When it comes to quick and healthy packed lunches for work and school, there are few foods that can rival the versatility and convenience of that family favourite, the sandwich.

Now there’s another reason to enjoy tucking into your daily bread: less salt. National legislation restricting the salt content of many foods has dictated that bread manufacturers reduce the sodium content of their loaves. These legislative measures form part of national strategies to improve the health of all South Africans.

The result? Our breads now contain significantly less salt. And this, combined with their existing micronutrient fortification – including the addition of often deficient vitamin A, iron and zinc – means the staple sarmie now provides vital vitamins and minerals while also containing less salt.

This is just one of the findings coming out of a recent review of the local bread industry by well-known dietitian Jane Badham. The review, commissioned by Anchor Yeast, concluded that in addition to contributing to our improved micronutrient status, bread can serve as a vehicle to improve diversity in our diets – just think of all the healthy and tasty toppings and fillings!

“The nutritional composition of bread compared to rice, pasta and maize meal per 100g shows that from among the starchy foods group, bread is the best source of carbohydrate, protein and fibre. Although it also contains the highest level of fat per 100g (not per serving) in this group, this is a negligible amount in a healthy, balanced diet. Bread also meets two of the 11 South African Food Based Dietary Guidelines – ‘make starchy foods part of most meals’ and ‘enjoy a variety of foods’.

“A varied diet is also more likely to be an enjoyable eating plan. Sadly, many South Africans have a monotonous diet and so are prone to deficiencies. Bread has a positive role to play in terms of dietary diversity, as it is an ideal vehicle for a wide range of healthy, tasty toppings. There is really no end to the combinations one can put on sandwiches! It’s for these reasons that bread can be incorporated into South Africans’ meals, every day, without feeling guilty,” says Badham, who adds that contrary to popular belief, evidence does not link bread with weight status.

The review also revealed just how much we love our bread. In 2008, 2 800 million loaves of bread were sold (1 600 million white and 1 200 million brown). This equates to the consumption of approximately 62 loaves per person per year, or three slices of bread per person per day!

Lorraine Bezuidenhout, Bakery Business Director Anchor Yeast, says the local bread industry has grown significantly to keep up with this demand. “Consumers now have a choice of breads to suit just about every palate and pocket, from regular store-baked bread, which retails for less than R10 per loaf, to breads for specific dietary requirements, like wheat-free, gluten-free, low GI and high-fibre varieties that sell for upwards of R14 a loaf,” Bezuidenhout explains.

With all these different breads to choose from (and that’s not even counting our traditional South African ‘breads’, such as sweetcorn bread, beer bread and pot bread), it’s not hard to see that the trusty sandwich really is the best thing since, well sliced bread!

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