The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Are there health drawbacks from bread for high cholesterol people?

flyboy912's picture

Are there health drawbacks from bread for high cholesterol people?

I am having a great time baking bread but my wife does two things at the same time, eats the bread (because it is so good)  and complains that I am doing her no good because she has high cholesterol. Is bread an issue, for cholesterol and gaining weight?

LindyD's picture

A lean bread such as sourdough, which contains only flour, water, salt, and the levain, contains no cholesterol.

If you start adding stuff like butter, eggs, sugar,  oils, and other fats, that's a different story.

And of course, what you put on the bread or in between it also makes a difference.

Adding whole grains to your bread is actually healthy.  But not so much if you add layers of salami and cheese to it.


SteveB's picture

LindyD, if you'll be so kind as to allow me a clarification... sugar contains no cholesterol.  Plant-derived oils and fats contain little or no cholesterol.  Cholesterol is found primarily in animal-derived products.




LindyD's picture

Good clarification, SteveB.

I guess I was being too general in including the stuff that can cause a bulging bottom, if not eaten in moderation - and if one avoids getting daily exercise.

Doc Tracy's picture
Doc Tracy

Cholesterol is only derived from animals. Plants can contain all types of fats and could contribute to raising or lowering your cholesterol but cannot contain cholesterol. They can, however contain sterols but we won't go into that. Too confusing.

Are breads good or bad for cholesterol. Such a good question. I think in general, a lower glycemic index diet is better for anyone with high cholesterol and/or metabolic syndrome. (high cholesterol, high blood sugar, obesity, possibly low thyroid, increased abdominal girth and a few other things that may or may not be involved) However, bread can be high or low on the glycemic index, depending on how you make it. I'm sure my blueberry braid with mascarpone cheese was a heart attack on a pan. However, my 100% rye bread made with only whole rye flour, water and salt with sourdough rye starter is probably a low glycemic/high fiber bread. I can add flax seeds to that to further increase fiber and healthy fats for an even healthier bread.

Discuss with a nutritionist or a cardiologist but most nutritionists nowadays are no longer advocating very low carb diets for high cholesterol. A decent amount of high fiber, whole grain, "lean dough" breads, not to exceed the daily calories and 30% carbs for the day should be fine. Aim for 30-40 grams of fiber a day too which can be a challenge.

For richer, more tender breads try adding sweet potatoes, apples and oatmeal. All are low glycemic index and full of fiber and nutrition.

Doc Tracy (DO, MSN)

flyboy912's picture

Can I revise this to include concerns about calories? How valid is this?

Caltrain's picture

Not to over-generalize, but calories are calories. Bread is a somewhat calorie-dense food and usually sits at around, eh, let's say 100 calories per slice before sweeteners and oils.

From a weight loss or maintenence perspective, it's not a bad idea to avoid bread in favor of smaller, easier-to-maintain portions of grains. Is she also concerned about carbs?

Also, to add to the above discussion about cholesterol, there's evidence to suggest that whole wheat bread, and fiber in general, helps control cholesterol levels. White bread... not so much.

dmsnyder's picture

Different sources of calories do have other health implications. Your metabolism handles proteins, carbohydrates and fats differently. In fact, it handles differently kinds of carbohydrates and fats differently. And then there is ethanol (which fosters fat development preferentially).

A diet with a healthy balance of different foods is most beneficial. In general, the American diet is too high in fat and simple sugars (and salt) and in total calories. Our diet would be healthier if we ate more bread, as long as it be made with whole grain flour and not overly enriched with sugar and fats.

The cholesterol story is complex and changing. Current nutritional science, as I understand it, finds that dietary saturated fat (and trans-fat) is much more harmful than cholesterol. Some sources of fat actually have a beneficial effect on cholesterol production. There are some fatty acids the absence of which in the diet create deficiency diseases.

It is not commonly known that the cholesterol circulating in your blood (and stored in your tissues) is not directly derived from the cholesterol you eat. It is produced by your liver. So what is important is how your diet drives your liver's production of cholesterol.

So, the bottom line is that decreasing saturated fat and alcohol consumption as well as total calories and increasing whole grain consumption and poly-unsaturated and mono-unsaturated fats, e.g., olive oil (in moderation), in our diet would improve the health of most of us.


clazar123's picture

A healthful diet can include bread.To maximise the healthful effect of any food in your diet,maximize the quality of the ingredients .For bread, that would be whole grain and eating it in  measured amounts.What you add to the bread is a whole different part of the picture.

The best source of recommendations for a healthful diet and about cholesterol is Mayo Clinic's Book on Healthy Weight.Mayo Clinic also has a wonderful website with info on how to be heatlhy through good nutrition.It is practical and pretty easy.

