The Best Bread for People With Diabetes

What to Look for and What to Avoid

People with diabetes, whether newly diagnosed or not, may have heard that bread is "off limits." For some people, avoiding bread altogether makes managing their diet easier. Others, though, still want to enjoy breads and wonder what types are among the best options.

If you have diabetes, know that you can eat bread. Whole grain breads, such as whole wheat or rye, give you a healthy option. These breads are rich in vitamins, minerals, fiber, and protein when compared to refined, processed options like white bread.

This article is meant to help you find tasty and nutritious breads when you're grocery shopping. It explains which breads to look for if you have diabetes, and why, as well as which breads to avoid.

Fresh baked bread on table with red and white cloth napkin

Michael Miller / EyeEm / Getty Images

How to Check Food Labels

The bread you choose needs to support your overall health goals, but be aware that some breads contain unhealthy additives. There also may be some tradeoffs.

For example, if you're looking for a bread that's strictly low-calorie and low in carbohydrates (carbs), you can find these options. The problem is that there may be artificial ingredients, flavorings, and other additives in them too.

Whatever type of bread you're looking for, you need to make an informed decision. Reading the package label can help you do that. You'll want to look at the calorie, carb, fiber, fat, and sodium (salt) contents. You'll also want to 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, keeping in mind that it's doubled when you are eating two slices. Breads that contain nuts and seeds can be a good choice. They contain some healthy fats, protein, and fiber, but they will 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 how many carbs you eat is very important. Carbs are the nutrient with the most impact on blood sugar. Depending on your meal plan and how many carbs you aim to eat per meal, most people benefit from choosing a bread with 15 to 20 grams or less of carbs per serving.

Always make sure to read labels and stick to the serving size. If you buy bakery bread that does not have a label, you can weigh your bread to count your carbs.

One ounce of bread usually contains about 15 grams of carbohydrate. So if your bakery bread weighs in at 2 ounces, it has about 30 grams of carbs.

Of all the ingredients in bread, it's the carbohydrates that have the most potential to throw off your blood sugar levels. People with diabetes need to pay close attention to carbs. That means paying close attention to product labels when shopping, or carefully counting the carbs on your own.

Fiber

Fiber is a key nutrient in the diet, especially for people who have diabetes. Fiber helps to slow down how quickly blood sugars rise. It increases feelings of fullness and lowers cholesterol.

Fiber also helps to keep bowels regular. Aim to find a bread that's a good source of fiber and has 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 that is low in saturated and trans fat. They also should make sure they get plenty 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 high blood pressure. That's especially true for 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. Be sure to check the label. In order for a bread to be called whole grain, the first ingredient should say "whole." The bread may also have a whole grain stamp.

Recap

Healthy bread options have a number of ingredients to provide nutrients that you need. They include fiber, which is helpful in slowing down how fast your blood sugar rises, and whole grains. But they also may include unhealthy trans fats or too much sodium.

It's best to read the labels, when possible, so that you know what (and how much) is in the bread. Just as there are elements to seek out, there are ingredients to avoid too.

Ingredients to Avoid

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

There are ingredients you'll want to shy away from. They include:

  • High fructose corn syrup
  • Partially hydrogenated oils (trans fat)
  • Dough conditioners like azodicarbonamide
  • DATEM (a food emulsifier)
  • Artificial colors 

Available Bread Varieties

Here, you'll find some common types of bread you may see. There are also some brand recommendations from people with diabetes, dietitians, and other certified diabetes educators. They are based on nutritional quality, as well as whether or not people say they like them.

Whole Grain Bread

This bread is made with the entire grain intact, which boosts its nutritional value and typically lowers its glycemic index. This index refers to how quickly blood sugar rises after you eat 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.

It's important to read labels carefully. They may say multigrain 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. Instead, they're made from sprouting grains, beans, and seeds in water. These are combined 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 have a tougher texture and should be stored in the freezer for freshness. Ideally, you'll want to toast them and eat them right away. Therefore, sprouted breads 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 try sourdough bread.

A 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 a growing amount of research done on the benefits of fermented foods.

Eating these foods adds good bacteria in the gut. It also may help your immune system while reducing the risk of inflammation and allergies.

Keep in mind, though, that most store-bought sourdough bread is processed. To get the most benefit from sourdough, buy it from a bakery or make your own.

Organic

Organic breads have only organic ingredients. Among other things, they are made without using conventional pesticides or fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients. They also are free of genetically modified ingredients, as well as exposure to sewage sludge or ionizing radiation. These breads may cost a bit more.

Gluten-Free

Just because something is gluten-free doesn't always mean it is healthier. But, some people with diabetes also have celiac disease and need to avoid gluten.

If you avoid gluten, it can be a struggle to find a healthy gluten-free bread. Gluten helps to give bread its elasticity and texture, and companies that make bread often use alternatives, such as refined starches, to replace it.

When looking for a gluten-free bread, stick to the calorie, carb, 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 brand:

Summary

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. Check for nutritional content like calories, carbs, and ingredients. Aim to choose whole grain varieties low in added sugars and rich in fiber.

A Word From Verywell

Whether you're choosing whole wheat, another whole grain variety, organic, or gluten-free, there's something out there for everyone. When in doubt, talk to your dietitian if you're wondering how your blood sugar responds to a certain bread. You also can test your blood sugar two hours after eating and, if you're at goal, it's a good choice.

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5 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  3. U.S. Food & Drug Administration. Azodicarbonamide (ADA) frequently asked questions.

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