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Homemade Bread vs. Store Bought: Which Is Healthier?

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In the heart of many kitchens, a debate quietly simmers: the battle between the artisanal charm of homemade bread and the convenient allure of store-bought loaves. But baking your own homemade bread can be much more than just a fun hobby. I started making home-baked bread not so I could brag on having a simple, homegrown life. The choice between homemade bread vs. store bought bread actually comes down to several questions, including the one of which is healthier.

sliced homemade sourdough cheddar pepper bread loaf

the significance of bread and health

Bread has woven itself deeply into our diets and cultural traditions as Americans. Its presence on our tables transcends mere sustenance. It often serves as a vessel of comfort and connection.

However, the significance of bread takes on a different light to those aware of the complexities of gluten sensitivities. While cherished for its taste and versatility, bread’s gluten content can pose challenges for those seeking to navigate a path of optimal digestive balance. This highlights the intricate relationship between bread and our health, and underscores the importance of informed dietary choices.

There’s so much more that I love about baking my own bread (particularly sourdough) besides it being healthier for my body. As I put on my apron and dust my countertop with flour, I feel like I’m embarking on a culinary adventure. For me, baking bread is a great way to explore a rich tapestry of flavors, textures, and experiences.  There’s just nothing quite like the warmth of a homemade loaf with butter, the feeling of accomplishment, or the lessons it teaches my kids.

I guess that goes to show that baking homemade bread is not only good for the body, but also good for the soul.

But as busy people that struggle to find much time, the pull of of store-bought bread is real. The modern convenience of buying a loaf of bread (whole wheat bread, white bread, sandwich bread… there are an array of choices) from the local grocery store is just so nice sometimes.

Modern kitchen appliances like a bread machine and a stand mixer with dough hook help with the convenience factor a little. But don’t read this post and think that I never buy bread, because I do.

my experience with baking and buying bread

If you’re genuinely curious, and wanting to weigh your options, let’s take a look together at the differences between homemade bread vs. store bought.

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, it’s no secret that sourdough bread is what I enjoy baking, and it’s what our family eats the most. I think sourdough bread is amazing because it keeps me from having to buy yeast. Plus, it’s fermented, making it a great option for maintaining our gut health and avoiding pesky gluten sensitivities.

However, don’t leave yet if you don’t do sourdough! Trust me, the content in this post is highly relevant, even if you don’t buy sourdough or bake it yourself.

With all of that being said, I’m thankful for all the different healthy bread options out there. A greater selection of breads with fewer additives have popped up over the last several years. And although I bake most of my own bread these days, we still buy the occasional loaf, along with other store bought bread products.

Now, I haven’t found anything store bought that rivals the taste and texture of my homemade sourdough bread. The closest, most readily available loaf I’ve found is probably Aldi’s brand of sourdough. And it’s still not really even close.

shopping cart going through grocery aisle

homemade bread vs. store bought: nutritional comparison

When it comes to the nutritional comparison between homemade loaves of bread and store-bought counterparts, a discerning eye can find notable differences that extend beyond taste and texture. Homemade bread takes center stage for its potential to harness whole, unprocessed ingredients. By maintaining control over flour selection, homemade bakers can craft loaves rich in nutrients. Integrating a diversity of flours like einkorn, whole wheat, spelt, or even gluten-free alternatives, opens our options to include different fiber contents while also catering to various dietary needs.

In contrast, store-bought bread occasionally falls short in that area. Because certain commercial varieties prioritize cost-efficiency and prolonged shelf life, there are often compromises made in the quality of ingredients and the nutritional value in general.

For some, macronutrients are an important consideration when deciding whether to make homemade bread vs. buy store bought bread. Homemade often does a better job of striking a balance between carbohydrates, proteins, and fats, which contributes to sustained energy levels and satiety. Certain store-bought breads might lean towards higher sugar and sodium content.

I believe that homemade baking empowers us to make informed choices. Choices that are aligned with our nutritional goals.

turkey sandwich on homemade whole wheat bread

ingredients of homemade bread vs. store bought

Store-bought bread often plays host to some ingredients that aren’t always as friendly as they sound. Additives and preservatives, the unsung heroes of extended shelf life, can be found lurking on the ingredient list.

