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May 30, 2024

Is Sourdough Bread Good for Diabetes?

Table of Contents

Key Takeaways

  • Sourdough bread made with whole grains and traditional fermentation has a lower glycemic index, helping manage blood sugar levels. Pairing it with protein and non-starchy vegetables, as suggested by the Diabetes Plate Method, can further support blood sugar control.
  • Sourdough bread has a lower glycemic index, reducing blood sugar spikes and improving insulin levels due to its higher resistant starch content. Its longer fermentation process also promotes healthy bacteria that aid digestion. Nutritionally, sourdough provides protein, supporting stable energy levels and blood sugar control.

Here in the United States, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease (NIH), 11.6% of the US adult population had diabetes in 2021. Another 22.8% of the American adult population had diabetes and were undiagnosed.

At first, when they hear of their diagnosis, a follow up statement is, “Does this mean I have to cut out all carbs and my favorite foods?”

In short, as a registered dietitian, I assure you the answer is no! Finding what works for you can feel like a 500-piece puzzle dumped on the table and not knowing where to start.

In this article, I’ve been asked the question if sourdough bread is a good option for those living with type 2 diabetes. I will also provide my favorite breads and what to look for, just in case you need to make a sandwich (yes, you can have that too!).

What is Sourdough Bread?

Sourdough bread is a culinary wonder that embodies the art and science of bread-making. It starts with a simple mixture of flour and water, but its transformation is nothing short of remarkable.

At its core is the sourdough starter, a living culture of wild yeast and lactobacilli bacteria. This starter is a testament to the symbiotic relationship between humans and microorganisms, as it ferments and matures over time. The wild yeast and bacteria present in the starter metabolize the carbohydrates in the flour, producing carbon dioxide gas and organic acids. This slow fermentation process not only leavens the dough but also imparts the distinctive tangy flavor and complex aroma that sourdough is known for.

Is Sourdough Bread a Healthy Option for Diabetes?

By now, most of my patients would say to me, “Christa I have you in my head saying all foods have their place and I just have to find a routine that works for me and my blood sugar! And some carbs are not bad for me.” As a matter of fact, to just highlight that carb sources can be included in a diet for those living with diabetes, I’m going to share some research.

A large review conducted in 2022 by Scientific Reports showed that consuming carbohydrates within the recommended range of 45% to 65% of total calorie intake was not linked to an increased risk of type 2 diabetes (T2D). In fact, it showed a slight reduction in risk at a 50% carbohydrate intake level. However, consuming more than 70% of calories from carbohydrates was not evaluated.

Sourdough bread good for diabetes?

Does Sourdough Bread Manage Blood Sugar?

Sourdough bread, particularly if made with whole grains and fermented using a traditional sourdough process, may have a lower glycemic index compared to bread made with commercial yeast. This means it can cause a slower and more gradual increase in blood sugar levels after consumption. This may be beneficial for managing blood sugar levels, especially for individuals with diabetes or those trying to regulate their blood sugar.

However, I’ve always encouraged my patients to include protein and non-starchy vegetables to support energy levels and blood sugar spikes. The Diabetes Plate Method created by the American Diabetes Association is a great example of what you can aim for at most of your meals.

Blood sugar - sourdough bread-diabetes

How Sourdough Bread is a Low Glycemic Food

Often when we hear the term glycemic index (GI) we turn more to fruits or carbohydrate-rich foods. The Glycemic Index is a measure of how quickly carbohydrates in a particular food raise blood sugar levels compared to pure glucose. Foods with a high GI cause a rapid spike in blood sugar, while those with a low GI result in a more gradual and steady increase.

The key is to slow down the rate of how carbs are absorbed into your bloodstream. Other nutrients can help with this and that’s fiber and protein, too!

To give a visual of what this looks like, see the graph below. What it’s saying is if you eat foods together where it combines protein, healthy fats, protein, and carbs (plus fiber!) your blood sugar will stay in a tighter range. That tighter range is reflected in the light green rectangle on the graph! Voila! You will have sustained, delightful energy levels!

Is sourdough good bread for diabetes?

Health Benefits of Sourdough Bread

According to a 2023 review of other research by Frontiers in Nutrition, they review the potential health benefits of sourdough bread.

  • Reduction in Blood Sugar Spike: If glucose [or sugar] is 100 GI, French baguette is 95 and Sourdough is 53 GI. Since it contains more resistant starch it can improve insulin levels and reduce the rate of digestion. Which all improve overall satiety.
  • Healthy Bacteria Which Aids Digestion: Part of the sourdough creation process relies on wild yeast and lactic acid bacteria naturally present in flour and the environment, resulting in a longer, slower fermentation process. This produces a unique flavor profile, texture, and aroma characteristic of sourdough bread. Regular bread fermentation typically involves commercial yeast strains and a shorter fermentation period, resulting in a milder flavor and less complexity compared to sourdough.

