Is Pita Bread Healthy for Weight Loss? All You Need to Know

A traditional part of the Mediterranean diet, this thin flatbread can support heart and brain health, healthy blood sugar levels, and digestion.

Pita-bread-with-hummus-tomatoes-cucumber-and-carrot-on-top
by
Laura M. Ali, MS, RDN, LDN
— Signos
Health & Nutrition Writer
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Updated by

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Science-based and reviewed

Published:
July 18, 2024
April 24, 2023
— Updated:
December 6, 2023

Table of Contents

Pita bread, called “pocket bread” or Syrian or Arabic bread, originated in the Middle East and the Mediterranean. It is a light, leavened, round bread that puffs while baking, forming a pocket once cut open. According to some, pita and other types of flatbreads were some of the oldest types of bread made, originating over 10,000 years ago.

Pita bread is lower in calories than other types of bread and is often made with a combination of regular and whole wheat flour, making it a good source of whole grains and rich in dietary fiber.

In this article, we’ll look at what pita bread is, its nutritional and health benefits, how it’s made, and different ideas for adding it to a healthy diet.

Pita Bread Nutrition Facts

Pita bread is a light, delicate bread that is less dense, low-calorie, and has fewer carbohydrates than many other types of bread. When made with whole-grain wheat flour, it also contains more fiber and antioxidants than regular bread (especially white bread). Depending on the type of pita bread, it may also contain slightly less sodium than other types of wheat bread and tends to be low-fat.  

According to the USDA, one small, 4-inch whole wheat pita bread (28g), which is about the same weight as a slice of bread, contains:

  • Calories: 73
  • Fat: 0.5g
  • Fiber: 1.7g
  • Protein: 2.7g
  • Sodium: 118mg
  • Carbs: 15.7g
  • Sugar: 0.8g

Both refined and whole wheat flour contain polyphenols. These plant compounds can act as antioxidants and reduce damaging free radicals and oxidation in the body. Whole wheat flour has been found to have higher levels than refined wheat, but both increase in strength upon baking.

Pita bread also contains essential minerals like magnesium, calcium, and iron from the whole wheat flour.

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Health Benefits of Pita Bread

Does eating pita bread provide any health benefits? Like other whole-grain foods, pita bread can and should be included in a healthy diet and may provide significant health benefits. Eating more whole-grain, complex carbohydrates instead of refined grains has been associated with reduced risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and obesity.

The caveat here is that this applies to whole-grain foods. So, look for store-bought pita bread made with whole grains versus white flour.

1. Improves Digestion

Whole-grain bread, including pita bread, is fiber-rich and may help improve digestion. They act as a prebiotic, and some research has shown that they help speed up digestion and may help strengthen our gut microbiome, allowing better absorption of nutrients.  

One study comparing a diet rich in whole grains to refined grains found whole grains increased the transit time of food through the GI tract and increased the number of short-chain fatty acids (SCFA) in the large intestine. SCFAs are produced by fiber in the lower intestinal tract and help us digest carbohydrates and fat. They also protect the lining of the GI tract, helping to improve the absorption of nutrients, reduce constipation, and decrease inflammation.

2. Supports Heart Health

The American Heart Association recommends choosing whole grains over refined grains to help support heart health, and with good reason. Consistent research has shown that replacing whole grains with refined grains lowers the risk of heart disease and stroke.

In one large meta-analysis and systematic review of 45 studies, researchers found a 22 percent reduced risk of cardiovascular disease with three servings (90g) of whole grain products daily, including whole grain pita bread. Further reductions occurred with increased intakes of up to 225g per day.

In another study with people living with type 2 diabetes, after eating a diet rich in whole grains for 12 weeks, they had reductions in their LDL cholesterol, total cholesterol, and triglyceride levels, as well as reductions in blood glucose.

3. Lowers Glucose Levels

High-fiber diets, including the Mediterranean and DASH diets, have been encouraged as one way to support healthy blood sugar levels. Some fibers can act like a sponge in your GI tract, pulling in water and trapping carbohydrates, slowing digestion down. This also helps slow the absorption of sugar (glucose) into the bloodstream.

