The foods that are most likely to cause increased blood sugar are those high in sugars as well as carbohydrates, as they are quickly broken down by your body and converted to sugars. Avoiding sugary foods and beverages will be crucial for maintaining a healthy blood glucose level.
The Glycemic Index
Not all carbohydrates, though, will raise your blood sugar to unhealthy levels. Some carbohydrates are very easy to break down and require very little energy from your body to convert to glucose. When you eat these, they cause a rapid spike in blood sugar. These foods are said to be high on the Glycemic Index, which is a ranking of how various foods affect your blood sugar.
Some carbohydrates are digested much more slowly, and these result in a more gradual release of glucose into your system. Your glucose and insulin levels do not rise significantly when you eat these foods, which are low on the Glycemic Index. Your body needs more time and energy to digest them, so they fuel they produce is absorbed over a longer period.
Foods rated as 55 or less on the Glycemic Index or GI will not raise your glucose levels significantly and are safer to eat than those with an index of 56-69, which are will raise your glucose levels moderately, or those indexed higher than 70, which will cause major spikes in your sugar levels.
Below, we share foods that are low on the glycemic index or naturally are low in carbohydrates, making them safe to eat in moderation while not impacting your blood sugar levels.
These are carbohydrate-based foods that are low on the glycemic index. They have a minimal effect on blood glucose levels and can be eaten in moderation. These carbohydrates tend to have more fiber, which means they are released more slowly into your bloodstream.
- Converted rice
- Corn tortillas
- Oatmeal (rolled or steel-cut)
- Oat bran
- Muesli with no added sugars
- Whole-wheat tortillas
- 100% stone-ground whole wheat or pumpernickel bread
- Cereal made with 100 percent bran
Legumes and Beans
These foods do contain some amount of carbohydrates, but they are also healthy and plant-based sources of protein and fats, which are good for your body. Always adhere to recommendations regarding serving sizes, though, as some of these foods are high in fat when not eaten in moderation.
Legumes and beans can be made from dried or canned varieties. If choosing canned, watch for added ingredients, including salt and fats.
- Almond butter made with only nuts and salt
- Cashew butter made with only nuts and salt
- Chia seeds
- Garbanzo beans
- Pinto beans
- Black beans
- Kidney beans
- Lima beans
- Butter beans
- Hummus prepared with chickpeas
Some vegetables contain more starch than others, making them higher on the GI. Limiting your consumption of these to the recommended portion and serving size will allow you to enjoy these in moderation and not cause huge spikes in your blood sugar level.
Most of these vegetables are very high in fiber, which means they are more slowly digested and converted into glucose.
- Acorn squash
- Butternut squash
- Yellow squash
- Spaghetti squash
- Sweet potatoes
You can eat as many non-starchy vegetables as you like to fill yourself up and enjoy plenty of nutrient-dense foods. The following are excellent vegetables that are low on the GI.
You can choose fresh, frozen, or canned varieties with no added ingredients.
- Brussels sprouts
- Green beans
- Mustard greens
- Collard greens
- Spring or green onions
- Red Bell Peppers
- Tomato juice
- Vegetable juices with no added sugars
While fresh fruits do contain natural sugars, they are also high in fiber, which slows down the metabolism of the carbohydrates in them and releases them more slowly into your system, resulting in a steadier blood sugar level.
Opt for whole fruit that has been minimally processed. Avoid fruit juices, as they do not contain the necessary fiber to keep them low on the GI.
- Sour cherries
Zero Carb Foods
These foods are naturally carbohydrate-free or contain very few natural sugars. Meats, fish, oils, and fats fall into this category. Always prepare these foods simply and stay away from breading, batter, or frying methods. Eat high-fat meats and all fats in moderation.
- Game meats
- All fresh fish
- Most fresh seafood
- Lean lunch meat
- Olive Oil (less than one teaspoon)
- Coconut Oil (less than one teaspoon)
Products made from cow’s or goat’s milk contain natural sugars in the form of lactose. In minimally processed forms, lactose will not significantly raise blood sugar if you eat them in moderation.
Never select dairy products with added sugars, full fat has less carbs than nonfat dairy.
- Low-Fat Yogurt
- Cottage Cheese
- Cheddar Cheese
- String Cheese
- Mozzarella Cheese
Other Foods and Beverages
These are foods that can be used as condiments or seasonings, as well as beverages that can help keep your blood sugar steady.
- Sugar-free hard candy or chewing gum
- Sugar-free jam or jelly (one teaspoon)
- Sugar-free syrup
- Herbs- fresh or dried
- Spices of all kinds
- Lemon or lime juice
- Club soda
- Sparkling water
- Low-sodium broth