightfully crisp coconut flour flatbread to an indulgent coconut flour flatbread grilled cheese sandwich[41,42,43,44,45].
8. Flax seed bread
If you’re allergic to tree nuts and trying to find replacements for wheat bread, you may be wringing your hands wondering if you’ll ever be able to enjoy bready goodness every again. But never fear, for flax is here to save the day! Flax seeds have a whole host of health benefits to offer, such as being a good source of Omega-3 fatty acids, having a high fiber content, containing significant levels of thiamin and being a great source of antioxidants.
And yes, flax seeds are both gluten and tree nut-free. So while you’re getting your healthy dose of nutrients and indulging in your freshly baked flax seed bread, you don’t have to worry about potential allergens. However, many flax-based products in stores do also contain these allergens, so always read the ingredients carefully if you do have allergies. And while many flax seed bread recipes also require allergens like almond flour, there are flax-based and nut-free[46,47].
9. More nut and wheat-free breads
Flax seed bread isn’t your only option if you’re struggling with food allergies or sensitivities. There are a variety of nut and gluten-free flours available that you can try alone or in combination with one another to create a healthy loaf of bread that can even be similar in taste and texture to conventional wheat bread. Rice flour is the best option for those suffering from multiple allergies. It’s the least allergen-prone grain, and pre-made rice flour breads can be found in the frozen sections of many grocery stores.
Corn meal, used to make cornbread, can also be used without wheat to create a rich and savory cornbread when combined with another type of wheat-free flour. Sorghum flour is also free of many allergens and creates a bread that is the most similar in both texture and taste to traditional wheat flour. While you may associate it with your backyard bird feeder, millet isn’t just for the birds. It can be used to bake an easily digestible bread that contains almost as much protein as wheat bread. Finally, teff flour, when combined with sorghum flour, tapioca flour and potato starch, can be used to form a smooth, mild bread.
10. Sourdough bread
Sourdough bread is probably a bit more familiar-sounding to you than sorghum or teff. It’s a favorite among many bread-lovers, and it is a healthier option than many other types of wheat bread. Sourdough bread is made from grains that have been fermented with yeast and the naturally-occurring lactobacilli. This fermentation process creates lactic acid, which gives sourdough bread its sour taste. It also reduces the amount of antinutrients contained in the grains, making the nutrients that are in the grains easier for your body to process[48,49].
Sourdough bread is another common type of bread that is available at many stores, and you can make your own at home as well. In order to make sourdough bread, you’ll need, among other ingredients, an active culture as well as flour. So keep in mind that any sourdough bread that you buy at the store or make at home will contain gluten if the flour is wheat-based. And, unfortunately, yeast does not work with flours that are grain-free. So while it may not be an option for those with a gluten sensitivity, it is a healthier option for those looking for a traditional wheat bread alternative.
The sati line
As you can see, change does not have to be a bad thing. In your quest to eliminate wheat from your diet, you have the opportunity to discover a whole new world of culinary delights, many of which aren’t so different from the traditional wheat breads you’ve come to know and love. Whether your intolerance to gluten or your desire to lead a healthier lifestyle is fueling your switch to replacements for wheat bread, you have many different options at your disposal.
And along with replacing your traditional wheat bread with alternatives like Ezekiel bread, almond flour bread or flax seed bread, you also have the ability to replace the other wheat-based products in your life too. Wheat-free breakfast cereals, pastas and pastries are popping up rapidly on the shelves of supermarkets that are made from much healthier ingredients like rice, quinoa and millet flours. So not only can you still enjoy bread, you can also indulge in a myriad of other bready products.
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