The Right Grains for Diabetes Self-Management

You may not think of bread, cereal, and crackers as grains, but of course the primary ingredient in these products is grain, or grain refined into flour. Like grains, bread, cereal, and crackers are carbohydrate foods — one slice of bread equals one carb choice, or 15 grams carbohydrate.

Whole grains that contain the bran, germ, and endosperm are the healthier choice, and that goes for bread, cereal, and crackers, too. Going for whole grain options does not change the carbohydrate content, but may slow the impact on blood glucose levels. More importantly, whole grains help lower cholesterol levels, work to reduce blood pressure, and provide nutrients lost in the refining process.

The bigger issue with the grains in bread, cereal, and crackers, however, is added ingredients — fat, salt, or sugar, in particular. Cereals are infamous for added sugar, but many healthy looking granola cereals can have 6 or more grams of fat in a half-cup serving. And, crackers would be the obvious place to watch for excess sodium from salt.

Fortunately, these items almost always have a nutrition facts label, and you have your reading glasses. Check the serving size and total carbohydrate content first; then look at the grams of sugar under total carbohydrate, and finally for sodium. It’s common to see some sugar in all of these products, but when the sugar portion of total carbohydrate exceeds 30 percent it becomes a sweetened product.

There’s definitely room to work bread, cereal, and crackers into your eating plan. It’s worth noting that many of these products are fortified with vitamins — bread in the United States has been fortified with niacin since the late 1930s, and it’s common to see vitamin C, vitamin D, folic acid, and several B vitamins including vitamin B12, which is often missing in vegetarian diets.

Thinly sliced, whole-grain bread is great for sandwiches because you can get two slices for 20 grams, more or less, of carbohydrate. A sandwich needs two slices of bread, after all.

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