Is Naan Bread Healthy? Nutrition, Benefits, and Alternatives

Fresh and hot from the oven, naan may be a great comfort food for a cold night.

Given its long history and simple preparation, naan remains a staple in many cuisines. You can find it in restaurants or make it at home, serving it in a variety of sophisticated ways.

Naan has found more popularity around the world, so you may even be able to buy naan at your local grocery store or bakery.

Still, you may wonder if this fluffy and beloved bread is healthy, especially if you’re looking to maintain your weight.

This article examines the nutrients, health benefits, and varieties of naan, as well as how it stacks up against pita and other breads.

In English, many refer to naan as “naan bread.” However, that’s a redundant term, as naan is derived from the Persian word “non,” meaning bread.

According to one scholar, naan emerged from the ancient Persian practice of baking flatbread on hot pebbles (1).

You’ll find the process for making a simple naan looks similar to making other types of bread. Combine your ingredients of flour, water, salt and fat, flatten it with your hands, and place it in the oven to bake (1).

If you’re looking for a fancier batch of naan, you can use fire plates or clay ovens over your traditional oven.

Simply, naan’s a versatile, beloved, and ancient bread recipe that you can make at home.

Summary

Naan is a type of flatbread that was originally cooked on pebbles. Naan is derived from the Persian word for bread, and you can use flour to bake it at home.

There are a variety of naans, which differ depending on your region and ingredients. Some are more popular than others, but there’s a good chance you’ll encounter one of the following types in your local store:

  • Naan-e roghani. This is a thicker, softer Afghan naan prepared with more oil than the regular variety. It’s sprinkled with sesame seeds and nigella seeds.
  • Butter garlic naan. A classic Indian variety, this is one of the most popular versions of naan. This naan is brushed with melted butter and garlic.
  • Peshwari naan. This Pakistani variety contains dried sultanas, raisins, coconut, and almonds.
  • Naan-e barbari. This classic Persian naan has a crusted top and delicate interior. The naan is topped with sesame seeds.
  • Aloo naan. This is an Indian naan stuffed with boiled mashed potatoes.
  • Whole wheat naan. Whole wheat naan relies on whole wheat flour to boost fiber content.

Summary

There are many varieties of naan, depending on the region it’s from and dough being used. Some types include butter garlic naan, naan e-roghini, Peshawari naan, and naan e-barbari.

Naan boasts many of the same nutritional benefits as other fresh breads — including carbs, iron, and vitamin B.

Here’s the nutrition information for 1 piece of commercially prepared, plain naan (90 grams) (2):

  • Calories: 262
  • Fat: 5 grams
  • Carbs: 45 grams
  • Protein: 9 grams
  • Fiber: 2 grams
  • Sugar: 3 grams
  • Sodium: 18% of the Daily Value (DV)
  • Iron: 16% of the DV
  • Thiamine (vitamin B1): 58% of the DV
  • Niacin (vitamin B3): 33% of the DV

While naan is relatively low in fiber, it offers a fair amount of protein. Your body needs this nutrient to maintain healthy functioning of your organs (5).

Moreover, naan provides some essential vitamins and minerals, especially vitamins B1 and B3. It’s even a decent source of iron (2, 8).

Summary

Like other breads, naan is particularly high in B vitamins, carbs, and iron. It also offers protein and iron.

Downsides

Naan has a few red flags for some people who may need to limit or avoid certain nutrients.

Saturated fat constitutes about a quarter of the total amount of fat in naan. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends that saturated fat calories account for less than 10% of your total daily calorie intake (6).

As such, you should avoid filling up on naan if you’re watching your saturated fat intake.

Moreover, store-bought plain naan has a relatively high sodium content, accounting for around 18% of the DV. Eating too much sodium may increase blood pressure and your risk for heart disease and stroke (7).

Summary

Store-bought naan may be high in sodium and saturated fat, two nutrients that some people need to watch their intake of.

If you’re looking to eat more naan, but you have health concerns, consider how it stacks up against other breads and pita, another popular flatbread dish.

First, 1 white naan (90 grams) has approximately 70% more carbs, protein, and fiber than 2 slices of white bread (54 grams). Both have comparable amounts of sugar (2, 9).

With naan, you get more carbs, but also much more protein and fiber, both essential in keeping you feeling full while maintaining a healthy weight.

On the other hand, naan contains about 80% more carbs and roughly 200% more protein than a 45-gram serving of pita. Naan boasts twice the fiber of pita, yet 60% more sugar (2, 10).

It’s worth noting that naan is twice the weight of pita and 1.5 times the weight of two slices of bread.

Simply put, naan is more nutrient-dense than pita or white bread. While it may contain more carbs and sugars, it earns its reputation as a healthy alternative with its relatively generous amounts of protein and fiber.

Summary

Despite its high carb content, naan can be considered a more nutrient-dense alternative to white bread and pita.

Like most breads, naan is a high carb food without much fiber. Starchy naan serves as fast-release energy for your body.

Consider these important health benefits associated with naan.

High fiber alternatives

Consuming carbs supports your blood sugar and insulin levels, as well as your cholesterol and triglyceride — a type of fat found in the blood — metabolism (11).

While plain white naan, made from refined flour, contains little fiber, that doesn’t mean other types of naan can’t be a good source of fiber.

Whole wheat flour, in combination with other whole grain alternatives, such as chickpea flour, can boost the fiber content of your plain naan

In addition, dietary fiber intake has been linked to improved heart and colon health. A high fiber diet is correlated with a reduced risk of heart disease (12).

Good source of vitamins

Naan is high in niacin and thiamin, which offer health advantages.

Niacin is a B vitamin that your body requires for cellular energy production and other functions, including genetic stability, metabolism, and aging (13).

A lack of B3 may be linked to neurological problems, dementia, and even psychiatric conditions (14).

Like niacin, thiamin is a water-soluble vitamin. This means your body does not store it in reserves and you must replenish your niacin levels through your diet or supplements.

People deficient in thiamin may experience problems with their nervous system, heart, and gut health. Weight loss, anorexia, confusion, memory loss, malaise, muscle weakness, and heart problems may be symptoms of thiamin deficiency (15).

Finally, naan proves to be a decent source of iron — an essential mineral that helps your body make red blood cells that carry oxygen throughout your body.

Iron is an important part of many proteins and enzymes in your body. It also helps your muscles store and use oxygen.

Consider adding naan and other vitamin-B-rich foods if you want to maximize your neurological and circulatory health.

May help manage blood sugar and diabetes

Naan may help you manage your blood sugar.

The glycemic index (GI) for naan is estimated to be 71. The GI index measures how quickly carb-containing foods elevate your blood sugar levels. At 55, they are labelled low GI (3).

As such, you may include naan in a low GI diet. Low GI diets have been found to help decrease blood sugar levels and insulin demands in people with pre-diabetes and diabetes (4).

Naan, as a low GI food, gives you flexibility in keeping your blood sugar at moderate levels to prevent crashes.

Summary

Naan is a high carb food that may help promote healthy blood sugar, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels. You can also use whole wheat flour to increase naan’s fiber content.

You can include naan as a part of a balanced diet when you eat it in moderation. Opt for whole wheat naan if you’re looking to maximize your health benefits, and try to serve it alongside other nutritious foods.

Of course, consider the full scope of your diet. Naan, while nutritious, cannot be a cure-all for a diet that’s high in processed sugars and fats and low in nutrients.

You can use naan as a vehicle for nutritious foods, like vegetables and legumes. Pair whole wheat naan with beans, lentils, chickpeas, and peas as many dishes do in Indian cuisine.

If naan fits into your overall health goals and lifestyle, enjoy it!

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