Bread and diabetes: Nutrition and options (2023)

Bread is a popular food and a key element of the diet in many countries around the world. Bread is often high in carbohydrate, so people with diabetes may wonder if they can still eat it.

The good news is that most people can eat bread unless a doctor advises otherwise. However, it should be the right kind of bread.

Whole-grain breads with high-fiber ingredients, such as oats and bran, are usually the best option for people with diabetes.

Making bread at home with specific, diabetes-friendly ingredients may also help reduce the impact that bread can have on blood sugar levels.

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There are two main types of diabetes, type 1 and type 2.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 30 million people have diabetes in the United States, and 90 to 95 percent of them have type 2.

Type 1 diabetes happens when the body cannot produce insulin, a hormone that “captures” blood sugar (or glucose) and transfers it into cells. Glucose is the preferred energy source for cells.

Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes. This is also the easier form to prevent and manage with lifestyle changes and medication. Taking measures to control blood glucose levels in the early stages can help prevent this condition from progressing to diabetes.

Poor diet, genetic factors, and lifestyle habits contribute to the development of type 2 diabetes.

Nutrition plays a crucial role in diabetes control. Proper dietary planning, lifestyle choices, and medication can help a person manage their blood sugar levels.

Carbohydrate is one of the three major nutrients essential to human health.

However, carbohydrates also raise blood sugar and can reduce effective diabetes control. This is mainly because carbohydrates break down into blood sugar.

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The key to keeping blood sugar in check after a meal is to choose food items that contain quality carbohydrates. Quality carbohydrates are those that rate low or medium on the glycemic index.

The glycemic index is a measurement of individual foods and their effects on blood sugar. The three basic categories of the glycemic index (GI) are low, medium, and high.

What is the glycemic index?

The American Diabetes Association (ADA) explain that the GI compares the way foods raise blood sugar levels compared with a reference food, usually glucose.

Glucose is a reference point for the GI with a score of 100. White bread would score around 71.

Foods that do not contain carbohydrates, such as meats and fats, do not have a GI score.

Low-glycemic foods score 55 or less and include:

  • 100-percent stone-ground whole-wheat or pumpernickel bread
  • oatmeal (rolled or steel-cut)
  • pasta
  • sweet potato, corn, yam, lima beans, butter beans, peas, lentils, and legumes
  • non-starchy vegetables and carrots
  • most fruits

Medium-glycemic foods score 56 to 69 and include:

  • whole wheat, rye, and pita bread
  • quick oats
  • brown, wild, or basmati rice
  • couscous

High-glycemic foods score 70 or more and include:

  • foods made with refined grains, such as white bread, bagels, pretzels, saltine crackers, and many breakfast cereals
  • white rice and rice pasta
  • popcorn
  • russet potatoes
  • pumpkin
  • melon and pineapple

The more processed or cooked a food is, the more likely it is to have a high GI.

Low-GI bread

Commercially-produced white bread is high on the GI index, but wholemeal bread can be lower on the GI scale.

Choose wholemeal

The first step in choosing a suitable bread is to opt for bread made with wholemeal or stone-ground flour. The less processed the flour, the lower the GI score will be.

Reduce the sugar content

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When bread uses yeast to rise, it usually needs some sugar to “feed” the yeast.

Some commercial breads contain more sugar than is necessary to make the bread rise.

If you make bread at home, whether by hand or in a bread-making machine, you can experiment with smaller amounts of sugar.

Ingredients to add

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If you are making bread at home, you can add ingredients that lower the GI score.

High-fiber, high-protein, and high-fat ingredients may be important additions to reduce the impact the bread has on blood sugar.

These ingredients include things like:

  • flaxseed meal
  • chia seeds
  • wheat bran
  • oats

One idea is to replace one-fourth of regular flour with an equal proportion of the other, more healthful ingredients.

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For example, if a favorite bread recipe calls for 2 cups of flour, you can replace half a cup of flour with half a cup of flaxseed meal.

Swapping out all-white flour for whole-wheat bread or pastry flour is also a good idea.

Serving the bread

You can reduce the GI score further by choosing spreads carefully, for example, using unsweetened peanut butter or avocado instead of jellies and chocolate spread.

Diabetes-friendly breads

(Video) 8 Best Bread Alternatives For Diabetics

Most commercially-available breads contain refined, white flour. This contains no fiber, and it can cause blood sugar to rise.

Even “wheat bread” may be made with refined wheat and not whole grain.

Some brands that identify their bread as “seven grain” or “nine grain” only use those grains on the crust, while most of the bread still consists of refined white flour.

Being aware of the packaging and labeling of breads can help people with diabetes choose a suitable product.

Here are four types of breads that may be healthier options for diabetes control:

Fiber-enriched whole-grain bread

Fiber is a type of carbohydrate that the body cannot digest. It keeps bowels regular and helps to promote a feeling of fullness. Fiber can also help control blood sugar.

Studies have shown that soluble fiber can slow the rate of digestion and reduce the rise in blood sugar after eating.

