Bread challenge with type-1 diabetes

Bread is like the eggs of the ’80s – it’s got such a bad rap, especially in the type-1 diabetes community.

But the thing is, I love bread and I have type-1 diabetes!

I love sandwiches, toast, roti, naan, crepes, and baguettes. There is not a lot of bread that this type-1 diabetes dietitian doesn’t enjoy.

Yes, bread can be challenging for managing blood sugars. It’s carb heavy; it’s going to raise blood sugars no matter what. But, it’s not impossible for diabetes management.

Katie Bartel, RD, diabetes dietitian, eats a baguette in Paris

The General Recommendation

Hi friends!

I’ve got bread on the brain and in the heart.

As a BC-based diabetes dietitian, I often recommend choosing high fibre bread, with at least 4 grams or more of fibre per serving. This is because our bodies can’t digest fibre, which means fibre will help slow down the release of sugars from carbohydrates and – in theory – keep blood sugars more stable.

But, even high fibre bread is a challenge.

And, it’s also not just the bread that we need to consider when analyzing our post-bread blood sugars.

Comparing breads

This diabetes dietitian says eating bread is A-OK when you have type-1 diabetes

Today, I want to discuss my T1D experiences with three different breads that I have eaten regularly at one point or other in my life:

Dempsters has the least amount of fibre at just 2 grams per slice, despite all those grains. Silver Hills has 4 grams per slice and is a very heavy, dense bread, even just to hold in your hands. Island City also has 4 grams fibre per slice, and is actually quite airy and not very dense at all.

Which one do you think my blood sugars handle best?

That was a bit of a trick question.

My blood sugars shouldn’t matter to you.

As I’ve said many times before, diabetes differs across the board from person to person. There are a lot of similarities, but no body is the same, therefore the way diabetes is for one person may be very different for another. And the same is true for how foods interact with our body and our diabetes.

However, comparisons in diabetes management are good to help give our friends in the community a starting point to experiment and see if their diabetes reacts the same as yours or mine.

So, back to that question that shouldn’t matter to you but does to me: which of these breads do you think my blood sugars handle best?

The big bread winner

If you picked The Big 16, you picked right.

I have not had a BG challenge with this bread once.

Seriously, not once.

Mind you, I must preface that statement by adding that I’ve only ever eaten this bread in single slices. Usually, when I’m eating The Big 16 it’s toasted with a large dollop of peanut butter smeared all over. Whereas, the other 2 breads are usually eaten as sandwiches with 2 slices per serving.

That could very well be the difference.

The bread that got away

The Dempsters bread is great for sandwiches, but it notoriously increases my blood sugars at least 4 or more mmol/L 2 hours after eating.

This wasn’t always the case. This bread used to work well for me, even when I paired it with a handful of plain tortilla chips. But, bodies change. They change with changes to activity levels, or changes to environments, work or leisure schedules, or changes with stress, hormonal differences, and aging.

And all of this can impact how our diabetes reacts to various foods.

My body clearly determined that Dempsters was no longer the bread for me.

This and that indeed

Island City Bakery’s This and That bread has been hit and miss with me. Some days it works really well, and other days it’s a pure mystery.

I like this bread because it is a lighter option compared to The Big 16. It’s a sourdough bread that, if it’s undergone a long fermentation, should also help with BG management. But the inconsistency with optimal blood sugars is too much this and that for me.

Tips for managing BG with bread

Over the years of loving my breads I’ve developed a tip or two for blood sugar management.

  • Don’t pair carb on carb. If you’re having bread make that your sole source of carbohydrates
  • Pair a sandwich with a fibre-rich salad, not chips – not even veggie straws
  • Some bread might do better as one slice than two. In this case, make an open face sandwich or half sandwich and pair with a large salad to help fill you up
  • If you notice your blood sugars increasing, go for a quick 15-20 minute walk to stabilize them
  • If you’re craving the deliciousness of a baguette, have that baguette, dose your insulin as best you can, knowing that it may not work, and being okay with the results. As long as you’re choosing the high-fibre options more often, once in a while refined white flour is totally okay.

It’s important to remember that your strategies might not always work. There are environmental factors that we can’t always counter. If your strategy doesn’t work and your blood sugars go up, don’t beat yourself up over it, but do try and figure out if there’s anything you could change that would help the outcome next time.

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