If you have diabetes, deciding what you should eat can be complicated. Carbohydrates are present in different foods, including desserts, vegetables, fruits, nuts, grains, and bread. Food with lots of carbohydrates can spike your blood sugar levels and potentially cause some complications that you should avoid.
Maintaining a healthy carbs level is necessary since it's unrealistic to give up carbs entirely. The American Diabetes Association (ADA)¹ recommends that people with type 2 diabetes include some starchy foods in a healthy meal plan, but it's crucial to beware of the portion size. If you have been nervous about your bread consumption, here's what you should know about bread for type 2 diabetes.
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There's no clear answer to this question. Some types of bread often have high carbs, while others are overly processed and have high sugar and empty calories. Some types are healthier options for anyone with type 2 diabetes.
Be aware of the packaging label for the type of bread you're about to buy. You'll have to look at its calories, carb, sugar, sodium, fat, and fiber content. Here are what to look out for:
Look for bread with 90 calories or less per slice. You should note that this doubles up when you eat two slices. Therefore, the best bread to consider should have nuts and seeds. These types of bread have healthy fiber and protein but will still have high calories. It's best to eat one slice.
You need to watch out for how much carbs you're eating if you have diabetes. High carb intake can impact your blood sugar. However, you need to understand that carbohydrates are made of three things: sugar, starch, and fiber.
Fiber is the healthy carb that you want to be consuming as it doesn't spike your blood glucose level, while you want to consume the least amount of starch and sugar as they cause a rapid spike in your blood sugar and increase insulin resistance.
Therefore, you should look for the total carbs, then fiber content, and subtract that amount from the total carbs to get the net carbs.
Another thing to bear in mind is that bread is often considered a simple carb. Simple carbs are those made of highly processed carbs, such as flour. They can cause a rapid and sharp spike in blood glucose levels as the body breaks them down quickly.
If your bread is high in fiber, that would be more beneficial as it will slow down this process and potentially prevent a sharp spike in your blood sugar level.
Fiber is crucial in a type 2 diabetes-friendly diet. It helps slow down blood sugar rise by bulking the food, delaying the breakdown of food into glucose, and slowing down the absorption from the digestive system into the bloodstream. The soluble fiber was also found to lower bad cholesterol (LDL) and total cholesterol levels. Therefore, look for fiber of at least three grams per slice.
Fats come in three forms: trans-fat, saturated, and unsaturated. People with diabetes should maintain low saturated and trans fat. They should also eat enough unsaturated fat as they were found to significantly lower glucose and HbA1c and improve insulin secretion capacity.
Most types of bread have low-fat content unless they have nuts or seeds. Look for bread with 0 grams of trans fat and the least amount of saturated fat. Aim to below 0.4 grams per slice. On the other hand, aim for a higher level of unsaturated fats (mono and polyunsaturated fats).
Some examples of this would be whole wheat and multigrain bread.
High sodium levels cause high blood pressure. With blood pressure and cardiovascular complications being some of the most common conditions that coexist with diabetes, keeping your sodium levels low is important. Aim for less than 120 milligrams per slice.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture, a slice of whole-wheat bread contains the following nutrients:
Fat: 1.1 grams
Fiber: 1.9 grams
Sodium: 144 grams
Please note that the nutritional content of bread differs by type. For instance, a single slice of whole-wheat bread provides 82 calories and 1 gram of fat, although this varies according to the brand. When it comes to commercially prepared white bread, you can get about 75 calories and 1 gram of fat per piece. They have pretty high carbohydrates, which can be 15 grams or more.
Typical rye bread has 83 calories, 1 gram of fat, 1.9 grams of fiber, 2.7 grams of protein, and 16 grams of carbohydrates.
For a person with type 2 diabetes, the healthiest bread should have low carbs and probably have high fiber and proteins. It's essential to look at the nutritional label of the bread before you decide on your bread.
