The bread or bakery section of the common grocery store is still a very popular place for most to visit, bringing home various bread products to eat. While we have continued to become more health conscious as a society when it comes to whole grains, for the most part we are still not making healthy choices in this department and relying too heavily on refined grain products. For many people, the reliance on bread is a matter of habit and convenience. To add to this, few high quality, truly “healthy” breads exist. Most breads lure us in with promises of using whole grains, being cholesterol or trans fat free and good sources of fiber, while they hide added sugars, unhealthy fats, dairy and various chemical additives. And then there are still people who knowing full well the health risks involved, choose the most heavily processed white bread options.
To help us make the healthiest choices, we have to continue to increase our knowledge, awareness and to connect the dots. We may not make the perfect choice right away, but each step in the right direction provides benefits for our health. In this write-up I will share with you a detailed review of a selection of breads from a company that prides itself for providing healthy bread choices. In our analysis we will examine if the Stonemill 100% Natural Breads, are actually good choices for our health.
Stonemill is a company that started as a family tradition quality artisan bread bakery, and today has over 100 years experience. It began in Germany with August Fritsch in 1907 and is today under third generation leadership. In 1982, the family came to Canada where they continued baking their whole grain artisan breads. The breads are described as 100% natural and the company labels them as “healthy” bread choices. Alongside, the company values environmental stewardship and uses 100% green power to bake their breads. To learn more about Stonemill and their breads, visit StonemillBakehouse.com
The first time I tried this bread was well over 5 years ago. It was one of the first bread options that I noticed in the grocery stores, that qualified as a “healthy” option. It was by far, the best of the worst. Well that was over 5 years ago, and since a lot changed. While I used to recommend this bread to others as the healthiest option, today I cannot. Yes, the company website is very beautiful, eliciting feelings of health and well-being. Yes, they are environmentally conscious. Yes, they are better than any regular commercial bread thanks to using some health promoting ingredients. Unfortunately all of this is not enough when it comes to optimal health. For those interested in average health, this company’s breads can make excellent choices. However for those interested in optimal health, these breads don’t make the grade, and there are much better options available.
As much as the company wants to provide an image of being health conscious, upon a thorough examination of their products one can see that all is not what it appears to be. Stonemill’s breads are an excellent example of how just because something says it is “natural” or uses the word “natural” does not mean it is good for you. While the labels promote 100% natural breads, the breads contain several unhealthy ingredients like refined (non-whole) flours, added gluten, fruit juice concentrates and possible GMO ingredients, just to name a few. The good part is that they do not use added sugars, oils, dairy or soy in their breads. Even the health tips they provide are typical food guide/dietitian supported tips which more and more people are awakening to today as being corporately driven and far from good for our health. Basically put, Stonemill definitely cannot be described as a progressive health conscious company that is keeping up with modern dietary and chronic disease information and needs. They create over a dozen breads, the healthiest four of which I will talk about in detail in this review, below.
3 Grains & Oatmeal
[Ingredients: Whole grains (sprouted whole grain wheat, whole grain wheat flour, whole and ground brown flax seeds, rolled oats, organic whole grain rye flour), water, wheat gluten, apple cider vinegar, yeast, corn meal, sea salt, organic sourdough (organic whole grain rye flour, water, bacterial culture).] Full nutrition profile here.
This was the first variety I tried from the Stonemill line of breads a few years back. It is what I would label as the second best of all of their choices, but still not ideal for optimal health. And while it was not perfect back then, it has since been re-formulated and unfortunately not for the better. I thought that having the sprouted grains would be a benefit, but have since completely reconsidered when it comes to this bread.
For starters the front of the package is slightly misleading as the biggest thing a consumer sees is the label “Sprouted 3 Grains”, with the actual bread name in small, much less obvious text below. Well, as you look above at the ingredients, there aren’t 3 sprouted grains, just one, the wheat. The bread also tried to get us to focus on all of its best attributes like being low glycemic, free of artificial additives and preservatives and have no added fat, sugar, dairy or soy. While these are all excellent, we still have to see what else is in there to get a complete picture:
If a bread is to have a chance of qualifying as optimally healthy, the ingredients should be organic. Aside from one organic ingredient, the rest of the bread is not.
While today’s wheat is not an ideal food source for us in general, at least organic wheat is closer to its purer state. This product contains whole wheat sources, but not organic ones.
Uses regular water, not filtered or spring that other health conscious bread companies use.
Adds wheat gluten. As if having all the non-organic wheat wasn’t bad enough, more wheat gluten specifically is added, which can cause even more harm to our intestines and overall health.
Contains baker’s yeast, which can be problematic for many due to Candida issues today, among other things.
Contains non-organic corn meal. With most of the world’s corn today being GMO, unless labelled organically, there is a high chance that this product contains GMO ingredients.
The bread’s overall taste is fine, though nothing to rave about, and its texture has some of the real, whole food pieces of seeds and oats. I found it to be on the softer side, mimicking some of the spongier breads.I have no doubt that it is still much better than the rest of the commercial breads in the grocery stores, but it is simply not good enough for optimal health.
12 Sprouted Grain Bread
[Ingredients: Whole grains (sprouted whole grain wheat, whole grain wheat flour, organic whole grain rye flour, brown flax seeds, sunflower seeds, cracked wheat, cracked rye, cracked triticale, barley grits, millet meal, rice semolina, buckwheat grits, durum grits, rolled oats), water, unbleached wheat flour, wheat bran, wheat gluten, yeast, apple cider vinegar, oat bran, sea salt, corn meal, roasted malt flour, organic sourdough (organic whole grain rye flour, water, bacterial culture).] Full nutrition profile here.
