Can you Eat Bread and Control Diabetes?

sourdough healthy for diabetics

Diabetes management, whether it’s type 2 diabetes, gestational diabetes, or pre-diabetes, heavily relies on dietary choices. Among these choices, bread is a staple in many diets. However, not all breads are created equal, especially when considering their impact on blood glucose levels. Sourdough bread, in particular, has gained attention for its potential benefits for people with diabetes, making us pose the question, “Is sourdough bread healthy for diabetes?” Let’s delve into the science to answer the question.

Understanding the Basics

Bread is a significant source of carbohydrates in many diets. Carbohydrates break down into sugar and directly impact blood sugar levels. For people with diabetes, managing blood sugar levels is crucial to prevent complications. White bread is made using highly refined wheat flour, which usually causes a rapid spike in blood sugar. In contrast, whole-grain and sourdough bread are often recommended as an alternative due to their potential not to cause the same rise in blood sugar.

The Research

A study titled “The Acute Impact of Ingestion of Sourdough and Whole-Grain Breads on Blood Glucose, Insulin, and Incretins in Overweight and Obese Men” by Anita Mofidi et al., explored the impact of different types of bread on blood glucose, insulin, and incretin hormones (GIP and GLP-1) in subjects at risk for prediabetes. 

The study involved overweight or obese males who ingested 11-grain, sprouted-grain, 12-grain, sourdough, or white bread on different occasions. The findings offer insightful perspectives on how these breads affect blood sugar balance.

Key Findings

  1. Blood Sugar Response:
    • Sprouted-grain bread significantly lowered blood sugar rise in blood compared to 11-grain, sourdough, and white bread.
    • Sourdough bread’s blood sugar response was not significantly better than white bread.
  2. Insulin Response:
    • Insulin levels were higher after consuming sourdough and white bread when compared to 11-grain and sprouted-grain bread. This means the body needed more insulin to compensate for the quick rise in blood sugar from sourdough and white bread.
  3. Incretin Hormones (GIP and GLP-1):
    • Sourdough bread resulted in a lower GLP-1 response compared to other breads. This means the body did not slow down how much sugar it releases in the body.
    • The response of gastric inhibitory polypeptide (GIP) did not significantly differ among the breads. The job of GIP has many actions in the body, including stimulation of glucagon, somatostatin, and insulin release in the pancreas.

Interpretation

These results suggest that while sourdough bread may have some benefits, it might not be the superior choice among sprouted and whole grain options, especially for blood sugar and insulin responses after a meal. Sprouted-grain and 12-grain breads show better blood sugar control in this study. We can speculate that while white sourdough bread may not be a healthier bread for diabetes, sprouted sourdough bread may be a healthier choice than all breads, but further research is needed.

Bottom Line: Is Sourdough Bread Healthy for Diabetes?

The answer is possibly and depends on your grain of choice. Sprouted and whole-grain sourdough may have less of an impact on blood sugars, provide fiber, and facilitate the absorption of nutrients. It’s important to always pair carbohydrates with lean protein or a healthy fat to get optimal blood sugar control. To test this for yourself, enjoy your sprouted sourdough bread and test your blood sugar 1 hour after you start your meal if you are pregnant and 2 hours after a meal if you are not to see your blood sugar response.

Benefits of Sourdough Bread

Despite the findings of the study, sourdough bread does offer several benefits:

  1. Improved Digestibility:
    • The natural fermentation process of sourdough breaks down gluten and other proteins, making it easier to digest. This fermentation process may also be a better choice for those with irritable bowel syndrome and gluten sensitivity.
  2. Nutrient Availability:
    • The fermentation process increases the availability of certain nutrients, such as B vitamins, magnesium, and antioxidants, which are beneficial for overall health and can aid in blood sugar metabolism (3).

Practical Tips for Including Sourdough in a Diabetes Diet

  1. Portion Control:
    • Even though sprouted sourdough bread may have a lower impact on blood sugar, portion control is essential. Pair it with protein or healthy fats to further slow down blood sugar rise absorption.
  2. Choose Whole-Grain or Sprouted Sourdough:
    • Opt for whole-grain and sprouted sourdough varieties to benefit from the fiber content, which can help manage blood glucose levels.
  3. Monitor Blood Glucose Levels:
    • As individual responses to foods can vary, monitor your blood glucose levels to see how sourdough affects you personally.

One-Day Menu: High in Protein and Healthy Fats with Whole-Grain Sourdough Bread

Here’s a sample one-day menu designed to be high in protein and healthy fats, incorporating whole-grain sourdough bread to help manage diabetes effectively:

Breakfast

Avocado and Egg Sourdough Toast

  • Ingredients:
    1. 1 slice of sprouted sourdough bread
    2. 1/2 ripe avocado, mashed
    3. 1 poached or boiled egg
    4. A sprinkle of chia seeds
    5. Salt and pepper to taste
  • Instructions:
    1. Toast the sourdough bread.
    2. Spread the mashed avocado on the toast.
    3. Place the poached egg on top of the avocado.
    4. Sprinkle chia seeds, salt, and pepper to taste.

