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organic bread ingredients

This is our second week of discussing flours and breads.  It’s a big topic and really in the grocery store organic bread has the smallest presence of any other type of product.  So why should we look organic for this?  What’s the difference between plan old regular cheap bread and organic bread?

What should be in your bread?

In its most basic form, bread is flour, water, a little salt, and yeast. That’s it. If you have those ingredients, you can make the best bread in town! Last week, we talked about what makes a good flour. You want to find the most freshly milled flour you can, something unbleached, and organic, when possible. (Best case scenario is a home-milled organic flour.) Today, we’re looking at breads! We’ll compare conventional store bought bread with organic bread. Are there differences? Is the difference worth the extra cost?

What’s in the bread you’re buying?

Despite how “simple” bread can be, with as little as four ingredients, what’s available to us in grocery stores is quite a different story. If you happen to have a loaf of bread around, take a look at the label and see what’s inside.

[As I started looking at different brands of bread, I noticed about half of the major companies did not publicly disclose their ingredients list online (Nature’s Own, Sunbeam, and Pepperidge Farm, for example). Other brands did provide full nutritional info: Arnold, Cobblestone Mill, and Bimbo Bread, to name a few.]

I’ve rounded up a few different national brands and listed their ingredients and the number of ingredients they contain.


# of Ingredients


Arnold Whole Wheat


Whole wheat flour, water, sugar, wheat gluten, yeast, raisin juice concentrate, wheat bran, molasses, soybean oil, salt, monoglycerides, calcium propionate (preservative), calcium sulfate, DATEM, grain vinegar, citric acid, soy lecithin, whey, nonfat milk

Bimbo 100% Whole Wheat

18 – 19

Whole wheat flour, water, sugar, yeast, wheat gluten, salt, soybean and/or canola oil, calcium propionate (preservative), DATEM, mono- and diglycerides, grain vinegar, calcium sulfate, soy lecithin, citric acid, sodium stearoyl lactylate, ethoxylated mono- and diglycerides.

Martin’s 100% Whole Wheat Potato Bread


100% stone ground whole wheat flour, nonfat milk, reconstituted potatoes (from potato flour), wheat gluten, yeast, sugar, sunflower oil, contains 2% of less of each of the following: salt, butter, sunflower lecithin, dough conditioners (sodium stearoyl lactylate, azodicarbonamide, monoglycerides and diglycerides and ethoxylated monoglycerides and diglycerides), monocalcium phosphate, calcium propionate (a preservative), soya flour, guar gum, ferrous sulfate, niacin, thiamin, riboflavin, folic acid, ascorbic acid, DATEM, calcium sulfate, enzymes, turmeric color, annatto color, sesame seeds.

Nature’s Own Whitewheat


Unbleached Enriched Wheat Flour [Flour, Malted Barley Flour, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamin Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Folic Acid (a B Vitamin)], Water, Sugar, Fiber (Soy Fiber and/or Cottonseed Fiber), Wheat Gluten, Yeast, Contains 2% or Less of Each of the Following: Calcium Sulfate, Vegetable Oil (Soybean Oil or Canola Oil), Salt, Soy Flour, Dough Conditioners (Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate, Calcium Steroyl-2-Lactylate, Monoglycerides, Calcium Iodate, Ethoxylated Mono and Diglycerides, Calcium Peroxide, DATEM, Azodicarbonamide), Cultured Wheat Flour, Guar Gum, Vinegar, Ferrous Sulfate, Thiamin Hydrochloride, Monocalcium Phosphate, Yeast Food (Ammonium Sulfate), Soy Lecithin.

Market Pantry Wheat Bread (Target in-store brand)

up to 32

Enriched bleached flour [wheat flour, malted barley flour, niacin, iron, thiamin mononitrate (vitamin b1), riboflavin (vitamin b2), folic acid], water, whole grain (whole wheat flour, rolled wheat), high fructose corn syrup, yeast, contains 2% or less of each of the following: wheat gluten, soybean oil, wheat bran, molasses, malted barley flour, salt, wheat germ, dough conditioners (may contain one or more of the following: mono- and diglycerides, ethoxylated mono- and diglycerides, sodium stearoyl lactylate, calcium peroxide, DATEM, ascorbic acid, azodicarbonamide, enzymes), calcium propionate (preservative), distilled vinegar, yeast nutrients (monocalcium phosphate, calcium sulfate, ammonium sulfate), corn starch, caramel color, soy lecithin, milk, soy flour.

These sandwich breads definitely contain more than just flour, water, salt, and yeast. To increase shelf life, preservatives are added and shelf-stable oils are used. To improve bread texture, dough conditioners are added. In some cases, food colorings are added. Did you spot the trans-fats?? There is a lot of extra “junk” in these breads. Here are a few specific additives you may want to avoid:


-Banned for use as a food additive in the UK, Australia, and Europe, and it can even earn you a 15-year prison sentence in Singapore.

-In the US, manufacturers use this as a dough conditioner and/or as a flour bleaching agent. (As a dough conditioner, it has to be listed in the ingredients. As a bleaching agent, it does NOT have to be listed in the ingredients.)

-It’s also used in the industrial production of foamed plastics.

-Besides the fact that a chemical used to make plastics foamy doesn’t belong in our food, azodicarbonamide is also linked to respiratory sensitivity and asthma.

-Who uses it? Lots of manufacturers. You can see it listed in ingredients for store-bought baked goods and in fast food bread products. Subway, Wendy’s, and -Starbucks are just a few of the fast food companies using azodicarbonamide.

-If this additive is in your favorite bread, write the company and ask them to remove it!

