If you’ve been to one of my talks, you know that “fake” whole grains are one of my pet peeves. I’m talking about “multi-grain” and other terms that can trick well-intentioned shoppers into buying bread and crackers that are mostly white flour. We often do an activity where I have participants hunt around the room for “real” whole grains (see my “Whole Grain Pop Quiz” to try it yourself.) Inevitably, as people learn they’ve been fooled, someone will ask, cringingly, “What about COBS Bread?”
COBS came to Canada in 2003 after a successful start in Australia, and there are now over 90 stores here, including ten in Calgary, with two more on the way.
Good news, folks. The tasty whole grain breads at COBS are the real deal, by which I mean that the first ingredient is whole grain whole wheat, so you’ll get more than of that than anything else. Additionally, COBS breads have no added sugar or preservatives, and they’re baked fresh daily.
Also, because I truly care about you, I’ve tried all of the breads I’m recommending below and can assure you that they’re delicious.
What is COBS’ healthiest bread?
Any of COBS whole-grain breads are good choices, but for fun, I thought I’d compare nutrients like fibre, sodium, and healthy fats, to see if one stands out.
Comparing bread nutrition facts can be tricky, because serving sizes aren’t consistent. Some list the nutrition for one slice, some two. The size of a slice can vary greatly, from about 20 to 40 grams. Furthermore, most of COBS products come as buns, rounds, and other shapes, in addition to regular and mini-loaves. Cue my head exploding.
So, I made a spreadsheet adjusting the nutrition information to a standard 35g-slice for each of their whole-grain breads. I included several of their white breads and two Dempster’s whole-grain breads for comparison.
If you’re a data geek like me, you can click the image to see it, but here are my conclusions:
- Any of these are a great choice: Cape Seed, Country Grain, Chia Whole Wheat, Chia Flax, and Sourdough Whole Wheat.
- I’d give the gold medal to the Cape Seed bread because those yummy seeds means you get more healthy fats, fibre, protein, iron and other nutrients per slice, along with less carbohydrates. Unless you’re an athlete in training, this is a good thing. As a bonus, its also the lowest in sodium. The only caveat: It’s higher in calories, so be mindful of the portion size.
- Silver and bronze go to Chia Flax and Chia Whole Wheat for similar reasons, without the mouthful of seeds that some people don’t like. (Note: Chia and ground flax seeds give you heart-healthy soluble fibre and omega-3 fat. Not tons, but it can’t hurt. They’re in the Cape Seed bread too.)
- Try the Sourdough Whole Wheat if you have diabetes and want a lower glycemic index bread. (That basically means it makes your blood sugar rise more slowly, although portion size is the most important factor for that.) It’s also their lowest-calorie whole-grain bread.
Other breads you might want to try from time to time:
- The German Rye, which is about 60% rye flour and includes sourdough starter. That combination usually results in a lower glycemic index than regular whole-wheat. Unfortunately, none of COBS rye breads say they use whole rye flour, and the healthy-sounding Pumpernickel and Lekkerbrot breads have more (white) wheat in them than rye, which is disappointing. So, the whole-grain breads listed above are still your best bets, but if you’re a rye-lover, give it a try.
- Honourable mention also to the Chia Fruit bread, which is basically a whole grain raisin bread with a bit of chia. All good, except for the extra two teaspoons of sugar or so per slice.
- Another interesting choice is the mind-blowingly good Whole Wheat Cheese Rolls, to which they will add tomatoes, mushrooms, and/or olives if requested. (You have to pre-order them, at my COBS at least.) Again, they’re mostly whole grain whole wheat flour, and give you about 10g of protein and 10-15% of your daily calcium. Sadly, the higher sodium (450mg) would keep me from making these delicious treats a daily staple. Still, better than pizza or regular cheese buns, and did I mention they taste amazing?
- The final honourable mention goes to the regular Whole Wheat bread. While it is a whole grain, the glycemic index of whole-wheat is typically higher than mixed-grain breads, so I’d try one of those listed above first.
- If you really, really don’t like any of the whole-grain breads, try the Higher Fibre (white) bread or the White Chia. Neither give you the goodness of whole grains, but they’re better than regular white. (Note that the Higher Fibre bread still isn’t as high in fibre as the Country Grain, Cape Seed, Chia Whole Wheat, or Chia Flax. It’s just high when compared to the white bread.)
Other tips for shopping at COBS
- Even the healthiest bread is best eaten in moderation. Many people need just one slice at a time. Combine it with something that gives you protein (here are 7 choices that aren’t processed meat) and a couple of servings of fruit and/or vegetables. Balance it out with healthier whole grains or starches the rest of the day: steel-cut oats, quinoa, sweet potato, barley, etc.
- If you prefer two slices for a sandwich, you can ask them to slice your bread thinly.
- Don’t stop at COBS when you’re hungry, or you’re liable to eat a chocolate scone and defeat the purpose.
- Because there are no preservatives in COBS breads, they’ll actually grow mold if left on the counter for more than a few days. Follow their instructions here for freezing and thawing.
Most importantly, try them all until you find one you love. After all, you’re not eating in the Sweet Spot unless you truly enjoy the food.