I'm successfully using the Mayo clinic recommendations and Weight Watchers plan to lose weight and I bake several types of bread every weekend. I've learned to make smaller loaves,freeze bread,and give bread away. I plan the type of bread I make according to the menus I have planned (a nice sandwich rye for corned beef sandwiches,for example).

Any steps you take toward a healthy lifestyle are steps in the right direction.The trick is to keep stepping.


PaddyL's picture

I sometimes put oat bran into my sourbread dough; every bit helps with lowering cholesterol.

Sam Fromartz's picture
Sam Fromartz

Barley and oats both contain soluble fiber which has been shown to reduce cholesterol. There are many recipes for oat bread, you can also try using barley flour in your doughs but be careful because it has very little gluten. 

Unlike wheat, the fiber in barley is contained throughout the seed so even pearl barley contains fiber and is a great addition to soups or can make a great risotto. Hulled barley, which is less processed than pearled barley, can be boiled, then soaked overnight and added to loaves, much like wheat or rye kernels. Generally, whole grains have been shown to have benefits for the heart.

Barley also has a great flavor and is often toasted lightly in the oven before use. Because of it's low gluten content, it is a great addition to quick breads like muffins, pancakes and waffles. You just need some all purpose flour or whole wheat pastry flour to add structure. 

You can also dust loaves with rolled oats or oat bran.

I will link to an upcoming article I am doing on this subject.


Caltrain's picture

Ooh, good information. I've heard the praises of barley before, but only find them pearled or hulled in the bulk isle. As a result, I always pass on them as they're not "whole grain". Hah, guess I know better now, huh? I'll have to try some out next chance I get.

Thanks. :-)

tananaBrian's picture

Half of my family is diabetic and most of the others are hypoglycemic (as am I).  Diet and cholestorol are important to us.  The connection between carbohydrates and cholesterol is through what happens when your body sees an inrush of simple carbohydrates (high glycemic index foods) into the blood stream.  Your body responds by releasing insulin, when 'tells' your system to reduce the blood sugar.   It does this by storing energy in other forms, e.g. glycogen, triglycerides, and fat.  Triglycerides are a precursor to cholestorol and fat.

The bottom line?  Your wife is right.  If she eats too many carbohydrates, then her triglycerides, fat, and cholesterol will go UP.  The way to combat this effect is to combine the carbohydrates with other foods, such as protein in a normal balanced meal, to reduce the overall glycemic load of the meal and to stick with foods that have a lower glycemic index.  When it comes to breads, baking with sourdough is perhaps the most effective way to reduce the glycemic index, but the addition of other ingredients that slow the metabolic process helps as well, e.g. using whole-grains and higher fiber flours.  Another approach is to use more rye.  Rye has a much lower glycemic index than wheat and so do breads made partially with, or completely with, rye flour.

Good luck!  She's not wrong, but there are many ways around that block!  My personal choice is to limit how much bread I eat (the family eats most of it) and to combine it with protein (which I eat first).  Doctor's orders!  In spite of my personal condition, I dropped my cholestorol from around 300 to about 190 by following these rules (and losing weight and exercising) and I no longer have the daily cravings and hunger swings or the 'afternoon sleepies'.  I also lean towards sourdough, rye, and whole-grain wheat whenever I can as well.  I'm baking my way through The Bread Challenge right now, which doesn't help, but again ...90% of this bread goes into the mouths of wife and children, not me.  Sometimes I just sample the bread and move on.  Or if it lasts (it never does), I intend to space out how often I get it and piece it out into several meals.



ananda's picture

Hi Cherylmathew,

We had quite a discussion on semolina in this post here:    The information from Nico is particularly worth looking at.

My take is that traditional semolina is a by-product from milling wholemeal to white flour.   Today it is used solely in relation to durum wheat, which is the hard wheat variety native to S. Italy and used to make pasta.

If you mean the type of semolina I refer to, then it is reasonably high in protein, and in vitamins and minerals.   The carbohydrate must come from the same source; ie the endosperm of the wheatberry.   But it is further away from the middle of the endosperm, and will have been refined less intensively, if that has any bearing on things.   Traditionally semolina resulted as a by-product when white flour was produced by "bolting" the flour through very fine sieves.

Hope this helps

Best wishes


Thaichef's picture

I agreed with Dmsnyder!   In America I found that most of my "skinny" friends are afraid of eating breads. One comment I heard it over and over is  "breads make me fat".  Another one said" I allow myself to eat bread once a week. I took my bread from the fridge and toast it for breakfast.". I feel sorry for them. They miss so much.

If breads make people fat, all people in France will all be fat but I saw only skinny, healthy people and they eat breads in large quantity... and almost three times a day.  For us Americans we do not eat breads because we are afraid to be fat! Wake up America and stop eating fast foods and process food.