-Fortunately, it’s not in every bread, so check labels before you buy.

DATEM sounds like a benign, natural ingredient. I thought it might be some kind of date extract used as a sweetener or food dye. Nope.

-DATEM = diacetyl tartaric acid ester of mono- and diglycerides

-DATEM is an emulsifier that helps strengthen gluten, making bread more springy and stretchy

-It is also a TRANS FAT. You know, those bad fats that are directly linked to heart disease? Yeah, that trans fat. The product can still be labeled as “trans fat free” because the amount per serving is 0.5 g or less.

-High Fructose Corn Syrup

-Calcium (or Sodium) Propionate

-Used as a preservative to prevent fungal growth.

-It helps your store-bought bread (or fast-food breads) last a lot longer than the natural stuff.

-Side effects have been reported including stomach ulcers, gastritis, behavioral  changes (Journal of Paediatric Child Health, 2012), and migraine headaches in sensitive individuals.

-It is considered “slightly toxic”.

-Mono- and diglycerides (aka trans fats)

-Caramel Color – a carcinogenic food dye

Other ingredients to note: anything derived from soy, soya, or corn is most likely genetically modified, unless it is labeled as organic.

If bread is so simple to make, why are these additives used?

Without getting into the boring, chemistry side of bread making, here’s the important info. For bread to develop a good texture and flavor it requires the proper amount of time, technique, and quality ingredients. These additives are used to fake the good stuff.

How is “Organic” Bread Different?

-Ingredients – Organic breads will use organic ingredients and will not use azodicarbonamide, calcium propionate, DATEM or other questionable food additives.

-Shelf Life – Since they do not use preservatives (like calcium propionate) organic and all-natural breads will have a significantly shorter shelf life than conventional breads. In my experience, a loaf of conventional bread will keep for over week, sometimes up to a month. Bread made without chemical additives and preservatives may start to develop mold in as little as three days. Tip: After a few days, I’ll move our (pre-sliced) bread into the freezer, and it keeps really well.



# of Ingredients


Whole Foods Organic Whole Wheat ($3.99)


Organic whole wheat flour, filtered water, organic honey, organic canola oil, organic vital wheat gluten, salt, cultured organic wheat flour, fresh yeast, organic dough conditioner (organic wheat flour, natural enzymes, ascorbic acid).

Kirkland Organic 100% Whole Wheat Bread


organic whole wheat flour, water, organic honey, organic sugar, organic wheat gluten, contains 2% or less of the following: organic soybean oil, organic spelt, organic bulgur wheat, organic wheat bran, organic vinegar, sea salt, organic cultured unbleached wheat flour, yeast, soy lecithin, calcium sulfate, enzymes.

Rudi’s Organic 100% Whole Wheat Bread


Organic Whole Wheat Flour, Water, Organic Brown Sugar, Organic Cracked Wheat, Organic Vital Wheat Gluten, Organic Cultured Whole Spelt Flour, Organic High Oleic Sunflower Oil/Safflower Oil, Sea Salt, Organic Vinegar, Yeast, Organic Wheat Bran, Organic Molasses, Organic Barley Malt, Organic Oat Flour, Lactic Acid, Organic Soy Oil, Soy Lecithin, Ascorbic Acid, Natural Enzymes.

Trader Joe’s Organic Soft Wheat


Organic wheat flour, water, organic whole wheat flour, organic cane sugar, contains less than 2% of organic soybean oil, organic molasses, salt, yeast, organic wheat bran, organic oat flour, organic potato flour, organic sunflower oil, organic safflower oil, organic canola oil, organic cultured wheat starch, enzymes, citric acid, organic reduced fat soy flour, ascorbic acid, organic soy lecithin.

organic bread

Shopping Around for Organic Bread

Check the bread aisle or bakery department (or sometimes the freezer section) at your grocery store and see what organic or all-natural options are available. I saw several different brands ranging from $3.69 – $5.99 per loaf. Can’t find a good option in your store? Check local bakeries. Many bake their bread daily and some even mill their own flour. For example, Great Harvest Bread Co. is a chain of bakeries that mills their own grain and makes some great all-natural breads everyday. Scout out independent bakers at weekend farmers’ markets.

Here’s my advice: know your options, read ingredient labels, and make a “good, better, best” list of breads you’d like to buy. As availability and budget allows, you’ll know which bread(s) you should buy. How does your list look?

Here’s my personal bread-buying list:

Good – Rudi’s Organic Whole Wheat (easy to find in most stores), usually on the higher end of the price scale, coupons available

Better – Whole Foods Organic Wheat, just 11 ingredients, under $4 per loaf

Best – The Real Bread Company Wheat Bread (local company available in select stores or via co-ops), made with freshly milled organic wheat and just seven ingredients, $5 per loaf

Organic Bread for $2 or less?

Don’t feel like spending $6 for a loaf of bread? I don’t blame you! I HATE doing that, but it’s good to know what healthy options are available. Fortunately, the BEST bread option is the most affordable- home baking!

Home baking is the best option for budget and nutrition. You have control over every ingredient and you can tailor your recipe to your tastes.

I had intended to discuss home baking this week, but there was too much to cover with the conventional breads first. Sorry! However, next week…it’s on! We’ll look at two basic recipes: sandwich bread and a crusty artisan bread that takes less than 10 minutes of effort. There are different techniques involved and each bread is so different…but they will both be delicious and EASY! No bread machines required. No fancy equipment. Just your ingredients, your oven, and a loaf pan.

The is part of an Organic Living Journey Guest Post Series now written by Mariana who has a mother’s heart and scientist’s brain.