Best Bread for People with Diabetes: Options and What to Avoid

Medically Reviewed By Kim Rose-Francis RDN, CDCES, CNSC, LD

Bread that is highly processed and high in carbohydrates can be problematic for people with diabetes. However, some options may be better than others and can be included in a diabetes management meal plan. People with diabetes are often advised to avoid bread altogether because it tends to spike blood sugar. However, there is variation among breads and how they influence physiology.

This guide explores what the best and worst breads are for people with diabetes. It also details tips for balancing your blood sugar and meal planning.

The word “diet” can have many meanings. This article uses the term “diet” to refer to an eating lifestyle rather than a temporary change in how you eat.

What is the best bread for people with diabetes?

Two loaves of bread on a wooden tray with a bread knife
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The American Diabetes Association recommends choosing whole grain bread instead of white bread. Breads with pumpernickel, rye, oat bran, and other whole grains tend to be higher in fiber.

A 2020 study Trusted Source BMJ Peer reviewed journal Go to source found that higher consumption of whole grains as part of a healthy diet was associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes. The whole grains in this study included whole grain bread, oats, bran, and wheat germ.

In general, the best breads for people with diabetes to consider choosing include:

  • fermented sourdough bread
  • sprouted whole grain bread
  • 100% whole grain or whole wheat bread
  • low carbohydrate, high fiber bread

Research suggests Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source that sourdough fermentation can reduce the phytate content of bread by around 62%. Phytates are anti-nutrients that block mineral absorption. Reducing their content helps increase bioavailability of the nutrients.

Also, the low pH of the bread combined with the lactic acid bacteria it contains can further increase Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source the nutrient and phytochemical content and provide probiotics that benefit gut health.

It’s important to note that not all sourdough breads you can buy in stores are made using the traditional fermentation method, and this may lower their health benefits. Reading food labels for nutritional information like carbohydrate levels and fiber content can inform your decisions.

You can also speak with your doctor or a nutritionist about the types of breads to add or limit in your diet.

Learn about diabetes.

Why some bread may be better than others

There are many breads and a lot of variation in how they are made, which impacts how your body responds when you consume it. Your overall gut health can also affect how your body processes foods like bread.

There are microorganisms in your intestines called gut microbiome. Disruptions in the gut microbiome can disturb Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source the typical interactions within your immune system and alter immune responses.

The type of flour used and the amount of sugar in bread can have various impacts on blood sugar.

Learn more about gut health.

What is the worst bread for people with diabetes?

People with diabetes may want to consider limiting white breads. These breads are made from refined white flour that may not have as much fiber and nutrients as whole grain bread.

Manufactures will typically add back vitamins and minerals that were removed during processing.

Other types of breads to limit are those that contain sweeteners in the ingredients list, such as:

  • added sugars
  • high fructose corn syrup
  • molasses
  • dextrose
  • added ingredients like dried fruits
  • low fiber breads
  • dessert style breads

Meal planning

When shopping for bread, it’s important to carefully read the nutrition label and ingredients. You want to opt for breads higher in fiber and lower in sugar. Breads with a higher fiber content may help improve the glycemic response. Here are some tips to help you choose breads that can be part of a diabetes management meal plan:

  • Consider the amount of fiber: The American Diabetes Association recommends 2.5 grams of fiber or more when looking at the information on the nutrition label.
  • Try the plate method: The plate method is a practical and evidence-based approach to meal planning. With this method, you fill half your plate with non-starchy vegetables. You then fill one-quarter of the plate with lean proteins and one-quarter with carbohydrates, such as whole grains, starchy vegetables, or black beans. So, bread will make up about one-quarter of your plate.
  • Use food swaps: Instead of always using bread, consider alternatives such as a lettuce or collard green wrap for wraps and burgers. Cauliflower, eggplant and portobello mushrooms work as a base for sandwiches, burgers, and pizza. You can also try using high fiber crackers that contain little to no net carbohydrates in lieu of bread for some meals.

Read about a low carb diet.

Other diet and safety tips

These are some do’s and don’ts to consider when choosing breads.

Do:

  • If you’re choosing a whole wheat bread, make sure it says 100% whole wheat. Many varieties are mixed with refined white flour.
  • Choose whole grain varieties — the first ingredient on the label should be “whole.” Examples include whole wheat, whole oat, and whole rye.
  • Opt for bread with at least 2.5 grams of fiber per slice, preferably more.
  • Consume fiber-rich non-starchy vegetables or a salad before having foods high in carbohydrates to reduce the blood sugar spike.
  • Pair bread with protein to help mitigate the blood sugar impact and increase satiety.
  • Try open-faced sandwiches to reduce the amount of bread you eat.
  • Consider low-carbohydrate breads that are rich in fiber, such as pumpernickel and rye, which can help reduce glycemic response.

Don’t:

  • Keep in mind that labels that say “multigrain” are not the same as whole grain. Unless the first ingredient listed says whole, it’s not whole grain bread. “Seven grain” is another term to watch out for. It also is not the same as whole grain.
  • Try to limit the amount of white bread or other products made with white flour, such as rolls, Italian bread, bagels, or wraps as much as possible.
  • Don’t eat bread by itself or without protein or other fiber-rich foods because this can cause your blood sugar to spike more.

Summary

People who have diabetes can eat bread. However, the specific type of bread, portion size, and overall context of the meal are key.

In general, high fiber, whole grain, and low carb breads are the best options for people with diabetes. Breads with added sugars, dessert breads, and low fiber breads are the the worst options.

Speak with your doctor or dietitian for more personalized advice and guidance on meal planning for diabetes management. It is also important to talk with your doctor before making any significant dietary changes.

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  1. Bezirtzoglou, E., et al. (2021). Maintaining digestive health in diabetes: The role of the gut microbiome and the challenge of functional foods. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8001283/
  2. Gabriel, M., et al. (2019). The impact of sourdough fermentation on non-nutritive compounds and antioxidant activities of flours from different phaseolus vulgaris l. denotypes. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31218698/
  3. Get smart on carbs. (n.d.). https://diabetes.org/healthy-living/recipes-nutrition/understanding-carbs
  4. Hu, Y. et al. (2020). Intake of whole grain foods and risk of type 2 diabetes: Results from three prospective cohort studies. https://www.bmj.com/content/370/bmj.m2206
  5. Ma, S., et al. (2021). Sourdough improves the quality of whole-wheat flour products: Mechanisms and challenges-A review. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34020364/

Medical Reviewer: Kim Rose-Francis RDN, CDCES, CNSC, LD
Last Review Date: 2023 Mar 10
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