Sourdough Bread Nutrition

Remember earlier on I told you that protein supports energy levels and blood sugars from rising fast? Can you guess why sourdough bread is not too bad of an idea? According to the USDA in just 2 ounces (or 2 slices of bread) you get the following:

  • Calories: 140
  • Carbs: 28 g
  • Fiber: 1 g
  • Sugars: 1 g
  • Protein: 6 g
  • Total Fat: 1 g
  • Saturated Fat: 0 g
  • Sodium: 260 g

Dietitian Top 4 Favorite Breads for Diabetes

You might be wondering, “Christa, I don’t like sourdough bread. Are there other bread types that I can eat instead?” Of course! I want to share with you what I look for, even in my bread searches to support my energy levels.

What you want to look for is fiber and protein. Period. Now, this isn’t to say you must stay away from white bread all the time, but if you can crowd in high fiber foods it’ll support your blood sugar to stay in a tighter ranger. A large review conducted by the Journal of Functional Foods in 2022 suggests that increasing soluble fiber by 30 grams per day can significantly reduce your HBA1C.

Dietitians 4-favorite breads

Dave’s Killer Whole Grains & Seeds

Why Christa Likes It: Okay, I think everyone has heard about this bread! There is a reason I include it as part of my purchase on some weeks. In just 1 slice you’re getting 5 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber. Plus, if you’re looking for some texture in each bite, this one won’t disappoint!

How to Enjoy It: Personally, when I have 2 or 3 slices left, which includes the heals, I make croutons to add on my salads.

Ezekiel 4:9 Cinnamon Raisin

Why Christa Likes It: Sometimes you just need a little pizazz in your bread. Not just from the cinnamon and raisin parts, but there are sprouted grains in it. According to the Whole Grains Council, sprouted grains offer more soluble fiber which is food for your guts healthy bacteria. A diet rich in soluble fiber according to a review by Nutrients in 2019, can help to prevent cardiovascular diseases.

How to Enjoy It: Personally, I make French toast with this bread! Just find your favorite egg mixture and you can whip yourself up a delicious breakfast in just 10 minutes. I also tend to add some maple syrup and sprinkle cinnamon sugar on it. Can’t forget the fresh berries!

Sourdough bread good for diabetes?

Arnold Grains Almighty Gut Balance

Why Christa Likes It: This bread also contains prebiotics in the form of inulin. Which according to a study by Advances in Nutrition, can improve bowel movements, increase insulin sensitivity, and improve lipid profiles. Not to mention it’s a fiber which also helps with satiety!

How to Enjoy It: You know what, I like croutons, and I like them on my salad. When I have the heels of the loaves left, I cut them up into cubes and toss with some garlic powder and olive oil. Then, crisp them up in my toaster oven for about 5-minutes.

Arnold 100% Whole Wheat

Why Christa Likes It: For a bread, I’m quite impressed that 2-slices give me 8 grams of protein. This will keep you satisfied even longer, on top of the 6 grams of fiber it provides.

How to Enjoy It: Sometimes, you just need a good ol’ fashion sandwich! Some of my simple deli-fave combos are grilled chicken, fresh mozzarella, dried basil and fig glaze. If I have garlic hummus lying around I spread that on both slices of bread and perfecto!

Diabetes Dietitian Christa Brown MS RDN

Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis, opinion, treatment or services. This article and the links contained in it provide general information for educational purposes only. The information provided in this article is not a substitute for medical care, and should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or registered dietitian.

We are a health and wellness site, with work written by Registered Dietitians or Medical Professionals, please review our editorial process here.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is sourdough bread better for diabetics versus whole wheat?

It actually may come down to individual taste and preference. Ultimately, both options can be good choices for diabetics. The best option may depend on individual responses and preferences. Monitoring blood sugar levels after consuming each type can help determine which works better for you.

Does sourdough bread help with my blood sugar?

This answer is dependent upon the individual and each response can differ. In general, sourdough bread can help manage blood sugar levels. Its long fermentation process lowers its glycemic index, meaning it causes slower, more gradual increases in blood sugar compared to regular bread. Additionally, sourdough’s natural acids and the presence of beneficial bacteria can enhance the body’s ability to manage glucose.

How can I make sourdough bread healthy for my diabetes?

To make sourdough bread more diabetes-friendly, use whole grain flour for added fiber and nutrients. Extend the fermentation time to lower the bread’s glycemic index. Add seeds or nuts for extra fiber and protein, which help stabilize blood sugar. Avoid recipes with added sugars and monitor your portion sizes. Lastly, check your blood sugar levels after eating to understand your body’s response.

Christa is a media dietitian and nutrition consultant in the New York City area. She works with various brands and has been featured in dozens of outlets such as Women’s Health, EatingWell, and Peoples Magazine as a nutrition expert. Being a fact checker for EatingWell Magazine and a Medical Reviewer for Nourish, she brings her extensive experience within the field to provide compassionate, inclusive care using science for intimate and personalized messaging.

Christa brings warm laughter, joy, and medical expertise to any conversation allowing for honest science-based discussions with authenticity at their core.

In her private practice, she works with men and women suffering from emotional traumas that cause binge eating disorders exacerbating their type 2 diabetes, PCOS and insulin resistance.

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