New Zealand researchers have tinkered with bread recipes to produce a low-cost loaf that is healthier for the heart than many commercially-available options.

Bread is such an important food in New Zealand that the Otago University researchers wanted to see if they could come up with healthier loaves to help lower rates of heart disease and related conditions.

In a blog posted today, they say dietary factors such as the risk of high salt (sodium) intake and low fibre and the benefits of certain types of fat are important for non-communicable diseases including heart disease and stroke.

"One food which has all three of these nutrients is bread and, in NZ, bread is the major single source of dietary sodium."


The Otago University team used at least 50 per cent wholemeal flour, trimmed standard salt and added a salt-substitute plus linseeds to make loaves whose ingredients range in cost from $1.50, to $5 for bread that also contains walnuts

In an academic article on their research, Associate Professor Nick Wilson and colleagues say they used a high-potassium substitute for some of the standard salt (sodium chloride) in their recipes because it has been linked with reduced blood pressure in an analysis of earlier studies. "There is also evidence that potassium chloride can achieve flavour compensation that allows for large reductions in sodium levels in bread."

But they limited the salt substitute to a maximum of 1.5 teaspoons per loaf "to avoid any bitterness".

They are not promoting their walnut-containing loaf because it was the most expensive, preferring to push their $1.50 and $3 breads. Once profit estimates were included, they estimated the cheaper loaf could sell for $1.82 and their $3 bread for $3.22 under a government-voucher scheme for people with cardiovascular disease.

But Dr Wilson told the Herald that they would still be good value for money, "given that these loaves weigh a lot more than a $1, 600g white loaf in supermarkets, these are all in the 1000g to 1100g range".

They say in their blog: "An institution such as a public hospital with its own bakery could "market test" the acceptability of various HHBs (Heart Healthy Breads) on staff who use the hospital cafeteria. The latter could be done in conjunction with non-governmental organisations - such as the Heart Foundation in NZ. If there were concerns about public acceptability of new bread design, then a more incremental approach could involve slowly phasing down the levels of white flour and sodium while phasing up the levels of linseed/flaxseed and salt substitute (ie, potassium) in the HHBs promoted for mass consumption."

The dry ingredients list for the two cheaper heart-healthy breads (HHBs):


Quantity of dry ingredients (g)/Percentage of dry ingredients:

Wholemeal flour: 334g/48%

White flour: 334g/48%

Yeast: 12g/2%

Normal salt: 8g/1%

Salt substitute: 8g/1%

Nuts and seeds:

Linseeds: 4g/1%

Walnuts: 0g/0%

Sunflower seeds: 0g/0%

Pumpkin seeds: 0g/0%

Sesame seeds: 0g/0%


All dry ingredients: 700g/100%

All nuts and seeds: 4g/1%


Quantity of dry ingredients (g)/Percentage of dry ingredients:

Wholemeal flour: 464g/58%

White flour: 155g/19%

Yeast: 16g/2%

Normal salt: 7g/1%

Salt substitute: 9g/1%

Nuts and seeds:

Linseeds: 132g/16%

Walnuts: 18g/2%

Sunflower seeds: 1g/0%

Pumpkin seeds: 0g/0%

Sesame seeds: 0g/0%


All dry ingredients: 800g/100%

All nuts and seeds: 150g/19%