Nutritionists react to Gwyneth Paltrow-endorsed 'wellness bread.' Is it really better for you?

Gwyneth Paltrow's grain-free, gluten-free and oil-free
Gwyneth Paltrow's grain-free, gluten-free and oil-free "wellness bread" is part of a larger trend. (Getty Images)

If anyone is going to "healthify" anything, it’s Gwyneth Paltrow and Goop. So it’s no surprise that the brand collaborated with a California-based bakery, Oat Bakery, on what they’ve called “The Wellness Bread.” The vegan, grain-free, gluten-free and oil-free loaf debuted in late April in an Instagram post by the bakery. “Dream collab” read the caption alongside a slideshow of photos of the bread, which is made with almond flour, buckwheat, arrowroot and chia seeds.

This isn’t the first time that Paltrow and her wellness brand have touted “better for you” breads — both grain-free and full of whole grains. In fact, nutritionists say it’s part of a bigger trend. Here’s what you need to know.

Outside of Goop’s endeavor, Julia Perlman, registered dietitian and co-founder of JAM Nutrition, tells Yahoo Life that “wellness bread” is a catchy term used for marketing purposes. “The word carries an appealing connotation, making consumers feel they’re making a healthy choice for themselves,” she says. “People are interested in ‘better for you’ breads because when there’s a more nutritious alternative to something we consume regularly, it naturally sparks some people's interest.”

Brittany Werner, registered dietitian-nutritionist and director of coaching at an online nutrition coaching company, Working Against Gravity, explains that the term is used most often to differentiate from the standard sliced and shelf-stable breads that are found in American grocery stores. Those shelf-stable breads “contain flour, wheat, gluten and sugar. Alternative or ‘wellness breads’ are fresh or less shelf stable and prepared with ancient grains, seeds and almond flour,” she tells Yahoo Life, noting that they take inspiration from bread-making processes in Scandinavia and other countries.

Some popular brands that would fall into the wellness category, even though some may contain wheat, include Food for Life’s Ezekiel bread, Dave’s Killer Bread and Julian Bakery’s keto and paleo-friendly options. “While these products may offer a grain-free alternative for those who are sensitive to specific food groups, using the term wellness is misleading,” says Werner. Not because wellness bread isn’t healthy, but as Perlman says, having that on the label doesn’t necessarily make it “superior to other nutritious brands on the market.”

These alternative bread options aren’t healthier because they’re labeled gluten-free, grain-free or oil-free, according to Perlman. “Rather, their health value lies in the quality of ingredients and the nutritional benefits they provide,” she says. “Ingredients like oats, nuts and seeds provide dietary fiber to aid in digestion, while healthy fats can support satiety, heart health and brain function. Regular breads often contain added sugars that can elevate blood sugar levels and raise the risk of heart disease when consumed in excess.”

Even so, those regular loaves aren’t inherently bad for you. “Ever since the Atkins craze of the ’90s” — which promoted a low-carb diet for weight loss — “bread has continued to have a negative connotation in the nutrition space,” says Werner. That said, she acknowledges that not all breads are created equal. “When you compare the ingredients of some standard sliced white breads in the grocery store, you are likely to notice those products offer very little nutritional value,” she says. However, Werner adds: “All foods have a place in our diets in moderation.”

Although anyone can benefit from eating bread that’s high in fiber and other nutrients, gluten-free and grain-free wellness breads may only be necessary for people with food allergies or sensitivities. “Specifically, for someone with celiac disease who requires gluten-free options, these breads offer nutritional advantages over other gluten-free breads that may be lower in fiber and contain added sugars and artificial ingredients,” says Perlman.

It’s also important to be mindful of any allergies because many of these loaves contain nuts and seeds.

“When choosing a nutritious bread, prioritize 100% whole wheat or 100% whole grain options over refined white breads,” says Perlman. “But at the end of the day, choose the bread that aligns best with your food preferences, dietary restrictions, health goals and budget considerations.”