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Plant Based Bread: The 101 From A Dietitian

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What makes bread plant based?

Is it the same thing as vegan?

How can you make healthy bread choices? Find out the answers and more in this comprehensive article written by a fully plant based Dietitian!

*Consumer Notice: This post contains affiliate links that are marked in this manner: (affiliate link*)”. If you click on these links and purchase, I earn a commission at no added cost to you. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Can You Eat Bread on Plant Based Diet?

Absolutely! As long as you do not have any health problems associated with bread.

Plant based ingredients (such as wheat, rye, or other type of flour) are typically number one on the ingredients label. Don’t just take our word for it, grab a loaf and take a look!

Dictionary.cambridge.org/us/defines “plant-based” as:

Consisting or made completely of plants, or mainly of plants:
-I eat a predominantly plant-based diet.
-The British favor natural plant-based beauty products.

More Examples
-Ethanol, a plant-based fuel, runs in gasoline engines.
-Our best health insurance is eating a wide variety of plant-based foods.
-Plant-based products are popular with people who have sensitive skin.

Source: https://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/plant-based

In other words, yes, bread is generally plant based.

But wait a second, there are tons of bread on the market with highly processed ingredients and additives, so how can that be plant based? 

Well, highly processed ingredients in bread may have come from plants originally.

However, that white piece of bread that leaves you feeling hungry one minute later might not be your vision of plant based bread.

If that sounds like you, perhaps you are a whole foods plant based consumer, which brings us to the next topic…

Whole Food Plant Based Bread

Picture of sliced homemade bread with a knife

If you aren’t familiar with the term “Whole Foods Plant Based”(wfpb), let me explain.

Like those on plant based diets, a wfpb individual also limits animal products and focuses on plant based foods.

So what makes a wfpb approach different than a plant based one?

In general, wfpb individuals might have a stronger emphasis on the following (please note, there is not official definition for wfpb that we are aware of):

  • Eating food that is minimally processed (hence the “whole” part of the term) and avoiding foods that are more processed.
    For example, a wfpb person might mash a whole avocado on their toast as opposed to spreading on a more processed food, like margarine.
  • Wfpb people may be more likely to care about food quality.
    For example, purchasing local and/or organic produce.

Alright, so what kind of plant based bread would be a candidate for the wfpb diet? Lets ask someone who typically follows a wfpb diet (Oh hey! That’s me! That was easy)!

Here is what I look for when it comes to wfpb bread picking (disclaimer: this is what I personally look for and is not meant to tell you exactly what to buy):

  • The main ingredients in bread comes from whole sources (ie: whole or sprouted wheat, whole oats, rye)
  • Added sugars are minimal to none or derived only from fruit (ie: dates, raisins).
  • Ingredients are likely familiar and close to their original form (ie: whole wheat instead of refined wheat flour)
  • Organic ingredients if possible

In Summary: A wfpb consumer is always plant based, but a plant based individual is not always wfpb.

But you may still be asking, where does that put vegans?

Lets tackle that question next!

Do Vegans Eat Bread?

A vegan diet goes beyond plant based. In fact, it is 100% plant based diet, meaning that the diet only contains plants.

However, a vegan diet is not necessarily wfpb. In other words, a vegan may or may not be focused on getting food from whole food sources of plants.

As an example, a vegan could eat processed plain potato chips, but few would agree that chips are a “whole food.”

Bread absolutely can be vegan. I know many vegans who eat bread (including myself). BUT vegans look at a few different things to determine if they can consume it.

Here is a list of ingredients vegans avoid in the bread aisle (FYI: This is not a comprehensive list):

  • Honey
  • Dairy (often listed as milk___ (milk fat, milk protein, skim milk, etc),, butter, butter fat, casein, or caseinate,  buttermilk, whey, etc)
  • Fish Oil or fish gelatin.
  • Eggs, Egg whites
  • Mono and diglycerides (may or may not be vegan)

What types of bread might these ingredients reside in? Here’s a list:
(again this is not a comprehensive or necessarily accurate list as there may be vegan versions of these breads available as well)

  • Brioche
  • Buttermilk Bread
  • Croissants
  • Zopf Bread
  • Honey Wheat
  • Egg Bread
  • Challah
  • English Muffins
  • Crumpets
  • Paratha
  • Naan
  • Damper Bread
  • Qistibi Bread
  • Obi Non Bread
  • Vanocka Bread

Hot tip: In the USA, an allergen statement is often listed at the bottom of the ingredients list in bold. Typically a non vegan bread might list: Contains milk, eggs, or fish.

But don’t rely solely on the allergen statement to determine if a product is vegan! Certain non-vegan ingredients like honey are not required to be listed in the ingredients allergen in the USA currently.

Ok, so if you just read through that list and are thinking you will never be able to enjoy a piece of white bread again, lets dive into the answer to that question…

Is White Bread Vegan?

Picture of Rye Bread

And the answer is…

Sometimes.

Just because a bread looks “white” as opposed to “brown” does not mean it is unsuitable for vegans.

Again, we have to look at the criteria listed in the previous section to make sure the white bread does not have any animal derived ingredients. 

Here is a list of white breads that are typically vegan (Disclaimer: again, this is not a comprehensive or necessarily accurate list. Check the ingredients label. Also, whole wheat versions of these types of bread may also be available):

  • Baguette
  • Sourdough
  • Ciabatta
  • Pita
  • French Bread

Ok, so now we know that vegans can sometimes eat white bread… is white bread really the healthiest bread?