A recent European study that followed individuals for over eight years found that people who ate at least 35g of fiber a day compared to 19g had reduced HgA1C, blood glucose, and decreased insulin levels.

Additionally, findings from the Nurses Health Study I and II and the Health Professionals Study have found that participants with the highest consumption of whole grain foods had a 29 percent lower rate of developing type 2 diabetes compared to those with the lowest intake of whole grains.

4. Aids in Weight Loss

Eating foods that are rich in fiber may be helpful for weight loss. There are a couple of ways we think this works. First, fiber helps slow the breakdown and absorption of food in our GI tract. This prevents a rapid rise and fall of your blood sugar, which may affect your appetite.

Secondly, slowing down the movement of food through your GI system helps you feel full longer, keeping those mid-day hunger pangs at bay. And finally, there is some research suggests that fiber-rich grains may help increase hormones in the GI tract that regulate our appetite. ,

Research supports this, too. Numerous studies have shown that people who eat more whole grain-rich foods have lower BMI, reduced body weight, and decreased waist circumference. 13,,

5. Supports a Healthy Immune System

We are learning more and more about how a healthy GI system is important in strengthening our immune system. Whole grains act as prebiotics, providing food for the healthy bacteria in our GI system. In some research, whole grains increased healthy bacteria in the GI system and decreased inflammatory bacteria. In the same study, measurements of immune response were also shown to be high.

One measure of inflammation in the body is the amount of C-reactive protein (CRP). It measures chronic inflammation and is also an indicator of heart disease. Research has shown that following a Mediterranean or DASH diet leads to lower CRP levels, and some research has shown a diet rich in whole grains also results in lower CRP levels. More research is needed, but more whole grains may help support a healthy immune system and keep inflammation down.

6. Supports Brain Health

You may have noticed this: you work through lunch thinking you’ll power through to get that project done, but after a few hours, you notice your mind isn’t working. Is it brain fog, or is your brain crying out for help? Our brains are the most energy-using organ in our body, meaning they use a significant amount of glucose, and whole grains are one of the best sources.

Whole grains, including multigrain bread like pita, provide a steady stream of glucose for the brain and an assortment of B vitamins that help balance our moods and provide energy.

Beyond providing energy, there may be more to whole grains and our brains. Diets like the Mediterranean, DASH, and MIND diets are rich in whole grains and other healthy foods that have been shown to delay or reduce the risk of cognitive decline.

Is Pita Bread Healthier Than Other Types of Bread?

There are a lot of benefits to including whole grains in your diet, and pita bread is no exception. But is pita bread any healthier than other bread? Well, it depends. Because pita bread is a small, thin flatbread, one pita weighs approximately as much as one slice of bread. So, to compare apples to apples, so to speak, we’ll compare their nutritional value to a slice of wheat bread.

While similar in calorie content, one slice of wheat bread (29g) is higher in sugar and lower in dietary fiber than one small pita bread. It is also slightly higher in sodium and fat content.

Since most people eat two slices of bread in one sitting and only one pita bread, pita bread may be a healthier option. But remember, it is important to look for whole-grain pita bread when shopping rather than pita bread made with refined white flour. You want to ensure you get the benefits from bread with a high fiber content, which will help minimize blood sugar spikes.

How do you know if your pita bread is made from whole grains? Check the ingredient list and look for “whole wheat” or “stone ground wheat” as the first ingredient. Many whole grain or multigrain products also have a whole grain stamp on the package saying it is 100% whole grain or contains a percentage of whole grains.

