Is pita bread healthy?

Even though pita is one of the oldest types of bread, thanks to modern production practices pita bread isn’t as healthy as it used to be.

Pita bread has the same nutritional characteristics as other types of wheat bread.

Pita is simply a flat, less-leavened version of wheat bread. Like other types of wheat bread, pita can be made with either white or whole wheat flour. White flour, of course, is less nutritious than whole wheat flour because the germ and bran have been removed (which contain fiber and minerals).

Most modern pita bread is made with white flour instead of germinated whole wheat flour.

Traditionally, many cultures used to soak and sprout their grains before grinding them into flour. The sprouting process helps to break down phytic acid and releases important vitamins, like folic acid. Recently, researchers started experimenting with germinating the flour used in pita in order to help prevent neural tube defects in cultures that consume a lot of pita. It was found that germinating the grains before grinding them into flour increased the availability of folic acid (which protects against neural tube defects) by 3 to 4 times the amount. [1]

Today most pita is made with ungerminated white flour, so it is relatively low in nutrition unless it is fortified with vitamins and minerals. It’s also likely to contain relatively high amounts of phytic acid.

Most modern pita bread is made using commercial yeast instead of the sourdough process.

Before commercially available yeast was available, all bread was made using a sourdough fermentation process. Fermentation is a healthier way to make bread because it further eliminates any phytic acid that remains after the germination process. Less phytic acid means better availability of important minerals.

Pita bread does not contain a complete protein, but eating it with hummus helps!

Since pita bread is made almost entirely of wheat it lacks the essential amino acid lysine. Interestingly, pita bread is often eaten with hummus, which happens to be high in lysine! Together these foods provide the essentially amino acids the body needs to carry out daily biological processes.

The take away:

Pita bread isn’t healthier than any other type of wheat bread. We recommend consuming pita bread in moderation, as it’s calorically rich but nutritionally poor. If you made your own sourdough pita with germinated whole wheat flour, or went back in time to a remote Middle-Eastern village, you’d be set. Unfortunately most commercially available pita bread is less than ideal. When you do eat it pita (because it’s definitely fun to eat!), be sure to enjoy it with hummus and lots of veggies!

Reference:

Enhancement of the folate content in Egyptian pita bread.

Photo by Guillaume Paumier

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