The Best Bread for People With Diabetes

What to Look for and What to Avoid

Fresh Baked Bread On Table

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Whether you're new to diabetes or have had the conditions for many years, you may have heard that bread is "off limits." For some people, this makes managing diets easier—ditching bread eliminates the need to worry about or decide what kind to eat.

Understandably, though, you don't want to feel restricted and would rather learn what types of breads suit you best and what you should look for when shopping for a store-bought brand. If you have diabetes, you can eat bread—and there are plenty of healthy choices. Whole grain breads such as whole wheat, rye, sprouted breads, and organic whole grain varieties are rich in vitamins, minerals, fiber, and protein compared to refined, processed options, like white bread.

The tricky part is sifting through the grocery store inventory and locating a tasty and nutritious brand. With many options to choose from, you can certainly get lost in the bread aisle. Having an understanding of what you should look for and what to avoid can help you make better choices.

Analyze the Nutrients

It's important to focus on what's most important for you and your health. For example, are you looking for a bread that's strictly low-calorie and low in carbohydrates? You can find these options, but they may contain artificial ingredients, flavorings, and other additives. Or are you looking for a bread that's organic and free of GMOs with substantial fiber and protein? There are varieties that fit the bill, but they may be more costly.

Whatever type of bread you're looking for, sticking to some guidelines can help you make an informed decision. When reading labels, you'll want to look at the calories, carbohydrate, fiber, fat, and sodium, especially if you're coping with diabetes. You'll also want to read the ingredient list and make sure your bread is whole grain.

If you aren't sure which loaf is the best for you, ask your dietitian or certified diabetes educator.

Calories

It's best to keep your bread around 90 calories or less per slice, especially if you plan on eating two slices. Breads that contain nuts and seeds can be a good choice as they contain some healthy fats, protein, and fiber, but they'll be higher in calories. If you'd like to choose a bread like this and the calorie count is high, you'll want to keep your portion to one slice.

Carbohydrates

When you have diabetes, watching your intake of carbohydrates—which most impact blood sugar—is very important. Depending on your meal plan and how many carbs you aim to eat per meal, most people benefit from choosing a bread that contains 15 to 20 grams or less of carbohydrate per serving.

Always make sure to read labels and adhere to the serving size. If you decide to purchase bakery bread that does not contain a label, you can weigh your bread to calculate your carbohydrate intake. For example, 1 ounce of bread contains about 15 grams of carbohydrate. Therefore if your bakery bread weighs in at 2 ounces, it contains about 30 grams of carbohydrate.

Fiber

Fiber is an important nutrient in the diet, especially for people who have diabetes because it helps to slow down how quickly blood sugars rise, increases feelings of fullness, pulls cholesterol away from the heart, and helps to keep bowels regular. Aim to find a bread that's a good source of fiber and contains at least 3 grams in a two-slice serving.

Fat

There are different types of fat: saturated, unsaturated, and trans fat. People with diabetes want to eat a diet low in saturated and trans fat and contains adequate amounts of heart-healthy unsaturated fat.

Most breads aren't very high in fat (unless they have seeds or nuts). However, you'll want to choose a bread that has 0 grams of trans fat and less than about 1.5 grams of saturated fat.

Sodium

Diets rich in sodium can contribute to elevated blood pressure, especially in people who are sensitive to salt. Aim to keep your bread to about 150 milligrams or less per slice.

Whole Grains

Breads that are 100% whole grain—with the grain still intact—have more vitamins, minerals, and fiber compared to refined breads. In order for something to be a whole grain, the first ingredient should say "whole" and it may also have a whole grain stamp.

Ingredients to Avoid

In a perfect world, we would all make our own bread using the highest quality ingredients. But realistically this isn't possible for everyone. Commercial breads use many additives—deemed technically safe by the FDA—to help flavor bread, maintain shelf-life, and shorten dough rising time.

Some ingredients you'll want to shy away from, like high fructose corn syrup (which is associated with obesity and other health issues), partially hydrogenated oils (aka trans fat), and dough conditioners such as azodicarbonamide, DATEM (an emulsifier), and artificial colors. 