Is bread even a healthy addition to your diet? Lets navigate that next…

How Do I Pick Healthy Bread?

Bread can be a healthy addition to your diet.

If you are looking for a healthy bread, keep these tips in mind. (FYI: if you have adverse health reactions to certain ingredients in bread, you should avoid it or find an alternative For example, those with celiac disease should be gluten free. Gluten is a protein found in certain grains).

Make Big Gains in the Grains Department

When it comes to picking out the best ingredients in your bread, go for the whole grains (the whole nutrition package!)

Why go whole? Because not only do you get all the beneficial vitamins, minerals and fiber… the bonus is that you may reduce your odds of heart disease, cancer, and diabetes when choosing whole over refined grains.

Whole grains already have the good stuff in them, why take them out?

Don’t Be Too Salty

Did you know that bread is one of the top 10 sources of sodium in America?

Wow.

With such common conditions like heart disease and hypertension in the USA, sodium is a nutrient you may want to keep in mind when looking for bread.

How can you choose low sodium breads? Try looking for breads that contain 140 milligrams (mg) of sodium or less per serving.

One caveat: sometimes it can be hard to find a bread that contains at or less than 140 mg. So it’s important to be mindful about how many bread servings you are eating, and the amount of sodium in your diet as a whole.

Hold The Sugar

Now this one is going to shock you! Its actually not uncommon to find breads with 3 to 5 grams of sugar per slice.

That might not sound like a lot, but if you are following the American Heart Associations recommendation to limit added sugar to no more than about 6 teaspoons (25 grams of sugar) for women, and about 9 teaspoons for men (45 grams of sugar),  having a few slices of bread higher in sugar can definitely add up!

So, if you are trying to limit your added sugar intake, look for breads with less added sugar.

You could also consider choosing bread with sugar coming from fruit, (ie: raisins, dates etc.).

Consider Fermented and/or Sprouted Bread

Perhaps you’ve heard that phytates (antinutrients) in whole grain breads reduces the nutrient content. But that doesn’t mean we should avoid whole grains!

You see, processing may reduce the phytate content, however, processing to make a more refined product also strips out many of the beneficial nutrients and fiber in the process. And if there is one thing the many Americans aren’t getting enough of, its fiber!

So what’s the work around for this phytate issue… if you still find it an issue?

First of all, the presence of phytates in whole grain breads did not change the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans(DGA)!

The 2020-2025 DGA’s still recommends at least half of total grain intake to come from whole grains.

So its hard to image phytates as the worst villain if we most of us are are encouraged to eat more whole grains.

And, here’s some more good news: Fermentation decreases the presence of phytates. So if you are still concerned about phytates, consider fermented bread (such as whole grain sourdough).

Additionally, sprouting may improve nutrient absorption. So looking for sprouted grains is another factor to consider.

Summing It Up: Making Healthier Choices in the Bread Aisle

Graphic Showing Tips for Making Healthy Plant Based Bread Choices
  • Make whole grains your grain of choice
  • Look for breads with at/under 140 milligrams (mg) of sodium per serving
  • Choose breads with less added sugar
  • Consider fermented and sprouted grain breads

Plant Based Bread Recipes

Want to make your own bread instead of opting for store bought? Check out these ideas!

  1. Olive Oil Biscuits (Made with Buckwheat) By Laura Yautz, Registered Dietitian at Being Nutritious
  2. Easy Vegan Whole-Wheat Bread with Seeds By Vegan Foodiez
  3. Healthy Whole Wheat Pita Bread (no oil or sugar) By Annisette at Food.com

One Dietitian’s Favorite Store Bought Plant Based Diet Bread

*Consumer Notice: This section contains affiliate links that are marked in this manner: (affiliate link*)”. If you click on these links and purchase, I earn a commission at no added cost to you.
Disclaimer: This is based on the personal preference of the writer and is not meant to tell you what to eat or provide medical advice.

So what commercially available breads fit the needs of 100% plant based (vegan) individual is looking for healthy, whole ingredients?

Here are a couple of my personal favorites as a vegan:

Dave’s Killer Bread Powerseed

Why do I love this bread?

Well, first of all, its an entirely vegan, something important to many vegans suchas as myself. Its also features 100% whole grains, is organic, sweetened with fruit juice instead of refined sugar, and is under 140 mg of sodium per serving.

If you are looking for a hearty whole wheat bread, you’ve found it here!

Dave’s Killer Bread Powerseed (affiliate link*):

Ezekiel 4:9 Sprouted 100% Whole Grain Bread

This 100% plant based bread features a variety of organic sprouted grains, and even lentils and soybeans (now you don’t see that every day)!

I love to pair this Ezekiel bread with some mashed avocado.

Ezekiel 4:9 Sprouted 100% Whole Grain Bread (affiliate link*):

Did this post clarify what plant based bread is? Perhaps you discovered a new favorite, like sprouted whole grain bread? Anything we missed? Leave us a comment below!

If you would like to learn more about keeping things 100% plant based, check out our post Vegan For Beginners, and Vegan Grocery List.

Sign up for Plant Powered You’s e-mail subscribers list for more helpful posts about a vegan diet, and may the fork be with you!

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