Having blood sugar levels that are too high makes it more likely you will become obese or develop heart disease or Type 2 diabetes. What you eat makes a big difference in how high your blood sugar levels rise after meals and snacks, with carbohydrates making the most difference.
The more carbs you eat, the higher your blood sugar levels are likely to get. When starches and sugars are digested, they turn into sugars that are then released into your blood. Since liquids are digested more quickly than solid food, sugary beverages are particularly likely to cause blood sugar increases. However, foods with fiber, the third type of carbohydrate, are more slowly digested, making these better options for keeping your after-meal blood sugar levels from spiking.
Using the glycemic index can help you estimate whether a food that contains carbs is likely to make your blood sugar go up. Foods with a low glycemic index score under 55 aren't likely to cause your blood sugar to rise much, but those with a high score over 70 will. Beans and most fruits and vegetables are relatively low on the glycemic index, while watermelon, potatoes without skin and refined grains are high on the glycemic index.
Limiting Blood Sugar Increases
If you plan to eat a food that is high on the glycemic index, eating only a small amount and eating it along with foods that are low on the glycemic index or that contain mainly fat or protein will help keep blood sugar levels from spiking too much. Eating about the same amount of carbs in each of five or six meals and snacks spread throughout the day can also help keep blood sugar levels more consistent.
Don't try to avoid carbs completely, since you need them to be healthy. Carbs are your brain's preferred energy source, so you can get cranky or feel like you don't have enough energy if you don't get enough of them. Counting carbs or using the plate method, which involves filling half your plate with non-starchy vegetables and splitting the other half of your plate between lean protein and starchy foods, can help you control your blood sugar levels.
Based in Massachusetts, Jessica Bruso has been writing since 2008. She holds a master of science degree in food policy and applied nutrition and a bachelor of arts degree in international relations, both from Tufts University.