With so many different types of bread and English muffins available, it can be tricky to determine which option is healthier. Both bread and English muffins can be part of a balanced diet when consumed in moderation. However, there are some key differences between the two that may make one a better choice than the other depending on your nutritional needs.
At first glance, most types of bread and English muffins have a similar nutritional profile. They are typically made from refined grains like wheat or whole grains like whole wheat. Both provide carbohydrates, fiber, protein, vitamins, and minerals. However, digging deeper reveals some important distinctions.
In general, English muffins tend to be lower in calories than bread. One plain English muffin (57g) contains about 134 calories. Comparatively, one slice of white bread (28g) contains about 75 calories, while one slice of whole wheat bread (28g) has about 60-80 calories. The larger size and density of English muffins means you may feel fuller eating one muffin than a slice of lighter bread.
Fiber is important for digestive health, cholesterol levels, and stabilizing blood sugar. Fiber also promotes fullness. Whole wheat bread typically provides 1-2 grams of fiber per slice, while white bread has about 1 gram or less. Whole wheat English muffins contain around 2-4 grams of fiber. White English muffins have about 1-2 grams of fiber. For the fiber content alone, whole wheat English muffins are the best choice.
Limiting added sugars is recommended to maintain health and prevent chronic disease. Bread often contains added sugar, especially varieties like honey wheat or cinnamon raisin bread. English muffins, on the other hand, are rarely sweetened with added sugar. Reading nutrition labels can help identify sources of added sugars.
Excess sodium intake is linked to high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and other health risks. Bread, particularly from the store, can be high in sodium with over 200mg per slice. English muffins are typically lower sodium with around 110-180mg each. To limit your sodium intake, choose lower-sodium varieties of both bread and English muffins.
While bread and English muffins aren’t particularly high in fat, some types do contain more than others. For example, buttered or egg-washed English muffins can have around 5 grams of fat each. Regular whole wheat bread has 2-3 grams of fat per slice. Overall, plain English muffins and bread are both relatively low in fat.
When comparing nutrients, whole grains like whole wheat bread and English muffins provide more nutrition than refined grains like white bread. However, there are some differences in specific nutrients.
Bread and English muffins both provide protein, but bread tends to be slightly higher. One slice of whole wheat bread has around 3-4 grams of protein compared to about 3 grams in an English muffin.
The B vitamins thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, and folate are important for converting food into energy. Whole grains are the best sources of B vitamins. A whole wheat English muffin provides around 5-10% of the Daily Value for these B vitamins. Whole wheat bread offers closer to 15-25% of the Daily Value per slice.
Iron is crucial for oxygen transport in the blood. Whole wheat bread is richer in iron, with one slice providing 6-8% of the Daily Value. Whole wheat English muffins have around 2-4% of the Daily Value for iron.
Magnesium aids bone health, muscle function, mood, and blood pressure. Whole grains are good sources of magnesium. One whole wheat English muffin has around 15% of the Daily Value for magnesium. In comparison, one slice of whole wheat bread has about 10% of the Daily Value.
The glycemic index (GI) measures how quickly foods raise blood sugar. Foods with a high GI cause rapid spikes, while foods with a low GI cause a more gradual rise in blood sugar. For people with diabetes or insulin resistance, choosing low GI foods can help manage blood sugar levels.
Most types of bread have a high GI around 70-75. Comparatively, English muffins have a lower GI around 45-65. The higher fat and protein content in English muffins slows digestion and absorption of the carbohydrates. The coarse texture may also contribute to the lower GI. For controlling blood sugar, English muffins have an advantage over regular bread.
For those with celiac disease, non-celiac gluten sensitivity, or who avoid gluten for other reasons, both bread and English muffins can be problematic. However, the preparation method impacts the gluten content.
Most bread is baked, leaving the gluten intact. English muffins are cooked on a griddle, which helps break down some of the gluten. One study found that English muffins had 5 times less intact gluten than bread after cooking. So English muffins may be better tolerated compared to regular bread for those sensitive to gluten.
How you plan to use and consume bread or English muffins should factor into your choice between them. Here are some considerations for each:
- Better for sandwiches as it holds ingredients between slices
- Toasts well for toast, bruschetta, croutons, etc.
- Slightly higher protein is beneficial as a post-workout snack
- Can blend into breadcrumbs or croutons
- Good base for open-faced sandwiches or toasting and topping
- Nooks and crannies perfect for holding jams, peanut butter, or cream cheese
- Sturdier texture holds up well to heavy toppings or egg sandwiches
- Halved English muffins convenient as a base for breakfast sandwiches
- Lower glycemic index beneficial for controlling blood sugar
- Less intact gluten may be easier to tolerate
This table compares the nutritional values in 1 plain whole wheat English muffin (57g) vs 1 slice of whole wheat bread (28g):
|Whole Wheat Bread
Based on nutritional value, English muffins appear to have an advantage over bread. They are lower in calories, sodium, and added sugars. English muffins also provide more fiber and important minerals like magnesium. The lower glycemic index makes them a better choice for blood sugar control.
However, bread contains more protein, B vitamins, and bioavailable iron. Certain types of bread may fit better in your eating pattern and preferences. Sourdough bread, for instance, has a lower glycemic index around 50-55, making it comparable to English muffins.
As long as you choose whole grain options and watch portion sizes, both bread and English muffins can be healthy in moderation. Focus on other aspects of your diet like vegetables, fruits, lean proteins and healthy fats for optimal nutrition.
The Healthiest Options
When choosing between bread and English muffins, here are some of the healthiest options:
- 100% Whole Wheat Bread
- Sprouted Whole Grain Bread
- Sourdough Bread
- Rye Bread
- Ezekiel Bread
- Whole Wheat English Muffins
- Sprouted Whole Grain English Muffins
- Cinnamon Raisin English Muffins
- Multigrain English Muffins
- Flax or Chia English Muffins
Be sure to compare nutrition labels and ingredients lists to minimize added sugars, unhealthy fats, and preservatives. Making your own bread or English muffins at home using whole food ingredients allows for total control over what goes into them.
When asking “Is English muffin healthier than bread?”, the answer isn’t clear cut. Nutritionally, English muffins tend to provide fewer refined carbs and more important nutrients like magnesium. They also have a lower glycemic index. However, bread contains more protein, B vitamins, and bioavailable iron.
For most people, either option can be healthy in moderation as part of a balanced diet. Focus on choosing whole grain varieties of both bread and English muffins without a lot of added sugars or unhealthy ingredients. Consider your nutritional needs, taste preferences, and how you plan to use them to decide which option fits best into your lifestyle.