Chasing the Perfect Bread for a Diabetic Diet

Since the day I learned that carbohydrates were the culprit for raising blood sugar, I have been trying to find a way to keep eating them. The reason? I love carbohydrates.

There are diets that have little or no bread, fruits, or vegetables, and some people with diabetes use them. It would be simple to eliminate most carbs from your life and live on protein and fats. But I will not do it.


Keeping carbohydrates in my eating plan is a challenge, but it is worth it to me. The thought of living without them makes the future seem gray and empty. Carbs add color to my life.

Since I made this decision, I have been looking for the best carbs. There is plenty of advice for people with diabetes, as well as people who just want to lose weight, about which carbohydrates to eat. So why have I found this so difficult?

One problem is that the glycemic index, which ranks foods according to their impact on blood sugar, is not absolute.

What fuels the changes in advice? For one thing, research has uncovered the vital importance of fiber, its impact on carbohydrate digestion, and the amazing way it helps control blood sugar. The big news today is that vegetable fiber encourages the growth of good bacteria.

Where do we find all of this wonderful fiber? It comes from carbohydrates. Hurrah!

Another problem with deciding what to eat is conflicting information. The American Diabetes Association and American Heart Association often agree on what is best, targeting calories as an important area of focus. Needless to say, they both advise that we limit high-calorie carbohydrates like desserts. But they encourage including wheat in your diet.

Whole wheat is best, they say. But trying to find a good whole wheat bread turns out to be tricky, since bread labels can be confusing. A dismaying number of breads that look like whole wheat are actually white bread with some whole grain added, sometimes very little.

There is a growing movement among the diabetes community of people who are cutting out wheat products, including even whole wheat. They report that this works well for them, helping them lose weight and control blood sugar (these reports are what doctors and other experts call anecdotal evidence).

All right, I thought, how could I do this? To eliminate wheat and still continue using whole grains, I need other options. Happily, there are many.

Old-fashioned pumpernickel bread is made from whole rye grain. But you have to read labels and make sure the bread you’re considering purchasing is not simply wheat with some rye added along with molasses to make it dark.

Spelt bread can be found in health-food stores. Spelt is an older grain very similar to modern wheat, but different in some important ways that make it an interesting alternative. Research suggests that this grain is slowly digested, which helps keep its glycemic index low.

Other whole-grain options for home cooking include flaxseed, chia seed, soy flour, and almond flour. I found every one of these flours in the cooking aisle at Walmart, not at a specialty or health-food store. This is tangible proof of just how popular the movement away from wheat flour has become.

A surprising fact I stumbled across when researching the best bread for a diabetic diet was the benefits of sourdough. During the fermentation of this type of bread, acetic acid is produced. Most of us with diabetes know the benefits of acetic acid, the main ingredient in vinegar, for lowering blood sugar.

This is the reason pumpernickel bread is one of the better choices for a diabetes diet. Genuine pumpernickel uses a sourdough starter. Of course, this means you must read labels. The best place to find real sourdough pumpernickel is among the artisan breads at the grocery store, not in the bread aisle.

The bottom line
To my infinite relief, I have found a way to keep carbohydrates in my Type 2 diabetes eating plan. The secret has always been making sure there is plenty of fiber in the carbs I choose to eat.

I look for whole grains instead of refined, raw fruits instead of juices, and highly colored vegetables. These simple rules, if I follow them, make blood sugar control easier for me. And yes, I still eat bread.

How do you feel about carbohydrates? Have you had similar struggles? I would like to know how you handled them.

Should a low-carbohydrate diet be prescribed as the first treatment for Type 2 diabetes? Bookmark and tune in tomorrow to read nurse David Spero’s exploration of recent research.

  • Lynne

    I have found that sprouted grains are helpful. Also, no matter what kind of grain, I can’t eat it with dinner without suffering the consequences of HBS, although the reading is less than it would have been with white bread. I have found that I can tolerate potatoes without a problem and now I’m thinking about making my own potato bread.

  • Glenn

    You say “I look for whole grains instead of refined”. OK but just how do they make the bread without flour which is the definition of refined?