Managing your blood sugar levels can be complicated, especially if you have prediabetes, insulin resistance or diabetes. Understanding how the foods you eat influence your blood sugar levels is key to help you make the right choices. Foods that contain carbohdyrates are converted into sugars during the digestion process and cause your blood sugar levels to increase shortly after your meal.
Starchy vegetables, such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn and green peas, can raise your blood sugar levels. The starches found in starchy vegetables are quickly digested and converted into sugars by the enzymes found in your gastrointestinal tract. The sugars obtained from the digestion of starches can quickly enter your bloodstream and elevate your blood sugar levels. For example, 1 cup of mashed potatoes has about 35g of carbohydrates, which corresponds to the equivalent of close to 9 tsp. of sugar.
Grains are also rich in starches and some grains also contain added sugar. All types of breads, such as bagels, sliced breads, rolls and English muffins, as well as rice, pasta, noodles, crackers and baked goods are all converted to sugars after being eaten and can contribute to raising your blood sugar levels in the minutes and hours following your meals. A slice of whole wheat bread contains close to 4 tsp. of sugar, while a large bagel contains the equivalent of over 17 tsp. of sugar.
Sugars and Sweeteners
The sugar found in foods and beverages are easily converted into the smaller molecules of sugar that can be absorbed into your blood, increasing your blood sugar levels. The more sugar you eat, the more your blood sugar levels will raise. Jams, syrups, table sugar, high-fructose corn syrup and brown sugar are all converted to simple sugar in your body, just like sweeteners that are perceived as being more natural, such as honey, maple syrup and agave nectar.
When you eat fruits, the carbohydrates they contain can quickly be converted into sugars in your body. Even if fruits contain natural sugars, they can significantly influence your blood sugar levels. Fresh fruits, canned fruits, frozen fruits, dried fruits and fruit juices all contribute to raising your blood sugar levels. A medium apple has the equivalent of 4 tsp. of sugar, while a 16-oz. glass of unsweetened orange juice has over 13 tsp. of natural sugar provided by the oranges.
Milk, yogurt and some fresh cheese contain small amounts of carbohydrates that can be converted into sugar in your body. If you choose chocolate milk and sweetened yogurts, the amount of sugar that your body can obtain from the digestion of these foods is even higher and consuming these foods can cause a larger increase in your blood sugar levels. Aged cheese, butter and cream are not converted into sugars because they do not contain enough carbohydrates per serving.