If I’m going to buy a readily available sourdough bread, I would probably Aldi’s sourdough loaf. Mainly because in comparison to most store bought breads, Aldi’s sourdough bread has a short ingredient list. But still, let’s compare it with my homemade rustic sourdough bread:

Aldi’s Round Sourdough LoafHomemade Rustic Sourdough Bread
Enriched flourUnbleached all purpose flour
Wheat glutenActive sourdough starter
Calcium propionate (preservative)

“Standard” store-bought breads typically have a much longer ingredient list than this, including a variety of chemical emulsifiers, stabilizers, and dough conditioners. High fructose corn syrup can also find its way onto ingredient lists of the cheapest store bought brands.

If the goal is to stick to basic ingredients and keep what we put into our body as pure as possible, the best way to reach it is to stick with homemade bread recipes.

bread, blood sugar, and the glycemic index

Homemade bread isn’t just about crafting with your hands; it’s about nurturing your body too. One of its lesser-known superpowers lies in its potential to help keep your blood sugar on a steady course. Taking charge of your own bread dough allows you to choose flours that offer a lower glycemic index, like whole wheat flour, spelt, or einkorn. Although I believe even healthier breads should be eaten in moderation, they won’t cause as many rapid spikes and dips in blood sugar levels. 

Sourdough bread is especially great for keeping blood sugar levels balanced. The magic of slow fermentation embraced in sourdough baking can make the carbohydrates more friendly to your metabolism.

So, if you choose to start making your own fresh bread, remember that you’re not just creating a masterpiece of flavor and texture–you’re also working wonders for your body’s well-being.

homemade sourdough loaves

homemade bread vs. store bought: allergens and sensitivities

Navigating the world of store-bought bread can be a bit of a puzzle if you are one who contends with food allergies. While convenience is the name of the game with store-bought bread, it’s crucial to scrutinize those ingredient lists if you’re on the lookout for potential triggers.

The bright side is, choosing to venture into the realm of homemade bread allows you hold the reins. You can tailor your recipes to exclude allergens like wheat, nuts, or dairy. This makes way for safe and satisfying bread-eating, for everyone around your table. Because bread is a food meant to bring us together, not cause concern!

Almost any recipe can be tailored to suit specific dietary needs. There are many gluten-free bread flour and alternative milk options that are readily available nowadays, making customization for any kind of bread easy.

preservatives and shelf life

A concern many buyers of bread have is that of shelf life and freshness. Maybe you don’t eat bread every day, and you appreciate how a store-bought loaf stays fresh and consistent, even after sitting in the pantry for a week.

Preservatives in store-bought bread extend shelf life and maintain freshness throughout the journey from production to purchase. Bread is perishable due to its moisture content and the potential for microbial growth, so preservatives are added to store-bought bread to inhibit the growth of bacteria, molds, and yeasts.

Common preservatives in store-bought bread include ingredients like calcium propionate, potassium sorbate, potassium bromate, and other various enzymes. While they serve the practical purpose of enhancing shelf life, they can also raise some questions if you’re health-conscious. There is valid reason for concern due to ingredient sensitivities and the potential of long-term health effects.

The truth is, if stored properly, homemade bread can also stay fresh at room temperature for up to a week.

sliced white sandwich bread in plastic bag

the art of fermentation in sourdough bread

You don’t think I can finish this article without talking more about sourdough, do you? It’s a type of bread I’ve completely fallen in love with.

The art of natural fermentation is where homemade sourdough bread is truly a category of its own. This ancient technique harnesses wild yeast and beneficial bacteria to leaven the bread over an extended period. The result is a loaf that not only tantalizes the taste buds, but also offers a host of health benefits.

The fermentation process of sourdough breaks down gluten and phytic acid, making the bread easier to digest. This process also enhances nutrient absorption. And even more good news, the presence of lactic acid bacteria promotes gut health by contributing to a balanced microbiome.

If you decide to embark on the journey of crafting your own homemade sourdough bread, you’ll be nurturing a long time tradition that’s as kind to your body as it is to your taste buds.

homemade bread vs. store bought: wrapping up

In the world of bread, the showdown between homemade and store-bought varieties has proven to be a journey of contrasts. It reveals nuanced layers of taste, health implications, and personal choices.

Homemade bread gives us the freedom to select wholesome ingredients and nurture natural fermentation. It also boasts the potential for unparalleled flavors. There is a much better chance of benefitting our gut microbiome in the long run.

In contrast, store-bought bread caters to convenience. But it often comes with a side of additives and preservatives to extend its shelf life.

Ultimately, the winner of the best bread award basically depends on your priorities. Whichever path you choose, I hope it brings you the joy of breaking bread, both with others and your own unique preferences in mind.

Ready to start baking your own bread using sourdough? Take a giant shortcut by grabbing some healthy, happy starter in my shop!

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