About 10,000 B.C., man first started eating a crude form of flat bread - a baked combination of flour and water.

Ancient Egyptians are believed to be the first to have baked leavened (raised) bread. About 3,000 B.C., they started fermenting a flour and water mixture by using wild yeast which was present in the air. Since wheat is the only grain with sufficient gluten content to make a raised or leavened loaf of bread, wheat quickly became favored over other grains grown at the time, such as oats, millet, rice, and barley. The workers who built the pyramids in Egypt were paid in bread.

The Egyptians also developed ovens in which several loaves of bread could be baked at the same time. Bread for the rich was made from wheat flour, bread for those who weren't wealthy was made from barley, and bread for the poor was made from sorghum.

In 150 B.C., the first bakers' guilds were formed in Rome. Wealthy Romans insisted on the more exclusive and expensive white bread. Roman bakeries produced a variety of breads and distributed free bread to the poor in times of need.

In 1202 A.D., England adopted laws to regulate the price of bread and limit bakers' profits. Many bakers were prosecuted for selling loaves that did not conform to the weights required by local laws. As a result of the "bread trials" in England in 1266, bakers were ordered to mark each loaf of bread so if a non-conforming loaf turned up, the baker could be found. The bakers' marks were among the first trademarks.

Even though the Egyptians and Romans and later bakers made leavened bread, it was not until the 1800's that yeast was identified as a plant-like organism. Yeast converts carbohydrates into alcohol, producing carbon dioxide in the process, which is a leavening gas.

By the 1850's, the United States had 2,017 bakeries, employing over 6,700 workers.

The 1928 invention and introduction of the commercial bread slicer was soon followed by the introduction of the automatic toaster. Toast consumption increased as a result of both inventions. However, in 1943, the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture banned the sale of sliced bread in an effort to hold down prices during an era of wartime rationing.

In the late 1930's and early 1940's, bread was chosen as the foundation for a diet enrichment program in the United States. Diseases such as pellagra, beriberi, and anemia had become widespread. These diseases were associated with a lack of B-vitamins and iron. Since bread was a daily food item for most Americans, even those with poor diets, specific amounts of iron, thiamin, niacin, and riboflavin were added to white flour. This enrichment program was a major factor in the elimination of pellagra and beriberi in the United States, as well as in reducing anemia among Americans. In 1998, folic acid, a key nutrient in the prevention of serious birth defects, was added to all enriched grain foods, including bread.

In 1910, Americans were each eating about 210 pounds of wheat flour each year. That dropped to an all-time low of 110 pounds in 1971 but has steadily increased since then. In 1997, American wheat flour consumption per person reached 150 pounds. In contrast, Egyptians each eat about 385 pounds of wheat each year.

Wheat is primarily made up of complex carbohydrates which provide a source of time-released energy. Since 1990, the U.S. Dietary Guidelines have recommended that Americans eat 6 to 11 servings of bread and other grain foods every day.