Available Bread Varieties

Here, we break down some common types you'll see—wraps and muffins not included—along with some brand recommendations based on likability and nutritional profile from people with diabetes, dietitians, and other certified diabetes educators.

Whole Grain Bread

This bread is made with the entire grain intact, which increases its nutrition profile and typically lowers its glycemic index (how quickly blood sugar rises after consuming it).

Whole grain bread is not limited to whole wheat. Other whole-grain breads may include rye, barley, oat, quinoa, amaranth, and millet. To make sure your bread is whole grain, look at the ingredient list. The first ingredient should read "whole."

It's important to read labels carefully. Labels may say multi-grain or seven-grain, but this doesn't automatically make it a whole grain bread. When in doubt, check the ingredient list or look for the whole grain stamp.

Recommended brands:

Sprouted

Sprouted breads contain no flour—they're made from sprouting grains, beans, and seeds in water and combining them with freshly sprouted live grains. Next, they're mixed into dough and slowly baked into bread.

This process helps to lower the glycemic index of the bread and increases the nutritional profile. Most sprouted grains contain all nine essential amino acids and are rich in protein and fiber. They can provide a tougher texture and should be stored in the freezer for optimal freshness. Ideally, you'll want to toast them and eat them right away. Therefore, they may not make the best sandwich to take on-the-go.

Recommended brand:

Sourdough

Some people can't get used to the texture of whole grain bread or other sprouted grains. If that's the case for you, then perhaps trying sourdough bread is an option.

Traditional sourdough bread is made by slowly fermenting water and flour so that it yields wild yeasts (or good bacteria) used to help the dough rise. There's an increasing amount of research being done on the benefits of fermented foods. Consumption of fermented foods increases good bacteria in the gut and may benefit your immune system while reducing the risk of inflammation and allergies.

Keep in mind though that most commercial sourdough bread is processed. To get the most benefit from sourdough bread, purchase from a bakery or make your own.

Organic

Organic breads are made with organic ingredients and produced without using conventional pesticides, fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients or sewage sludge, bioengineering, or ionizing radiation, which means they don't contain any pesticides, herbicides, or genetically modified ingredients. These may be a bit more expensive and not offer much benefit carbohydrate-wise.

Gluten-Free

Just because something is gluten-free doesn't necessarily make it healthier. But, some people with diabetes also have celiac disease and must avoid gluten. If you have celiac or avoid gluten because you're sensitive to it, finding a healthy gluten-free bread can be a struggle. Gluten helps to give bread its elasticity, therefore manufacturers often use alternative ingredients, such as refined starches, to help replicate the texture.

When looking for a gluten-free bread, stick to the calorie, carbohydrate, fiber, and fat guidelines mentioned above as best as you can. You'll also want to try to choose one that contains whole grains, such as, brown rice, millet, and quinoa.

Recommended brands:

A Word From Verywell

If you have diabetes, bread can still be part of your meal plan if you choose wisely. When searching the grocery aisles, make sure to read the labels and check for nutritional content like calories, carbohydrates, and ingredients. Aim to choose whole grain varieties low in added sugars and rich in fiber. Whether you're choosing whole wheat, another whole grain variety, organic, or gluten-free, there's something out there for everyone.

Remember, when in doubt discuss your bread choice with your dietitian and if you're wondering how your blood sugar responds to a certain bread, you can test your blood sugar two hours after ingesting—if you're at goal, it's a good choice for you.

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Article Sources

Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial policy to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Study of U.S. adults finds strong association between higher sodium excretion and higher blood pressure and association between higher potassium excretion and lower blood pressure. Updated February 28, 2018.

  3. U.S. Food & Drug Administration. Azodicarbonamide (ADA) frequently asked questions. Updated January 4, 2018.

  4. Mofidi A, Ferraro ZM, Stewart KA, et al. The acute impact of ingestion of sourdough and whole-grain breads on blood glucose, insulin, and incretins in overweight and obese men. J Nutr Metab. 2012;2012:184710. doi:10.1155/2012/184710