Angel food cake is a light and airy cake made with egg whites and no added fat. Its airy texture comes from whipped egg whites, which are folded into the batter. Angel food cake contains little to no fat, no egg yolks, and no dairy products. With its lack of fat and modest amount of natural sugar from cake flour, angel food cake may seem like a good choice for people with diabetes. But is it really diabetic friendly? Here’s a detailed look at the nutrition facts and health impacts of angel food cake for people with diabetes.
Nutrition facts of angel food cake
The nutrition facts of a 1-ounce (28 gram) serving of homemade angel food cake are (1):
- Calories: 60
- Carbohydrates: 14 grams
- Fiber: 0 grams
- Sugars: 9 grams
- Protein: 2 grams
- Fat: 0 grams
As you can see, a serving of angel food cake is low in fat and protein and contains 14 grams of carbohydrate, 9 of which come from naturally occurring sugars. Commercial angel food cakes may have slightly different nutrition profiles depending on specific ingredients and servings sizes.
Angel food cake is relatively high in carbohydrates, with 14 grams per serving. For people with diabetes watching their carb intake, this amount may seem too high for a small serving size. The American Diabetes Association recommends limiting carb servings to 15-60 grams per meal depending on individual needs (2). The carbohydrates in angel food cake come from:
- Cake flour: Plain flour is pure starch, providing complex carbohydrates.
- Sugar: Granulated white sugar adds simple carbohydrates and sweetness.
While the flour provides more nutritious complex carbs, the 9 grams of sugar could spike blood sugar levels. However, the glycemic index (GI) of cake is estimated to be only 46, which is low (3). Foods with a GI of 55 or below are considered low glycemic. The protein and fat from the egg whites may help slow sugar absorption and prevent spikes. Still, portion control remains key.
Angel food cake contains no fiber. The lack of fiber means it may not provide feelings of fullness. Fiber also helps slow digestion and prevents blood sugar spikes. Adding a high-fiber fruit like raspberries or strawberries on top could help boost fiber and make it more filling.
With 2 grams of protein per serving, angel food cake provides minimal protein. Getting adequate protein is important for people with diabetes to help maintain energy levels and satisfy hunger. Protein foods like nuts, seeds, beans and dairy are better sources of protein than cake.
One of the biggest perks of angel food cake for people monitoring fat intake is that it contains zero fat. Avoiding excess fat, especially saturated and trans fats, is commonly recommended for heart health. For people with diabetes, keeping fat intake moderate can also help with blood sugar and weight control.
Glycemic index and glycemic load
The glycemic index (GI) ranks carbohydrate-containing foods by how much they spike blood sugar levels. A related measure is the glycemic load (GL), which factors in serving sizes. Foods with a high GI or GL can rapidly raise blood sugars after eating, while foods with a low GI or GL have a more gradual effect (4).
Spikes in blood sugar following meals should be minimized for people with diabetes. The estimated GI for cake is only 46, which is low (3). However, since the GL accounts for standard serving sizes, cake has a moderate GL of 10 per 1-ounce serving. This means cake will have less of an impact than high-GI foods but a bigger effect than low-GL foods. Whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and legumes tend to have lower GIs and GLs.
Tips for lowering glycemic impact
There are ways to enjoy angel food cake while minimizing blood sugar spikes. Here are some tips:
- Have a small slice and/or share dessert.
- Consume cake alongside protein, fat, fiber.
- Substitute all or part of the white sugar for lower-GI sweeteners like maple syrup, honey, or stevia.
- Add nuts, seeds, or berries to provide protein, healthy fats, and fiber.
- Opt for angel food over higher-fat cakes.
Angel food cake and weight control
Excess body weight contributes to higher risks of developing prediabetes and type 2 diabetes, so weight control is key for diabetes management. At only 60 calories per serving, angel food cake can fit into a weight loss diet in moderation. Its low calorie and fat content means it provides minimal impact on daily calories for a small serving.
However, keep in mind that Angel food cake offers little satiety or fullness compared to foods with protein, fat, and fiber. Volume-wise you can eat a large slice for minimal calories, so portion control is important. Eating angel food cake on its own could lead to increased hunger and overeating later. Having it as part of a balanced meal or snack can help increase satisfaction.
Tips for enjoying angel food cake while managing weight
Here are some best practices for fitting angel food cake into a diabetes-friendly eating pattern:
- Stick to a small serving size around 1 ounce.
- Include angel food cake as part of a meal containing protein and vegetables rather than eating it alone.
- Savor each bite and eat slowly to prevent overeating.
- Drink water with it to help fill you up.
- Share your cake with others.
- Substitute lower calorie fruits like strawberries for icing or cream.
How does angel food cake affect blood sugar?
For people with diabetes, the biggest health concern with foods like cake is their impact on blood sugar levels. Eating angel food cake can increase blood glucose for several reasons:
- It provides a high amount of digestible carbohydrates per serving.
- The sugar content adds a quick source of glucose to the bloodstream.
- The refined flour is highly processed and digests rapidly.