<p class="pro-tip"><strong>Learn More: </strong> <a href="/blog/healthy-pumpkin-bread">Healthy Pumpkin Bread Nutrient-Rich Recipe</a>.</p>

What to Consider When Eating Pita Bread

Although pita bread is generally a healthy choice, some may prefer to reduce consumption or even avoid it entirely. Here are some factors to consider when eating pita bread:

  • Low-Carbohydrate Diets: For individuals following a keto or low-carb diet or those mindful of their total carbohydrate intake, pita bread may not be the most healthy option with its relatively high carbohydrate content.
  • Gluten Intolerance or Celiac Disease: Pita bread is usually made using wheat flour, which contains gluten. Individuals with gluten intolerance or Celiac disease need to stick to gluten-free foods to avoid a reaction.
  • Low FODMAP Diets: Foods containing fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols (FODMAPS) can trigger irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) symptoms. Pita bread is a high-FODMAP food.
  • Blood Sugar: Since blood sugar response can vary, some people may notice pita bread spikes their blood sugar even if it’s made with whole wheat flour. Experimenting with different toppings or fillings may help, but if pita bread consistently causes a blood sugar spike, it may not be the best choice.

How to Eat Pita Bread: 5 Meal Ideas

Plate-with-hummus-cucumber-and-slices-of-pita-bread

While pita bread is traditionally eaten as part of many Mediterranean and Greek dishes (like homemade hummus and falafel), it can be enjoyed with almost anything. It can be served on the side with soup or salad, stuffed with vegetables and meat for a sandwich, or enjoyed as a snack. Here are five simple pita bread recipes to add to your meal rotation.

1. Hummus and Vegetable Snack Plate with Pita

This easy snack plate is a perfect mid-afternoon treat that will fill you up and keep you satisfied until dinner.

Cut a pita round into quarters and place it on a plate. Add cut-up veggies like carrots, peppers, and cucumbers to the plate. Serve with a bowl of hummus.

2. Caesar Chicken Salad in Pita

A classic Caesar salad is topped with roasted chicken and placed in a pita round. In this version, you can either cut the pita bread in half and stuff each half with shredded romaine lettuce, roasted chicken breast, and parmesan cheese, or place the salad with the chicken and cheese on top of the pita, drizzle it with Caesar dressing, and fold it over for a quick lunch.

3. Portabella and Avocado Pita Sandwich

This vegetarian sandwich uses thinly sliced, meaty portabella mushrooms for a hearty and savory sandwich. Slices of velvety avocado combined with microgreens or sprouts give the sandwich a nutritional boost and add filling fat. Drizzle the vegetables with a light vinaigrette and olive oil for added flavor.

4. Prosciutto and Arugula Pita Pizza

Using pita bread instead of pizza dough is a great way to get your pizza fix and helps you stick with your low-carb diet on pizza night. This delicious pita pizza is topped with peppery arugula, thinly sliced prosciutto, and shredded mozzarella for a treat. Then, add a drizzle of balsamic vinegar and maybe some figs on the side, and your Friday pizza night just got a lot better!

5. Pita and Shakshuka

Pita bread is an ideal bread for dipping. While you may not think of it as a breakfast food, it is delicious alongside a hearty shakshuka. This traditional Middle Eastern dish contains tomatoes, vegetables, and poached eggs. The pita sops up all that yummy tomato and egg goodness!

To make the shakshuka, sauté sliced onions, bell peppers, and minced garlic in a cast iron skillet until softened. Add a can or two of petite diced tomatoes and cook until bubbling. Make two to four indentations or “wells” with the back of a spoon in the tomato and vegetable mixture. Gently break open some eggs and add one to each well. Cover and let the eggs poach until the center is slightly firm. Serve with quartered pita bread or homemade pita chips.

Learn More About Healthy Nutrition with Signos’ Expert Advice

Curious about how eating pita bread or other whole grains may affect your blood sugar? A continuous glucose monitor (CGM) may be able to help you learn the healthiest foods for your body. Learn more about how CGMs work and if Signos may be able to help improve your health on our blog. You can also learn about healthy eating, exercise, and lifestyle tips.  

Take our short quiz to find out if Signos is a good fit for you.

<p class="pro-tip"><strong>Also Read:</strong> <a href="/blog/healthy-work-lunches-weight-loss">How to Plan Healthy Work Lunches for Weight Loss</a>.</p>

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About the author

Laura is an award-winning food and nutrition communications consultant, freelance writer, and recipe developer.

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