This is why fiber is said to lower the GI score of a food.

Adding soluble fiber to breads may help a person manage blood sugar.

However, fiber-enriched whole-grain breads are still relatively high in carbohydrates, so it is important to eat them in moderation.

A person should also consume breads alongside a regime of exercise and other healthful life choices.

Multi-grain sandwich bread

A multi-grain bread is high in carbohydrates but it tends to contain whole, unrefined grains that are high in naturally occurring fiber. This can help lessen the impact of carbohydrates on blood sugar.

When choosing whole-grain bread, people should find one that includes ingredients such as oats, quinoa, buckwheat, whole-grain wheat, brown rice, bran, and barley.

Whole grains have a lower GI score than wheat flour, and many grains contain other nutrients, such as zinc, vitamin E, and protein.

Low-carbohydrate tortillas

Tortillas can provide a tasty, versatile, and sometimes healthier choice for sandwiches.

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Manufacturers are increasingly providing a wider range of low-carbohydrate tortillas to appeal to health-conscious consumers.

Many of these low-carbohydrate tortillas have added fiber to reduce the carbohydrate count. Some tortillas contain low-carbohydrate ingredients, such as whey and soy protein powders.

People can use low-carbohydrate tortillas as they would use bread, wrapping their favorite sandwich ingredients in the tortilla. You can also use tortillas for mini pizzas, homemade burritos, and tacos.

Grain-free bread

Perhaps the best choice for diabetes-friendly bread is one that contains no flour or grains.

Flourless sprouted-grain breads are available, and they are a good source of fiber. However, they are still rich in carbohydrates.

Specialty health food stores may sell grain-free breads made with ingredients like almond flour, coconut flour, and flaxseed meal. Check the nutrition facts however, since they may also be higher in calories.

Bread recipes

Many recipes for making grain-free bread are available on the Internet.

A search term like “grain-free bread recipe” will bring up some low-carbohydrate bread recipes.

These breads tend to be more expensive to make and often yield a smaller amount compared with traditional bread recipes.

Unless a doctor or dietitian specifies, people with diabetes may not need to eliminate bread or bread products from their diet.

Low-carbohydrate, multi-grain, or whole-grain bread may be the best options.

Continuing an exercise program, using doctor-prescribed medications, and consuming mostly low-glycemic foods are the most effective ways for people with diabetes to control their blood sugar while continuing to eat the foods they enjoy.


What bread can you eat if you have diabetes? ›

The American Diabetes Association recommends choosing whole grain bread or 100 percent whole wheat bread instead of white bread. White bread is made from highly processed white flour and added sugar. Here are some delicious and healthy breads to try: Joseph's Flax, Oat Bran and Wheat Pita Bread.

How does bread affect diabetes? ›

Refined starches — white bread, white rice, white pasta, and anything made with white flour — act a lot like sugar once the body starts to digest them. Therefore, just like sugar, refined starches interfere with glucose control and should be avoided by those with diabetes.

What bread does not turn into sugar? ›

Sprouted grain bread wins the contest because it's high in fiber and protein, which means it won't have as much of an impact on your blood sugar levels. The key indicator is your glycemic response.

Does bread turn to sugar in your blood? ›

Foods with a high glycemic index, like white bread, are rapidly digested and cause substantial fluctuations in blood sugar. Foods with a low glycemic index, like whole oats, are digested more slowly, prompting a more gradual rise in blood sugar.

Should diabetics stop eating bread? ›

Contrary to popular belief, people with type 2 diabetes can, in fact, eat bread — the right kinds, in moderation. The American Diabetes Association (ADA) puts it this way: “Starchy foods can be part of a healthy meal plan, but portion size is key.

How often can a diabetic eat bread? ›

How Much Bread Can You Eat with Diabetes? "People with diabetes can eat bread as long as it fits either their meal plan or within their carbohydrate counting allowance," says Kitty Broihier, M.S., RD, LD. "In general, that means choosing a slice that has 15 grams of carbohydrates for sandwiches."

What can I eat instead of bread? ›

Here are some bread substitutes to try
  • Corn, reduced-carb or whole-grain tortillas.
  • Cheese wraps or cheese slices.
  • Coconut wraps.
  • Cauliflower bread.
  • Cucumber slices.
  • Sweet potato slices.
  • Bell pepper slices.
  • Portobello mushrooms.
Jun 29, 2022

Is sweet Potato good for diabetics? ›

Sweet potatoes have a sterling nutritional profile, making them a great food for people with diabetes. Here's how to start incorporating them into your diet. Sweet potatoes are one of the most popular foods for diabetes at Everyday Health, and with good reason.

What is the healthiest bread to eat? ›

The 7 Healthiest Types of Bread
  1. Sprouted whole grain. Sprouted bread is made from whole grains that have started to sprout from exposure to heat and moisture. ...
  2. Sourdough. ...
  3. 100% whole wheat. ...
  4. Oat bread. ...
  5. Flax bread. ...
  6. 100% sprouted rye bread. ...
  7. Healthy gluten-free bread.
May 9, 2019

Does toasting bread remove sugar? ›

While toasting bread is proven to lower its glycaemic index, giving it a less dramatic effect on blood sugar and insulin levels, there are a few disadvantages of toasting your bread.