Bread contains carbs needed to provide your body with energy. People with type 2 diabetes should maintain at least 1,500 to 1,800 calories per day. If you choose whole-grain bread, you'll be getting a good amount of fiber and maintaining a reasonable amount of calories.
Fiber is good for keeping your glucose level in check, especially with its ability to make you feel more satisfied, reducing the need to eat more.
Bread also contains essential micronutrients, such as selenium, thiamin, and folate, which are beneficial for your body. These micronutrients are not necessarily crucial in managing type 2 diabetes but can be vital in improving your immune functions and blood clotting.
It is important to be careful not to over-consume bread, as regardless of how healthy the type of bread you are eating, bread should not represent more than 25% of the size of your meal.
Whole-grain types of bread are the most suitable choices for a person with type 2 diabetes. Here are options you can make:
Almond flour bread is made from almond flour. Almond flour is made from finely ground almonds, and it's very low in carbs. One slice has only 2 grams of net carbs. It is high in protein and fiber, giving it a low glycemic index.
It's advised to maintain your consumption to the minimum since they might be high in calories.
These types of bread have high fiber, healthy fats, and protein. All these are suitable for a healthy diabetes diet. However, some can have higher calories, with a slice containing 100 calories. If you find such types of bread, it's best to keep your intake to one slice.
If you prefer eating these bread types, look for 100% whole-wheat and lower-carbs. You can also try a high-fiber, low-carb tortilla. You can fill in your meal with scrambled eggs and vegetables or lean proteins for your lunch.
Again, it's vital to pay attention to the calories available per serving since they can be high in wraps and tortillas.
Many bread-making companies turn to organic whole-grain bread to make diabetes healthy bread. Some of these types of bread have thin slices to lower their carbohydrate level per serving.
Sprouted bread types such as Ezekiel bread are suitable for people with diabetes. These types of bread use whole grain that has begun to sprout rather than flour. A study² examining the impact of different types of bread on the blood glucose and insulin level in overweight men reported that sprouted-grain bread improved the blood glucose level by lowering glycemic response.
This bread also has a low glycemic index. Rye flour is sometimes mixed with wheat flour, pumpernickel, and sourdough starter. However, pay attention to your portion, as it is slightly higher in net carbs and sodium than multigrain and whole wheat bread.
Most commercial gluten-free types of bread are not usually the best option for type 2 diabetes. However, it's suitable for diabetes and celiac disease. Doing away with gluten can be tricky for bread manufacturers since it gives bread texture and elasticity. Therefore, they turn to refined starch, which is high in carbs.
Some exceptions to that would be the use of almond or coconut flour, which are both very low in carbs and are gluten-free. This makes them suitable for people with diabetes. However, they may not be as readily available as other types of bread and are often more costly.
If you're looking for gluten-free bread, take note of its fiber, fat, calorie, and carb levels to ensure safety. You should also look for gluten-free bread made of whole grains such as millet, quinoa, and brown rice.
Multigrain sandwich bread contains the whole, unrefined grains with high fiber levels. This lessens the effect of the high carbs on your glucose level. Look for whole-grain bread with buckwheat, brown rice, barley, bran, oats, and quinoa if you prefer this bread.
The glycemic index (GI) is a rating system for carbohydrates-containing foods. It indicates how quickly certain foods affect your glucose level. Several factors such as the nutritional composition, ripeness, amount of processing used, and cooking method determine food's glycemic index.
However, this index doesn't consider the amount of food or carbs consumed per serving. This is called the glycemic load (GL). So it is important to know the difference between them and take them both into account.
Understanding the glycemic index of particular foods improves your awareness of the food you're putting on your plate and how it would help you manage type 2 diabetes.
The glycemic index classifies foods into low, medium, and high glycemic on a 0–100 scale. Here is a breakdown of these three classifications:
A low glycemic index is at 55 or lower. Low glycemic foods are broken down slowly, meaning that the glucose level rises gradually once they're eaten. Some of the food with low glycemic index include:
Non-starchy vegetables such as carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and spinach
Whole grains like quinoa, buckwheat, and barley
Legumes, such as black beans, oatmeal, and lentils
If you have type 2 diabetes, it's recommended to consume mostly foods with a low glycemic index to manage your blood sugar level.
