There are certain key steps and ingredients to consider if you are trying to make bread for someone with a diabetic condition. Here’s what to keep in mind.
Millions of people around the world have either Type 1 diabetes, or Type 2 diabetes. Millions more have a condition known as prediabetes that can eventually lead to Type 2 diabetes.
So What’s the Problem with Bread?
Anyone with a diabetic condition is challenged by their ability to manage their blood sugar levels. When blood glucose spikes too high various impacts occur ranging from high-blood pressure to kidney problems, nerve problems, feet, and eyes, to obesity and other conditions. Type 1 diabetics often use regular injections of insulin to manage their condition.
Excess Carbohydrates Raise Blood Sugar Levels
That’s the challenge when it comes to making, baking and eating bread. Many breads are high in carbohydrates as a result of the type of flour and how it was processed, and added sugar or sugars that some recipes call for. The solution is to understand the flours that have the least impact from a carbohydrate standpoint, the use of natural or artificial sweeteners, and care and attention to other ingredients that could add carbohydrates like canned fruits.
Blood Glucose 101
Blood glucose or blood sugar gives us the energy we need to essentially function. However consistently high levels can cause a spike in glucose affecting everyone, but especially people with diabetic conditions.
Understanding the Glycemic Index
The glycemic index is a 100 point scale used to measure the effect of carbohydrates on blood sugar levels. Foods with a glycemic index in excess of 70 can cause a spike in blood sugar aggravating any conditions related to diabetes. Foods with a glycemic index of 55 or less create a more gradual increase.
But be Careful Out There
If you have a slice of pumpernickel bread with a glycemic index of 50 and top it with a tablespoon of grape jelly with a glycemic index of 85 you’re defeating the purpose.
Gluten Free is not Always the Answer
Some people are tempted to believe that a gluten free loaf will be low in carbohydrates. That’s not necessarily true. White rice flour is gluten free but relatively high in carbohydrates. If you must eat gluten free and are diabetic check the nutrition facts on the flour and assess the carbohydrates. You might also want to consult with your doctor or a dietician.
What is the Answer?
The American Diabetes Association recommends that flours used in breads should be high fiber, whole grains to keep blood glucose from spiking and to maintain optimal digestive health. Many whole grain flours are sold in the baking section, but you may need to peruse the health food aisle to consider your options. Flour examples include oat flour, whole wheat flour, brown rice flour (not white rice flour), bulgur flour, rye flour, and bran flour, among others.
So What Kind of Breads Should I Make?
This traditional German bread is a dark-colored whole grain bread that always tops the lists of diabetic organizations recommending smart food choices for diabetics. It provides 1 gram of fat, has a glycemic index of 50 and 15 grams of carbohydrate per one ounce slice. It has a rye flour base.
Diabetic Pumpernickel Bread Recipe:
(Makes a 1.5 pound loaf)
- 1 1/8 cups warm water (110° F./43° C.)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt
- 1 tablespoon of instant coffee
- 1 3/4 cups of rye flour
- 1 3/4 cups of whole wheat flour
- 2 1/2 teaspoons of bread machine yeast
- 1 tablespoon of caraway seeds (optional)
Put all of the ingredients in the bread pan in the order indicated and select the whole wheat course, 1.5 pound loaf, and medium crust. When done, let rest for 10 minutes and serve. If you like you can seal in a large, one gallon plastic bag and refrigerate for additional servings later.
This traditional white bread has 1 gram of fat, a glycemic index of 53 and 37 grams of carbohydrates per one ounce slice. A benefit of sourdough bread is that it rises well due to the sourdough starter which you can buy or make yourself. We’ve included that recipe.
Many diabetic organizations also tout sourdough bread as good for diabetics but there is some debate. I’ve reduced the standard portion of sugar from 4 teaspoons to 2 teaspoons and had no problem growing the starter. You only use a fraction of the starter so you should be okay unless your glycemic index is very high. For the actual bread recipe I’m recommending the use of a natural or artificial sweetener rather than sugar. This is also a standard recommendation from some diabetic organizations.
Other sourdough recipes call for the use of bread flour but I’ve cut that in half using whole wheat flour in equal proportions.
Sourdough Starter Recipe:
- 1 1/2 teaspoons bread machine or quick active dry yeast
- 4 cups lukewarm water (110° F./43° C.)
- 3 cups all-purpose flour or bread flour
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- You’ll need to make your sourdough starter at least 1 week before making your first loaf of bread. This is why many people prefer to buy their sourdough starter already made.
- To make it yourself dissolve 1 1/2 teaspoons of yeast in warm water in a large, glass bowl. Whisk in the 3 cups flour and 2 teaspoons of sugar and either continue to whisk or beat with electric mixer on medium speed for about 1 minute or until the thin batter is smooth.
- Cover loosely with a damp washcloth and let stand at room temperature for about 1 week or until the mixture is bubbly and has a sour aroma. Don’t worry about re-moistening the washcloth, but keep the bowl covered as much as possible.
- The bubbles that you’ll see in the starter are caused by carbon dioxide gas. This what is released by yeast every time we bake and causes bread to rise. Transfer the starter to a 2-quart or larger nonmetal bowl or large glass jar with a lid. Cover it tightly and refrigerate the starter until you’re ready to use.
- After you’ve used the starter you can replenish it by adding a teaspoon of sugar and about 3/4 cup of flour, 3/4 cup of water and stirring it all together. Cover loosely and store in a warm place for at least a day.
- After a day refrigerate again. Remember as well that you need to let any refrigerated starter come to room temperature before using. It will expand a bit as it warms up and that’s okay.
- Once you have your sourdough starter established you’re ready to bake your first loaf of sourdough bread in your bread machine.
Sourdough Bread Recipe:
(Makes a two pound loaf)
- 1/2 cup water (110° F./43° C.)
- 1 1/2 cups bread flour
- 1 1/2 cups of whole wheat flour
- 2 tablespoons of natural sweetener like Stevia or artificial sweetener like Splenda
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon bread machine or quick active dry yeast
- 1 cup sourdough starter
Add ingredients to the bread pan in the order indicated in the recipe. Select the Basic White cycle for a 2 pound loaf and a medium crust. When the bread is done, cool it on a wire rack for 10 minutes and serve.
Multi Grain Bread Recipe:
(Makes a 1.5 pound loaf)
A variety of multi grains can be used for this bread recipe. The fat grams and carbohydrates vary depending on the diversity of the grains, but typically average 1 gram of fat, a glycemic index of 56 to 69 and 20 grams of carbohydrates per one ounce slice.
This recipe was similar to a recipe from a diabetic organization and suggested 1 tablespoon of honey. I’ve marked that as optional. If there’s a grain you don’t like you can substitute one of the others grains in equal proportion.
- 1 1/4 cup water (110° F./43° C.)
- 3 tbsp canola oil
- 1 tbsp honey (optional)
- 1 1/2 teaspoon of salt
- 1/4 cup bulgur wheat
- 1/2 cup oat bran
- 1/2 cup rye flour
- 1/4 cup oats
- 1 1/2 tablespoon of gluten (optional)
- 1 1/2 cup bread flour
- 1/4 cup dry milk powder
- 1 1/2 teaspoons of bread machine yeast
Add all of the ingredients to the bread pan in the order indicated and select the whole wheat course, 1.5 pound loaf and medium crust. When done let it rest for 10 minutes and serve.
Hopefully you have some success with these recipes. Keep in mind that portion control is important. Just because it’s relatively low in carbohydrates you should adhere to the one slice rule. If you have questions you should consult with your General Practitioner or a dietician to discuss any and all ingredients you might use in a bread machine recipe in the future.