What is the best bread to lower blood sugar? ›

Best bread for diabetes
  • Dave's Killer Bread Organic Thin-sliced 21 Whole Grains And Seeds Bread.
  • Ezekiel 4:9 Original Bread.
  • Silver Hills Sprouted Power The Big 16.
  • Rudi's 100% Whole Wheat Bread.
  • Nature's Own 100% Whole Wheat.
  • Oroweat 100% Whole Wheat.
  • Pepperidge Farm Whole Grain Oatmeal Bread.

How many slices of whole-wheat bread can a diabetic eat? ›

Most people with diabetes should aim for 45 to 60 milligrams of carbs per meal, according to the American Diabetes Association. One slice of whole-wheat bread contains 12 grams of carbohydrate. This fits well within your total per-meal carbohydrate intake.

How can I lower my blood sugar after eating bread? ›

Studies have shown that soluble fiber can slow the rate of digestion and reduce the rise in blood sugar after eating. This is why fiber is said to lower the GI score of a food. Adding soluble fiber to breads may help a person manage blood sugar.

Is Dave's Killer bread healthy for diabetics? ›

Dave's Killer Bread is a healthy choice for diabetics. All flavors in the "thin sliced" are good choices, and Powerseed in the large size is great as well. In addition to Dave's, the best breads are Ezekiel, 100% whole wheat or whole grain, spouted, and sourdough.

How many slices of white bread can a diabetic eat per day? ›

It is preferable not to eat white flour bread, but if you must, limit yourself to two medium slices. A slice of bread has about 32 calories in it. The total calories consumed from bread should not be more than 90 for a diabetic patient.

Is peanut butter good for diabetics? ›

Natural peanut butter is considered safe for people with diabetes. It's best to avoid the “low-fat” varieties of peanut butter. They sound healthy—but most brands simply add more sugar to make up for less fat. This can spike blood sugar levels and leads to more daily carbohydrates.

Is toast better than bread for diabetics? ›

GOOD FOR DIABETICS: People who have diabetes should eat toasted bread rather than plain bread. A study published in European Journal of Clinical Nutrition in May 2018, found that toasted bread has a lower glycemic index. The glycemic index estimates the effect of a food on your blood sugar level.

Are grapes good for diabetics? ›

Grapes are a beloved fruit that is healthy and safe for people with diabetes. They are safe to eat, and you can include them in a diabetic diet because they don't cause a rise in blood sugar. Consuming grapes can lower the risk of getting type 2 diabetes. Due to their fibre content, grapes keep one feeling full.

Is Oatmeal good for a diabetic? ›

Not only are oats nutritious and satiating, they can also offer specific benefits for people with type 2 diabetes. According to MedlinePlus, adults with type 2 diabetes may benefit from eating whole grains like oats, due to their potential glucose and cholesterol-lowering effects.

Can diabetics eat peanut butter? ›

Peanut butter contains essential nutrients, and it can be part of a healthful diet when a person has diabetes. However, it is important to eat it in moderation, as it contains a lot of calories. People should also make sure their brand of peanut butter is not high in added sugar, salt, or fat.

Are bagels OK for diabetics? ›

Bagels are naturally higher in carbohydrate than a slice of bread, but if you want to enjoy a bagel while living with diabetes, you absolutely can! Look for varieties (like the ones below) that are higher in protein and fiber, and pair it with an additional protein source.

Can diabetics eat pizza? ›

The short answer to this question is yes, people with diabetes can enjoy all types of pizza. However, it's a good idea for all people, not just those with diabetes, to limit their intake of pizza.

What can I use instead of bread for sandwiches? ›

Here are some options to try:
  • Corn, reduced-carb or whole-grain tortillas.
  • Cheese wraps or cheese slices.
  • Coconut wraps.
  • Cauliflower bread.
  • Cucumber slices.
  • Sweet potato slices.
  • Bell pepper slices.
  • Portobello mushrooms.
Jun 29, 2022

What bread should I eat everyday? ›

Whole-grain bread, Ezekiel bread, and rye bread are among the most healthful options. Bread made from whole or sprouted grains contains essential nutrients, including protein, vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Others, such as processed white bread, contain very few nutrients.

What can I eat instead of bread and pasta? ›

Eating plant-based proteins such as nuts, beans and lentils can help. Lean meat and fish also can be good sources of healthy protein to include in your diet instead of rice, pasta, bread and potatoes.

Which nuts should diabetics avoid? ›

Avoid nuts that are coated in salt — Dobbins notes that sodium is bad for your blood pressure — and sugar. More bad news if you love the sweet-and-savory combo: Chocolate-covered peanuts and honey-roasted cashews are high in carbs and not the best choice when you have diabetes, Dobbins says.


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