Is bread an option for people with diabetes?
Food may be one of life’s simple pleasures. When you’re living with diabetes, deciding what to eat can get complicated. Foods that contain a lot of carbohydrates can spike your blood sugar levels.
Carbohydrates are found in many different kinds of food, including desserts, grains, fruit, milk, vegetables, and bread. Giving up carbs completely isn’t realistic, healthy, or even necessary. What matters is that you’re aware of your carb intake and making nutritious food choices.
Breads can often be high in carbs. Some are overly processed, high in sugar, and filled with empty calories.
Healthier options can be part of a satisfying meal plan. If you’re trying to figure out which breads work best for diabetes management, this information may help.
When you have diabetes, your body doesn’t make or use enough insulin to process food well. Without enough insulin, your blood sugar levels can spike.
You may also have high cholesterol and triglyceride levels. This means it’s important to keep an eye on fat and sugar intake.
Type 1 diabetes requires insulin injections daily and following a specific type of eating plan. This plan is geared toward keeping your blood sugar levels low.
If you have type 2 diabetes, you often follow an eating and exercise regimen geared toward reducing blood sugar. If diet and exercise aren’t enough to control your blood sugar, insulin injections or oral medication may be a part of a daily regimen.
Creating a food plan, making smart nutritional choices, and watching carbohydrate intake is recommended with both types of diabetes.
How can meal plans help?
Creating a meal plan can help control your blood sugar and provide satisfying nutrition. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all plan. It may help to try different ones to see which works best. Your doctor or dietitian can also help guide your choices and make recommendations.
Here are some meal plans to consider. Each plan emphasizes slow-digesting, high-fiber choices to minimize sudden blood sugar changes.
The carb counting method works by establishing a maximum number of carbs you can eat at each meal. There isn’t one number for everyone. Everyone’s carb intake should vary based on their exercise level, current health, and any medications they’re taking.
This meal plan, like all others, requires portion control. You also need to learn which types of carbs to eat, as well as how much.
There are three kinds of carbohydrates:
- Complex carbohydrates, or starches, can be healthy and filling when eaten in appropriate amounts.
- Sugar isn’t beneficial because it spikes blood sugar and adds empty calories to meals.
- Fiber helps control blood sugar levels. The Joslin Diabetes Center recommends eating between 20 to 35 grams of fiber each day.
The plate method
The plate method doesn’t require carb counting.
Instead, half of your plate should include non-starchy vegetables, such as broccoli, green peppers, or kale. One quarter of your plate should contain grains and starchy foods, such as beans or bread. The remaining quarter should be filled with protein-rich foods.
Depending on your overall meal plan, you can add a serving of fruit daily. A low-calorie drink like unsweet tea or water should complete your meal.
Exchange lists group similar foods together so they can be substituted easily for each other. You can find an example exchange list here. Every food on the list has the same nutritional value.
Breads are on the starch list. Each item on this list has approximately 15 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of protein, a small amount of fat, and 80 calories. One slice of bread represents one exchange.
When deciding which breads to buy and which to avoid, make sure you read the nutritional information thoroughly.
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. You can’t have an authentic Mediterranean-style meal without pita pockets. This low-carb version has 8 grams of carbs and 4 grams of fiber per pita.
- Food for Life’s 7 Sprouted Grains Bread. High in protein and fiber, this flourless bread has 15 grams of carbs and 3 grams of fiber per slice. Flavorful and filling, it’s perfect for breakfast, especially when toasted and served with poached eggs and berries. Other Food for Life breads and products are also good choices.
- Alvarado St. Bakery’s Sprouted Wheat Multi-Grain Bread. This dense, rich bread gets its slight sweetness from molasses and honey. Despite the indulgent taste, it still packs a nutritional punch. Each slice has 15 grams of carbs, 5 grams of protein, and 2 grams of fiber.
Breads that are homemade, available at farmers markets, and made at local bakeries may be higher in fiber and lower in sugar. They will likely be less processed than those on grocery store shelves.
Processed foods are usually digested and absorbed faster. This can raise blood sugar levels.
With options like these, you may find it easier than you think to limit or remove less healthy breads from your meal plan. Consider eliminating high-carb options such as:
- Pillsbury’s Date Quick Bread and Muffin Mix. At 28 grams of carbohydrates and 14 grams of sugar per slice, you may want to reserve these for special occasions or for company only.
- Starbucks’s Butter Croissant. You’re probably better off eating breakfast at home than picking up this breakfast croissant with your morning coffee. Each one has 32 grams of carbs, less than 1 gram of fiber, and 11 grams of saturated fat.
When you have diabetes, healthy eating requires learning about healthy meal choices. This information will help you determine which meal options work best for managing your blood sugar.
When it comes to choosing bread, reading labels and understanding nutrition facts can put you on the right track.
Look for bread that has the lowest amount of sugar, doesn’t have added sugars and is high in fiber, at least 3 grams per serving. A good rule of thumb is to look for a short ingredient list. In addition, remember that different breads affect people differently.
Consider checking your blood sugar before and after eating bread several times to understand how your body responds.
You may find that bread may have to be viewed more as a treat rather than a daily part of your diet based on your glucose response.
Consider creating a meal plan and talk to your doctor about other best practices for you.