Structural characteristics and baking conditions influence the metabolic responses to carbohydrate-containing foods. We hypothesized that consumption of whole wheat or sourdough breads would have a favourable effect on biomarkers of glucose homeostasis after first and second meals, compared with those for white bread. Ten overweight volunteers consumed 50 g available carbohydrate of each of the four breads (white, whole wheat, sourdough, whole wheat barley) followed 3 h later by a standard second meal. Blood was sampled for 3 h following bread ingestion and a further 2 h after the second meal for determination of glucose, insulin, paracetamol (indirect marker of gastric emptying), glucose-dependent insulinotropic polypeptide (GIP) and glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1). Glucose and GLP-1 responses to sourdough bread were lower (P < 0·05) than whole wheat and whole wheat barley breads. Glucose area under the curve (AUC) for sourdough bread was lower than those for whole wheat (P < 0·005) and whole wheat barley (P < 0·03) breads for the entire study. GIP AUC after sourdough bread ingestion was lower compared to white (P < 0·004) and whole wheat barley (P < 0·002) breads following the second meal. There were no significant differences in insulin and paracetamol concentrations among the test breads. Ultra-fine grind whole wheat breads did not result in postprandial responses that were lower than those of white bread, but sourdough bread resulted in lower glucose and GLP-1 responses compared to those of these whole wheat breads following both meals.