4 Unsuspecting Foods That Can Impact Your Blood Sugar & What To Do
When it comes to foods that cause the biggest blood sugar spikes, a few standouts come to mind. These include white bread, white potatoes, pastas, the list goes on—essentially, they're options that contain a lot of simple sugars.
It turns out, however, that a few unsuspecting foods also make the list. When biochemist Jessie Inchauspe, author of Glucose Revolution: The Life-Changing Power of Balancing Your Blood Sugar, joined us on the mindbodygreen podcast, she shared four to be aware of—but that doesn't mean you must avoid them altogether. Below, she also shares how to enjoy each item, while maintaining healthy blood sugar levels.
According to Inchauspe, it's important to look at the label for hidden sugars when you're selecting a yogurt: "Even if a yogurt has fruit purée or fruit concentrate, that's just sugar that's been extracted from fruit…," she explains. As soon as you denature a piece of fruit to use it for sweetness, she says you're impacting your blood glucose levels.
Instead, she recommends a simple swap: "If you want a sweet yogurt, buy plain Greek yogurt and blueberries and put them into your yogurt." She also recommends a spoonful of almond butter for its protein and healthy fats. "It tastes really nice and rich and sweet, even though it doesn't have any sugar in it," she explains.
Next up is actually a very popular natural sweetener: "Another big one is all of the cereal or snack bars that are really high in dates," she says. "They might say all-natural, no sugar added, but then you look at the label and it's like, Oh, this is just 10 dates and some walnuts. Again, dates are dried fruits."
Although, Inchauspe clearly states that the key to healthy blood sugar maintenance is not to avoid dates—or any sweet or starchy foods, for that matter. Rather, she suggests pairing them strategically with other foods: "Put clothing on your carbs. Any time you eat something starchy or sweet, add protein, fat, or fiber—which I call clothing," she says. "You then reduce the glucose spike that the starchy or sweet food would create." This technique allows you to enjoy food restriction-free, while still supporting healthy blood sugar balance.
Third on Inchauspe's list is rice cakes. "A lot of people think rice cakes are really good for you. Actually, it's just pure starch," she says. Fortunately, her "clothes on carbs" hack works here, too: "You can put some avocado on them, maybe some smoked salmon," she suggests.
Yes, we were shocked, too. "Despite what marketing tells you, regular white sugar, brown sugar, coconut sugar, honey, maple syrup, fruit purée, fruit juice concentrate, dried fruit, all that stuff—if you see it on a label, it's the exact same thing. It's all glucose and fructose," says Inchauspe.
In fact, she declares that honey may even impact blood sugar levels more than table sugar (gasp!). "Everything that glucose spikes do, fructose does it to an even greater extent," she explains, and "honey has more fructose in it than table sugar; the proportion is higher."
Again, this doesn't mean you must stow the honey forever. Just be strategic about the order in which you consume your meal: "Science shows that if you eat the constituents of a meal in a specific order, you can reduce the glucose spike of the meal by 75%1. So you're eating the exact same food, but there are much fewer consequences on your body and mental well-being…. The correct order is vegetables, proteins and fats second, and sugars last." So you can still have your honey—just consume it at the end of your meal!
While sweetened yogurt, date bars, rice cakes, and honey might impact blood sugar levels, Inchauspe's blood-sugar-balancing tips (swapping in whole fruits, adding clothing to carbs, and enjoying a meal in a certain order) mean that you can totally still enjoy them—while maintaining healthy blood sugar balance, maybe even more so.