10 Surprising Foods That Spike Blood Sugarby Ginger Vieira Health Writer & Patient Advocate
Many foods are portrayed in advertisements and on the news as good for your blood sugar that are actually quite the opposite. Even truly wholesome foods can cause major blood sugar spikes, and aren't ideal for those of us with diabetes. Here are the most common culprits.
Have you heard that brown rice is better for you? While it has more fiber than white rice, it has 40+ grams of carbohydrate in 1 cup that is easily broken down into glucose and can spike blood sugar. If you’re counting carbs, you should note that only 1/3 cup of rice is one carbohydrate exchange (or 15 grams of carbs), so it’s crucial to watch your portion size to avoid a spike in your blood sugar. If you need to cut your carb intake even further, try a veggie alternative like cauliflower rice.
Fresh fruit juice
Fruit juice has been advertised for decades as an all-natural, healthy beverage, as good for you as the actual piece of fruit. The reality is that 1 fresh orange provides you with fiber, carbs, and vitamins and 15 grams of carbohydrates. Fruit juice doesn’t give you the same fiber and nutrients and gives you 45 grams of carbs in just one cup. Unless you are treating a low blood sugar reaction, it’s best to stick with fresh and frozen fruit if you are trying to control your blood sugar.
Packaged oatmeal and other hot cereals can have added sugar, so it’s important to look at the labels closely. Even if you’re cooking your own whole oats on the stove, oatmeal can raise your blood sugar significantly if you aren’t carefully controlling your portion size. Oatmeal contains protein and is a source of good fiber, but one cup of oatmeal contains 27 grams of carbs (before you add sweetener), so you need to plan your breakfast meal wisely to help control total carbohydrate intake.
If you’ve ever seen sweet potatoes listed as a food that’s ‘good for your blood sugar,’ think twice about visiting that site again. Sweet potatoes offer a plethora of vitamins and some fiber, but they are high in carbs, just like a white potato. If you’re trying to choose wholesome carbs, a sweet potato is great, but don’t let poorly researched claims fool you. All potatoes contain starchy carbs, 30+ grams, and can raise blood sugar if you eat a large serving.
Raisin bran cereal
Along with most cereal, raisin bran is loaded with sugar and processed carbs. 1 cup is over 40 grams of carbs and 18 grams of sugar — more than the sugar in Captain Crunch or Fruity Pebbles! Unfortunately, most boxed cereals, even Kashi, are so highly processed that they spike blood sugar far more than their carb-count implies they will. One of the few brands of decent cereal quality is Barbara’s Puffins cereals, which have a very short list of ingredients, and lots of fiber.
If you think raisins are better for your blood sugar than chocolate chips, think again. A half-ounce of raisins vs. chocolate chips reveals there’s actually 1 gram more carb in the raisins. Sure, raisins are a wholesome source of carb by comparison, but they are still going to raise your blood sugar. In fact, raisins raise blood sugar so quickly that they are great for treating low blood sugars! The same goes for dried apricots, mangoes, cranberries, etc.
Whole-wheat bread & pasta
Like brown rice, whole-wheat versions of bread and pasta may offer more fiber and maybe more vitamins, but they’re still just as full of processed carbs and rapidly raise blood sugar. Some are actually colored with molasses to appear brown to fool you into thinking they are more wholesome. Look at the long list of ingredients on your whole-wheat bread — the longer the list, the less likely it's helping you.
A tall glass of milk has been advertised (by the dairy industry) as part of a healthy diet, but there are other beverages that can give you calcium without all the sugar! Cow’s milk contains 12 grams of carbs in the form of lactose (dairy sugar) in just 8 ounces. Unsweetened milk alternatives like almond, flax, and soy can give you that milky taste with merely 3 grams of carbs, and plenty of calcium, too. Skip the cow’s milk if you’re trying to cut carbs and lower your blood sugar.
Sure, yogurt can offer probiotics for your gut health, but many of today’s commercial yogurts are so heavily processed that the benefits of helpful bacteria are easily outweighed. Yogurt can pack a wallop of sugar with 30 grams of sugar in even the most wholesome brands. Read the ingredients and choose your brand carefully. In fact, it basically has as much sugar as a bowl of ice cream, but less fat. So you could consider it a slightly healthier dessert option!
Bananas and grapes
All fruit contains fructose (sugar), but bananas and grapes pack the biggest punch. A small bowlful of naturally low-glycemic berries can be eaten without noticing much change in blood sugar at all, but a banana is so packed with carbohydrates that it's more trouble for a diabetic's blood sugar than a small bowl of ice cream. Many diabetics refer to grapes as 'sugar bombs' because even just a few can rapidly raise your blood sugar.