Nutritional Benefits: This breakfast is rich in healthy fats from the avocado and chia seeds, high-quality protein from the egg, and fiber from the whole-grain sourdough bread, helping to keep blood sugar levels stable.

Mid-Morning Snack

Greek Yogurt with Berries and Nuts

  • Ingredients:
    1. 1 cup of plain Greek yogurt
    2. 1/2 cup of mixed berries (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries)
    3. A handful of mixed nuts (almonds, walnuts, pistachios)
  • Instructions:
    1. Combine the Greek yogurt, berries, and nuts in a bowl.

Nutritional Benefits: Greek yogurt provides a good source of protein and probiotics, while the berries add antioxidants and fiber. Nuts contribute healthy fats and additional protein.

Lunch

Grilled Chicken and Quinoa Salad

  • Ingredients:
    1. 1 grilled chicken breast, sliced
    2. 1 cup of cooked quinoa
    3. 1 cup of mixed greens (spinach, arugula, kale)
    4. 1/2 cup of cherry tomatoes, halved
    5. 1/4 cup of feta cheese, crumbled
    6. 2 tbsp of olive oil
    7. Juice of 1 lemon
    8. Salt and pepper to taste
  • Instructions:
    1. Combine the mixed greens, quinoa, cherry tomatoes, and feta cheese in a large bowl.
    2. Top with sliced grilled chicken.
    3. Drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice.
    4. Season with salt and pepper.

Nutritional Benefits: This salad is high in protein from the chicken and quinoa, healthy fats from the olive oil, and fiber from the mixed greens and quinoa, making it a well-balanced meal for blood sugar control.

Afternoon Snack

Hummus and Vegetable Sticks

  • Ingredients:
    1. 1/2 cup of hummus
    2. An assortment of vegetable sticks (carrots, celery, bell peppers, cucumber)
  • Instructions:
    1. Serve the hummus with the vegetable sticks for dipping.

Nutritional Benefits: Hummus provides plant-based protein and fiber, while vegetables offer a range of vitamins, minerals, and additional fiber.

Dinner

Baked Salmon with Asparagus and Whole-Grain Sourdough

  • Ingredients:
    1. 1 salmon fillet
    2. 1 bunch of asparagus, trimmed
    3. 1 tbsp of olive oil
    4. 1 clove of garlic, minced
    5. 1 slice of whole-grain sourdough bread
    6. Salt and pepper to taste
    7. Lemon wedges for serving
  • Instructions:
    1. Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C).
    2. Place the salmon fillet and asparagus on a baking sheet.
    3. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with minced garlic, salt, and pepper.
    4. Bake for 20 minutes or until the salmon is cooked through.
    5. Toast the sourdough bread.
    6. Serve the baked salmon and asparagus with the toasted sourdough and a lemon wedge.

Nutritional Benefits: This dinner is rich in omega-3 fatty acids from the salmon, healthy fats from the olive oil, and fiber from the asparagus and whole-grain sourdough bread, providing a balanced meal to support blood sugar control.

Conclusion

Sprouted sourdough bread may be a good bread choice for people with diabetes. Thanks to its lower glycemic index and improved nutrient profile. However, it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution. While the study by Mofidi et al. highlighted that sprouted-grain and 12-grain breads might offer better blood sugar control in the short term, the person’s overall meal composition and individual responses are crucial. Incorporating sprouted sourdough into a balanced diet, with attention to portion sizes and [airing with protein and healthy fats, can contribute to better blood glucose management for those with type 2 diabetes, gestational diabetes, and pre-diabetes.

By understanding the science and making informed choices, people with diabetes and gestational diabetes can enjoy a variety of breads, including sourdough, while maintaining good glycemic control. This comprehensive approach, combined with a balanced diet rich in protein and healthy fats, can help manage diabetes effectively.

Here are More Helpful Gestational Diabetes Diet Blogs

Rolim ME, Fortes MI, Von Frankenberg A, Duarte CK. Consumption of sourdough bread and changes in the glycemic control and satiety: A systematic review. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2024;64(3):801-816. doi: 10.1080/10408398.2022.2108756. Epub 2022 Aug 9. PMID: 35943419.

Mofidi A, Ferraro ZM, Stewart KA, et al. The acute impact of ingestion of sourdough and whole-grain breads on blood glucose, insulin, and incretins in overweight and obese men. J Nutr Metab. 2012;2012:184710. doi:10.1155/2012/184710

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Ginger Cochran is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, functional medicine practitioner, Certified Diabetes Educator & Care Specialist, Certified Wellness Coach, Certified Exercise Physiologist, and owner of Nutritious Ginger, an integrative and functional nutrition practice focusing on full body self-care and nourishment. Ginger’s primary specialty is women’s health, with a special emphasis on gestational diabetes, weight management, infertility, digestive wellness, and overall health + happiness.
Ginger serves on the board of director for the Nutrition Care Manual by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

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