Diary / Wellness / Dec 5, 2022
5 Healthy Foods That Can Cause Blood Sugar Spikes
Written by: Michele Ross
Photography by: Carla Contreras
Even if you’re on top of your wellness game and aim to stick to generally clean and well-rounded diet, there are times in which you may not realize that your food choices may run counter to your health goals. For instance, if you try to avoid sugar, the truth is that added sugar lurks in so many food items—including those you wouldn’t expect—and thus, they have the potential to spike your blood sugar.
To find out what some of those foods are exactly, we reached out to dietitian and certified diabetes educator Kim Rose, RDN, CDCES, CNSC, LD.
Why blood sugar balance is crucial for your health
Before we dive into the surprising foods that have the potential to spike your blood sugar, let’s first cover why we want to avoid those spikes (and crashes) in the first place and strive for balance. “Blood sugar balance is essential for the proper functioning of the body,” Rose shares. “Not only can it help maintain energy levels and improve your mood, but it is also involved with the health of the heart, eyes, kidneys, and other major body organs.”
While she notes that blood sugar rises and falls are normal and natural responses to eating, the potential for danger happens when they’re sharp and continuous. “Excessive blood sugar spikes can damage these organs and alter their normal function,” she cautions.
5 surprising foods that can spike your blood sugar
As you’ll see below, a range of unassuming foods that are typically deemed to be healthy have the potential to spike your blood sugar—and lead to adverse effects on your body and overall health status—due to added sugar. For the sake of blood sugar balance, it’s important to be diligent in reading labels and avoid sugar additives whenever possible. FYI: “The American Heart Association recommends limiting added sugars to no more than six teaspoons for most women and nine teaspoons for most men,” Rose shares.
“Kombucha is a fermented drink touted for its gut health benefits,” Rose says. Those who have tried this fizzy fermented beverage typically love it or hate it, but the truth about its added sugar content isn’t so sweet, as she mentions that certain varieties can contain up to three teaspoons of added sugar per serving. To be more mindful about your intake, aim to stick to one serving daily and look for lower-sugar options.
“Ketchup contains lycopene, a naturally occurring compound that not only gives this fruit its red color but holds health benefits,” Rose continues. While this sounds healthy enough, ketchup and other condiments can be sneaky sources of hidden sugar. “Depending on how much you add to your meatloaf, sauces, gravies, and even scrambled eggs, this may spike your blood sugar readings,” the dietitian warns. To err on the side of caution, consider opting for varieties of ketchup with no added sugar.
3. Peanut butter
Just as condiments can contribute to blood sugar imbalances, so can spreads like classic peanut butter. “Peanut butter is a great plant-based protein option; it’s versatile and also contains healthy fats,” Rose begins. To make sure you max out on the health benefits and steer away from steep rises in blood sugar, she suggests purchasing PB made with peanuts only.
4. Granola bars
This grab-and-go snack comes in handy when you’re in a rush—but Rose suggests that you scour ingredients and nutrition facts label closely. “Certain granola bars can contain up to three teaspoons of sugar,” she warns, so you may want to limit your intake or opt for another lower-sugar snack like a DIY trail mix.
Last on the dietitian’s list of healthy foods that can spike your blood sugar is oatmeal. “Oatmeal is a great superfood; it is a source of prebiotics and promotes digestive health,” she explains. Yet she says that instant flavored varieties often contain added sugar to boost the taste. Since she understands that the flavored versions are popular and delicious, she urges us to be open to healthier alternatives. “If you're not a fan of rolled or steel cut oats, try a flavored oatmeal that contains minimal ingredients and the least amount of added sugar,” she advises.
To avoid spikes and dips in blood sugar with these foods and others, Rose shares two parting tips. First: Prioritize protein. “Combining protein with foods that contain sugar may help to regulate blood sugar,” she explains. Second: Don’t skimp on fiber. “Found in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, fiber can also help regulate blood sugar spikes and help you stay full for an extended period,” she concludes.