The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Husband is now diabetic. Need help with best GI breads for him.

Patti Y's picture
Patti Y

Husband is now diabetic. Need help with best GI breads for him.

This week my husband was diagnosed as diabetic.  He also has high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and high sodium. He loves white bread, French bread, and Italian bread, but I only buy whole grain bread. He hates it. 

I bought an Ankarsrum mixer so I could start making whole grain bread instead of buying it. Grinding my own grain will have to wait, but eventually I will buy a mill.

Now I need to rethink making just whole grain bread. Maybe I need to make sour dough or rye or pumpernickel.  Since he is a diabetic, we are now watching to see which foods affect his blood sugar the most. I have spent all day reading posts. Here is what I know, so far about lower glycemic index. 

1. Barley flour = lowest GI, then pumpernickel, and rye. I assume whole wheat sour dough has lower GI than white sour dough.???

2. Confused about barley, pumpernickel, and rye breads. Do they use yeast, or do they us a starter? 

3. If using a starter with pumpernickel or rye breads, do they have an even lower GI than pumpernickel or rye made with yeast? I know nothing about rye or pumpernickel bread.

4. Then throw in whole grain wheat breads. Where do they fit in on the GI scale compared to the others? 

5. I always weigh everything we eat. I just bought a new scale that measures hydration percentages. I may not be understanding what the scale does. My Weigh KD  8000. Am I right or wrong?

6. I need some suggestions about what kinds of flour to buy if I am making low GI bread, and I will probably buy a starter instead of making one. I would have to drive 2 hours to get anything other than all purpose and bread flour. Rye and other flours are not in my local stores. I will need to order flour online if you have any suggestions on websites. 

I was thinking only about making wheat I have to make bread that is way over my expertise....which is white bread made with yeast. I also need to lower the sodium any recipe I try. I read posts about Tuscan bread, but the recipe I saw was white bread. 

I would greatly appreciate any advice or knowledge, so I can get started baking bread for him. Thanks for taking the time to read all of this long post.


clazar123's picture

Make what he likes-for now. There are big learning curves ahead for both of  you so try not to add to the load at first. Sourdough can wait. It will be complicated enough just learning how to count carbs, at first.

As for what bread to make, work with what you know for now. If you want to start shifting to whole grain you can start now and do it in stages. Buy some white whole wheat flour and sub out only about 30% of the AP using a recipe you are familiar with. Add a little extra water and after mixing the ingredients, let it sit and soak for about 30 minutes before mixing the dough to windowpane. White whole wheat flour does not taste as bitter as red whole wheat but it still has the health benefits of whole grain. Over time you can experiment with increasing the ratio.

Reduce your stress and his stress as much as possible. Changing eating habits and patterns takes a long time. The most important thing is to start,persist and don't beat yourself (or himself) up because of 1 meal or 1slipup. Just start over and keep going.

Get good help such as a weightloss program or coach. Work with a registered dietician and make use of free programs such as MyFitnessPal or even the USDA free information.

Good Luck!

Patti Y's picture
Patti Y

Thank you for the advice, but we both use Lose It to keep up with carbs, calories, blood sugar, etc. So the diabetic part is taken care of.

But, I need to enter any new bread recipes on Lose It, so I can get a total count of carbs and calories of each new bread recipe. I didn't plan on baking with sour dough at first, even though my husband loves it. I thought whole wheat or whole grain bread or even rye bread would be better for now. (Like you suggested.)


However, I still need to find 1 recipe for now that will have the lowest GI.

I currently have soy flour, rice flour, 100% whole wheat flour, 50/50 whole wheat flour, bread flour, and AP flour in my freezer so I thought I would use the wheat flour up before baking with rye flour. 

I ordered new bread baking books, and it will be next week before they get delivered so I don't have any recipes.

The Bread Bible by  Beranbaum, Rose Levy

The Handmade Loaf: The book that started a baking revolution by Lepard, Dan,   The Fundamental Techniques of Classic Bread Baking by The French Culibary Institute,The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Discovery That Revolutionizes Home Baking by Hertzberg, M.D,, Jeff 

I DO need to plan ahead for whole grain bread or rye bread because I need to order the flour online.

1.  So I need to know.....out of 100% whole wheat bread vs whole grain bread which has the lowest GI? 

2. Does whole grain bread ONLY have wheat flour or white wheat flour in it usually?   Does it have some AP or bread flour in it?  I know nothing about whole grain bread. (More white flour makes bread with higher GI????)

3. So when ordering white wheat flour, rye flour, etc. online, where is the best place to order based on freshness of flour, price, etc? No point in getting old wheat flour since it goes rancid so quickly.

4. With sour dough bread, does whole wheat sour dough have lower GI than white sour dough bread??? Is there such a thing as whole wheat sour dough bread?

Thanks for any answers to my questions or any recipes.

gregWFO's picture

No wonder he hates store-purchased whole grain bread. I find the whole wheat bread from supermarkets in the USA inedible. 