Like the variety above, when I first tried this one it had a better ingredient list, then it does now. Again, while it uses sourdough, and has no added sugar, oil, dairy, soy or any preservatives, it has the above mentioned problems, plus a few others. Did you notice the refined (non-whole grain) flour lurking in the ingredient list? So many so called “healthy” breads use this tactic. They will say on the front made with real whole grains, and then include one or more refined flours in the ingredients, giving many people a false sense of security. Therefore as always, read all of your ingredients!
The thing about this bread too, is that I find its taste to be actually unpleasant. It is nothing short of being slightly bitter. Like the 3 grain above, it is more on the spongier side, and dries up when warmed in a toaster oven more than average, compared to other healthy breads that I tried. There really is nothing I can recommend about this bread.
[Ingredients: Organic whole grains (organic whole grain spelt flour, organic whole grain rye flour), water, organic spelt flour, yeast, sea salt, organic sourdough (organic whole grain rye flour, water, bacterial culture).] Full nutrition profile here.
This bread is the only one of all the Stonemill breads that is fully organic. I consider this bread the best choice if one had to pick a variety from this company, but it is still not ideal for optimal health. While this bread has the simple and straightforward organic ingredients, no wheat, sourdough and no added sugar, dairy, oils, or soy, it too hides a non-whole flour, along with the quality of water and inclusion of yeast that can be picked on. And of course to be an optimal choice, we want to see sprouted grains used as much as possible, rather than flours.
In terms of taste and texture, this was my favorite one as well of the three. The taste is mild and pleasant with no bitter aftertaste. And the texture is more dense, not spongy like the other two.
Calorie Control 6 Sprouted Grains
[Ingredients: whole grain wheat flour, water, sprouted whole grain wheat, organic whole grain rye flour, wheat gluten, brown flax seed, millet seeds, green lentil, sprouted barley kernels, yeast, yellow flax seeds, organic spelt kernels, sea salt, sunflower seeds, rolled oats, bacterial culture.] Full nutrition profile here.
Although I have not tried this one personally, if you must consider a bread from this company, this may be another possible choice that is in some ways better than the above mentioned. And it isn’t because of the calories. In fact, I am not sure why this bread is being marketed as “calorie control” since it provides a similar amount of calories compared to their other breads. 100 calories per 40g slice of this one, and 130 calories for 2 slices (54g) of the others. With most people eating two slices, regardless of the bread weight, it can actually work out as a worse choice.
The added bonus of this bread is that it does not hide any refined (non-whole) flours, and includes lentils. Either way, I am not sure again how it is labelled “6 Sprouted Grains” when in the ingredients there are only 2 mentioned.
As for the rest of their breads:
- NEW European Sourdough (various varieties)
- Cranberry Pumpkin Seed
- Sun Dried Raisin
- Sunflower & Walnut
- Golden Flax
- Grains (11) & Honey
- Heart Health Golden Flax
- Body Balance 12 Grain Rye
- and 3 types of different bagels
On top of the problems mentioned in the 3 Grains & Oat above, they are based on or include refined, white (non-whole) flours, as well some also have juice concentrates added that act like sugars.
In terms of nutritional value, most of the breads are rich in protein, with about 5g per slice. They are reasonable when it comes to the sodium being in the ballpark of keeping the sodium to calorie ratio roughly 1 to 1. (A 1 to 1 calories to sodium ratio is a good rule of thumb to estimate a reasonable sodium amount. Sodium should not be higher than the amount of calories. It should be equal to, or lower then the number of calories.) And as with all breads and baked goods, being processed with a high level of heat means we are not eating a living food product with its own enzymes. These are destroyed with the heat, along with other vitamins and nutrients that are heat sensitive.
In terms of price, the breads range around $3 to $4 per loaf, and can be as cheap as $2.50 on sale, which makes them a popular choice for many. However, when it comes to breads we want quality over quantity, and a cheap price is not worth sacrificing your health for. The price of much better breads is in this range as well, so considering those options will give you more value for your money.
The summary when it comes to these breads is as follows. If your grocery store carries these as the best choice of all the breads, and you want to have a bread product in your life, then choosing the best of the worst from this brand would be the ideal way to go. However, if your grocery store carries other options like Manna Organics, Food For Life, Dimpflmeier Organic or ShaSha Organic, then those are much better options to go with.
The breads come packaged in a plastic bag, which can be recycled once product is finished. Their size/weight is about 454g.
Price (as of this posting)
- Around $3.00 – $4.00 CAD per 454g loaf at selected grocery stores
- At major retailers and specialty stores in Ontario as well as select retailers across Canada and the United States.
- To find a store near you, check the store locator
- Many wholesome ingredients
- A few organic ingredients
- Uses sourdough fermentation
- Uses some sprouted grains
- Fair nutritional value
- Vegan & vegetarian friendly
- Refined Sugar-free
- Some Wheat-free
- No added colors or flavors
- Fair price
- Most varieties contain refined (non-whole) flours
- Some varieties contain fruit juice concentrates
- Contains added gluten
- Contains yeast
- Contains mostly non-organic ingredients
- Likely to contain GMO ingredients
- Contains non-filtered, nor spring water
- Not suitable for people with gluten intolerance
- Not suitable for raw foodists (high heat processed)