Five Plus Surprising Foods That Spike Blood Sugar
January 11, 2022
Many fruits are high in sugar and will produce blood sugar spikes (although whole fruit is always better than juice). Grapes have 15g–20g of sugar per cup and many people find they raise glucose levels sharply.
To Do: Eat fewer grapes, pair them with fat or protein, or swap them for berries like strawberries, raspberries, or blackberries, which have around half the sugar.
Often considered a go-to healthy breakfast, oatmeal surprises as a glucose spiker. Processed “instant” or rolled varieties break down more quickly, leading to a sharp blood sugar rise, and flavored varieties often contain added sweeteners.
To Do: Swap your morning bowl for a healthy smoothie topped with hearty toppings like hemp seeds, almond butter, chopped nuts, and chia. If you just can’t give up oatmeal, aim for steel-cut oats or groats, and pair with healthy fat and protein like walnuts, almond butter, and chia.
Sticky white rice is refined and high in starch. Soy sauce also frequently contains sugar.
To Do: Order sashimi with no rice, and don’t drown it in soy sauce. Or, try cauliflower rice sushi.
4) Acai Bowl
Acai berries are low in sugar (just 2g or 3g per 100g) and loaded with antioxidants, but they have a slight bitter taste, so commercial bowls tend to mix in sweeter fruits like bananas or mangos, sweeteners like honey, or sweetened nut milks, shooting the sugar through the roof. Blended bowls are even worse, reducing some of the fiber that can slow glucose absorption.
To Do: Mix your own at home! Reduce the sweeteners, add low-sugar fruits like berries, lemon juice or coconut, and mix in unsweetened milk, veggies like spinach, and healthy fats like chia or flaxseeds.
5) Pho and Ramen
Though these are two distinct foods, the spike is most likely from the same culprit: noodles and sugar in the sauce. Noodles (even rice noodles) are a processed food made with refined grains that tends to spike glucose.
To Do: Look for dishes without noodles, or if you’re cooking at home, swap in alternative pastas made with konjac root or vegetables. Many pho and ramen restaurants now offer vegan options with spinach noodles, zucchini noodles, or tofu noodles. Also, avoid any sugary sauces or glazes.
6) Chik-Fil-A and McDonald’s
These are ultra-processed foods and that means they likely have added sugars, refined carbohydrates with little fiber, and poor nutrient content, all of which can cause a rise in blood sugar. A Chik-Fil-A sandwich has sugar listed three times in its ingredient list and five types of flour! And these meals often come with a sugary drink like orange juice or soda.
To Do: Ideally, skip the fast-food joints altogether. Look for whole foods without additives, like a salad with chicken breast (skip sugary dressings or croutons) or a burrito bowl without rice.
Whether a dense old-fashioned or fluffy glazed, donuts are a blood-sugar double-whammy. First, the dough is made with refined white flour, which strips grains of many of their nutrients and their microbiome-friendly fiber and secondly, donuts can contain several grams of added sugar, even without glaze or frosting (which is often basically pure sugar). This allows your body to absorb the carbohydrates more quickly, potentially spiking your blood sugar.
To do: To make any baked goods more glucose friendly, swap refined flour for a nut flour, like almond, and use a natural alternative sweetener like allulose or monk fruit instead of sugar.
Pizza crust is another refined flour dough and often includes sugar. The tomato sauce and even processed meats like pepperoni and sausage may also contain hidden sugars.
To Do: Cauliflower pizza crust is now easy to find in the frozen section and even on some menus. For toppings, stick with healthy veggies and unprocessed, clean proteins like pastured raised chicken, grass-fed, grass-finished beef or pork, or tofu.
Pancake batter contains ultra-refined white flour and also typically contains sugar. Top it with maple syrup, and it’s a trifecta of glucose spiking. While maple syrup is a natural sweetener that does have some minerals, it’s still ⅔ sucrose.
To Do: Fortunately, there are so many delicious pancake mixes that are grain- and sugar-free, those made with coconut flour, pecan flour, walnut flour, and cassava flour (note: cassava does spike some people), tiger nut flour, almond flour, coconut flour, and cassava.
Even the brands advertised as “healthy” (we’re looking at you, Cheerios) tend to list sugar as one of the first ingredients. Don’t be fooled by phrases like “whole grain”—cereals are processed foods that will likely raise blood sugar.
To Do: Keto-friendly cereals like Magic Spoon swap in alternative sweeteners and may lower the glucose response for some people. Or better yet, make your own grain-free granola!
Susan Merenstein, RPh/Owner
Murray Avenue Apothecary