You can make outstanding rye bread with 50% high gluten bread flour, only a teaspoon of salt and sourdough rye flour starter.

dabrownman's picture

against my meter, the most important thing is serving size, 1 slice of 1/4 thick bread for breakfast and 1 for lunch.  That's it, open faced sandwiched for lunch are a must or half  sandwiches,  No jam on the toast for breakfast and no bread at dinner for me either since it tends to be a larger meal in my case and the meter goes nit as it is with no bread.   No side carbs larger than 1/2 cup cooked for dinner.  You will learn to love steamed veggies and salad like it;s the best hing in the world and they are:-)  Any meat is A- OK so load up 

The best breads from best first are - All are sourdough not one uses any yeast

1.  100% whole grain sprouted rye bread.  if you want to make 40% of the mix Whole Grain sprouted rye no worries

2.  Same bread as #1 but less than 100% sprouted say 50% of the grains are sprouted.

3.  Whole Grain Rye bread with up to 40% whole grain wheat

4.  50% whole sprouted grain bread,

That's it.  It is easy to sprout, dry and mill your own grains.  It is much more expensive to buy them and they likely won't be whole grains anyway

Sprouted whole grains breads are the best tasting and best nutritionally or anyone anyway. so no worries about giving anything up

I make them in loaves so that they are very easy to slice in 1/4" slices - yep 4 slices to an inch.  You like likely find at least 100 of these kind of breads on my blog over the last many years.

Happy Bread baking for diabetics and anyone else too!



Patti Y's picture
Patti Y

Dabrownman, thanks for the info. 

Once I get my starter straightened out and get it strong enough to go into the refrigerator,  I will start baking sourdough whole wheat and rye breads. Once I figure out how to bake sourdough with my crazy oven, and increase my success, I will probably buy the equipment to grind  grains. I keep reminding steps....

louiscohen's picture

In general, refined white flours have a high glycemic index; whole grains are much lower.  Within whole grains, I don't know if the GI varies that much.  A nutritionist once told me that the combination of what you eat together has a bigger effect on the overall GI of the meal than individual foods.  But you can't go wrong with more fiber.

I have many of the same issues as your hubby, and I love those white breads as well.  So I have been trying to make whole grain artisan breads - flour, yeast, salt, water.  I prefer freeform loaves (boules, batards, baguettes) to sandwich loaves.  But I've found that the high hydration needed for whole wheat artisan bread requires more skill than I have.  I have a formula for 75% whole wheat (ie 25% bread flour) at 85% hydration.  No matter what shape of bread I try to make, it always comes out ciabatta.  Which is OK, but I just don't get the oven spring that you see in the videos.

I compiled some tips and formulas from some books and websites and put them here: Bread Formulas.

The 66% whole wheat at 75% hydration with a poolish works pretty well.  If your were using a loaf pan, even the 75% or higher might work.  The whole wheat multigrain formula is nice too, but it's only 60% whole grains, IIRC.

I have used garnishes (eg, olives, onions, chiles, mushrooms) up to 20% of the weight of the flour, which is nice if you like that kind of thing.  

The high ww/high hydration breads work fine for low-rise breads like ciabatta, focaccia, and pizza dough.  WW pizza with no cheese, olive oil or pesto, and veg toppings is good for you and very tasty.  


SeasideJess's picture

Hi Patti,

In addition to DaBrownMan's many wonderful recipes, a good starting place to learn to bake whole grain bread, both yeasted and sourdough, is the Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book. It has recipes for breads with other grains added as well, such as rye, barley, and oat.

The important thing is it is a book that has two very important characteristics

  • It is written for complete beginners who have never made bread before
  • Every recipe uses 100% whole grains

I have found many many resources/books/videos/blog posts for advanced bakers to use 100% whole grain, and for beginners to use 50% whole grain. The Laurel's Kitchen book is the only one I've found that teaches a complete novice baker to bake with whole grains only. It is an older book and has drawings, not photos, but you can find photos and videos online to supplement. The recipes are solid and the instructions are very clear. I highly recommend it if you don't mind learning from reading.

Good luck and enjoy the baking adventure!

Patti Y's picture
Patti Y

Thank you both. We have decided to go low carb since we both need to lose weight, but I really miss bread. 

I am working on a low carb bread recipe now and it is pretty close to real bread. Still trying to get it lower than 3 g per slice though.

Gaba1's picture

The trick for your bread is to get more fiber and to slow down the speed at which it converts to sugar. Check out the hi-maize supplement at King Arthur to add to your bread. Also, add vegetables like sweet potato, squash, bean or fruits such as prune, apples or pears. My Daddy developed surprise muffins after he got diagnosed with diabetes, we never know what will be in them! But they are loaded, always with whatever fruit and nut he finds in the house. No sugar, he sweetens with fruit, no oil, he uses mashed prune or banana, lots of cinnamon and cardamom or nutmeg. Almonds, maybe or walnuts. They are healthy and delicious and make a good snack to keep blood sugar level. 

But fiber makes a very real difference in blood sugar. Good luck!

Anne Ng's picture
Anne Ng

Hi Patti, it is very impressive that you are making low carb bread that has about 3g carbs per slice! Could you share your recipe? A close friend of mine recently got diagnosed of Diabetes Type 2 and he is a really stubborn eater, with white buns as a big part of his meal, so I'm thinking of making low-carb and low GI bread for him to try. It would help tremendously if you could share your recipe with me! 

I have also found this interesting study, which concluded that sourdough breads have very low GI even they are made with 100% white flour. Right now I'm baking 25% whole wheat sourdough loafs so I'm thinking of starting him off with those. Can I politely ask in those months of baking, what are your experiences of baking for your husband? Like did he feel drowsy or discomfort after eating certain kinds of bread? And which bread would you recommend for other diabetic friends? 

I'm sorry if this is too intrusive and happy baking!