- It lacks protein, fat, and fiber to slow digestion.
However, the low GI, modest serving sizes, and lack of fat mean blood sugar spikes will likely be lower than with many other desserts. Individual responses vary too based on factors like medication use, insulin resistance, and carb sensitivity.
Tips for reducing blood sugar impact
You can take some steps to make angel food cake more blood sugar friendly:
- Enjoy just a sliver to keep servings small.
- Limit it to special occasions rather than daily treats.
- Pair it with protein like nuts or dairy to slow carb absorption.
- Add berries or lemon for more fiber.
- Swap white sugar for lower-GI alternatives.
- Check your blood sugar levels regularly when eating cake.
- Adjust your insulin dosages as needed.
- Compensate by reducing other carbs in your meal plan.
Is store-bought or homemade angel food cake better?
Both homemade and store-bought angel food cakes can fit into a diabetes eating plan in moderation. However, homemade versions may have some advantages for blood sugar control and nutrition:
- You can control ingredients like sugar, flour, flavors.
- Can substitute healthier ingredients like almond flour.
- Avoid hydrogenated oils, trans fats, high fructose corn syrup.
- Higher fiber from whole ingredients.
- Customize your portion size.
- May have fewer preservatives and artificial ingredients.
Read nutrition labels closely and check ingredients lists when purchasing store-bought angel food cakes. Many brands offer lower sugar, whole grain, or single serving options.
Healthier angel food cake alternatives
If you enjoy the light, fluffy texture of angel food cake, there are ways to lighten it up further:
- Use lower-carb flours: Substitute a portion of regular flour with almond flour, coconut flour, oat flour or protein powder.
- Reduce sugar: Cut the sugar by 1/3rd to 1/2 in recipes. Replace some sugar with stevia or erythritol.
- Add fiber: Stir in chia seeds, nuts, berries, banana, dried fruit, or shredded veggies like zucchini.
- Boost protein: Fold in vanilla protein powder or ricotta cheese.
- Healthy fats: Include avocado, nut butters, coconut, olive oil.
- Avoid icing: Top with fresh fruit instead of sugary icing.
- Portion cupcakes: Bake mini cupcakes for perfect single servings.
With some simple substitutions, angel food cake can be lightened up to better fit into a diabetes meal plan. But portion size remains key.
What types of angel food cake are best for diabetics?
The best angel food cakes for people with diabetes are:
- Low sugar: Choose recipes with less added sugar or brands lowering sugar content.
- High fiber: Add fiber-rich ingredients like fruit, nuts, seeds, or oats.
- Higher protein: Fold in protein powder or ricotta cheese for staying power.
- No icing: Pick cakes without icing, or use fruit toppings instead.
- Whole grain options: Select brands using whole grain or nut flours.
- Single serve: Purchase mini or single serve sizes for portion control.
- Lower carb: Substitute part of the regular flour with nut or seed flours.
Reading nutrition labels is key to finding or creating angel food cakes best suited to a diabetes-friendly diet. Focus on light and portion-controlled versions.
Sample meal ideas with angel food cake
Here are some healthy meal ideas that incorporate a serving of angel food cake:
- Angel food cake with fresh strawberries and Greek yogurt
- Piece of angel food cake alongside a veggie omelet and melon
- French toast made with angel food cake and protein powder, with turkey bacon
- Grilled chicken salad with avocado and small piece of angel food cake
- Vegetable soup with angel food cake and string cheese
- Tuna salad stuffed in celery sticks, with angel food cake and berries
- Broiled salmon with quinoa pilaf and green beans with angel food cake
- Stir fry beef and veggies over cauliflower rice with single-serve angel food cupcake
- Roast turkey breast with roasted Brussels sprouts and carrots, angel food cake
- Angel food cake with peanut butter
- Ricotta cheese with fruit on angel food cake
- Nuts on top of angel food cake
Getting creative with pairings and portions can allow you to incorporate angel food cake into a healthy diabetes diet.
Here are some precautions to take note of when considering eating angel food cake with diabetes:
- Check blood glucose before, during and after eating cake to see individual responses.
- Account for carbohydrates from cake within daily meal plan carb counts.
- Be mindful of portion sizes to keep calories and carbs in check.
- Slowly add small servings to see effects before increasing amounts.
- Monitor weight and blood sugar trends over time when adding cake.
- Consider medications and insulin needs when consuming cake.
- Skip cake if unwell or experiencing hyperglycemia.
People with diabetes benefit from a consistent carbohydrate intake day-to-day for optimal blood sugar control. Enjoy angel food cake in moderation as part of an overall balanced diabetes diet, and keep an eye on your responses to it.
Angel food cake can be part of a diabetes diet in small servings. Its low calorie, fat-free, and lower glycemic impact make it a better choice than many cake options. However, it is still high in refined carbs and sugar, so portions must be controlled. Have a slim slice along with protein and healthy fats, and avoid making it an everyday indulgence. With some caveats angel food cake can occasionally be enjoyed as a light dessert by people with diabetes focused on managing their blood sugar and weight.