A medium glycemic index falls between 56–69. It also contains foods that take some time to be broken down to glucose and absorbed into the blood, leading to a slower rise in blood sugar than high glycemic foods but a bit faster than the lower glycemic index ones. These include:
Cooked sweet potato
A high glycemic index falls at 70 and above. The body usually breaks down high glycemic foods quickly, causing a rapid increase in your blood glucose rating. Some high glycemic foods include:
Sugary soft drinks
Sugar and sugary foods
It's crucial to avoid foods with a high glycemic index if you have type 2 diabetes since they would spike your glucose levels.
There's no one-size-fits-all meal plan for a person with type 2 diabetes. Your doctor or dietitian should recommend good meal plans to consider. You need to create a plan to keep your net carbs low while high in fiber and healthy proteins and fats. Here are three ways you can plan your meal:
With this method, you need to establish the maximum number of carbs you will be eating at each meal. You should consider your exercise level, medication, and health before deciding on it. It also requires portion control and learning which carbs you're eating.
In this approach, half of your plate should contain non-starchy vegetables like kale, broccoli, and green pepper. One quarter should have starchy foods and grains, such as bread and beans, and the remaining quarter to be filled with protein-rich foods.
You can also add a fruit serving based on your overall meal plan. You can also complete the meal with low-calorie water or unsweetened tea.
In this approach, you will need to group similar foods and substitute them with others to achieve a particular nutritional value. When it comes to bread, it will be on the starch list. Each item in this list contains 15 grams of carbs, 80 calories, and 3 grams of protein.
Therefore, you can exchange one slice with food on the protein list or a high-fiber diet to maintain a diabetes-friendly meal.
Now that you understand different approaches for your diabetes-friendly meal, here are examples of breakfast meal plans you can choose, which include bread:
A slice of Ezekiel bread, one poached egg, half a small avocado, and one orange. Total carbs = 39
A slice of Dave's Killer Bread Organic, an ounce of almonds, three-quarters of a cup of blueberries, and 100g of cooked oatmeal. Total carbs = 35
Two-egg veggie omelet, half a cup of black beans, a slice of Nature's Own 100% Whole Wheat, and three-quarters cup of blueberries. Total carbs = 34
The worst bread for a person with type 2 diabetes is made with only refined carbs, such as white flour. Grain processing to make flour softens the texture and strips away vitamins, fiber, and minerals, leading to a higher glycemic index.
Manufacturers enrich processed grain with vitamins and minerals, but they don't often increase fiber content. That's why it's crucial to read the labels of your bread to check whether it has a high fiber content.
You should also avoid bread with sweeteners such as molasses, high-fructose corn syrup, and sugar. You should also do away with bread with dried fruits or raisins since they are too high in carbs.
You need to see a dietitian before including any bread into your meal plan. A dietitian will help you determine which type of bread is suitable for your diabetes-friendly meal, depending on its nutritional content, weight, how well-controlled your diabetes is, and other health conditions. They will also recommend stopping eating certain types of bread based on your glucose response. You need to see a dietitian before including any bread into your meal plan.
It's crucial to understand the nutritional facts of the bread you're about to choose. It helps you determine whether it has the lowest net carbs levels and high fiber, making it ideal.
Another crucial factor to consider is checking your blood sugar before eating bread or after eating it several times. This will help you understand how your body responds to it. Finally, work with your dietitian to create a meal plan that works best.
Eat good to feel good. | American Diabetes Association
Effect of high carbohydrate intake on hyperglycemia, islet function, and plasma lipoproteins in NIDDM | American Diabetes Association
Effects of saturated fat, polyunsaturated fat, monounsaturated fat, and carbohydrate on glucose-insulin homeostasis: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled feeding trials (2016)