7 Carbs Causing Blood Sugar Chaos, Dietitians Say – Eat This, Not That

Nearly 1 in 2 adults in the United States regularly encounter high blood sugar levels, or hypertension, depending to research conducted by the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association. This condition puts you at risk for heart disease and stroke. And one of the most influential foods when it comes to unstable blood sugar is carbohydrates.

There are two types of carbohydrates: simple carbohydrates and complex carbohydrates. “When you hear simple carbs, think of foods that have been processed to such an extent that they no longer contain fiber or protein,” explains Sydney GreenMS, RD, Registered Dietitian on our medical expert board. “When eaten on their own,” she continues, “[simple carbs] will cause a higher blood sugar spike than more complex carbohydrates because they are quickly digested.”

The The CDC recommends that people with diabetes (or prediabetes) should spend only half of their daily calories on carbohydrates, as well as eat the same amount of carbohydrates at each meal to maintain blood sugar consistency.

Most of the time, you don’t have to completely cut out the carbs you love to keep your blood sugar from going into chaos. Instead, adding other components to a carbohydrate food, such as healthy fats or protein— can help balance a meal. There are also some easy food swaps for refined and processed carbs that will offer more whole grains and fiber to help control your blood sugar.

According to dietitians, these are the seven worst carbs that can spike your blood sugar. Read on, and for more on how to eat healthy, don’t miss 5 best eating habits for your blood sugar, say dietitians.


White bread is a common household staple. Many people use it to start the day by tossing a few slices in the toaster or to pass lunch time by building a sandwich. However, due to its high glycemic index (GI) – a measure of how quickly a food raises your blood sugar – once this carb is digested, it can raise blood sugar very quickly. With a GI score of 71 (out of 100)a slice of white bread alone provides a significant amount of glucose (or sugar) to the body’s bloodstream.

No need to throw bread in your pantry just yet. In fact, just adding healthy fats and fiber, like those found in avocados for example, “will slow down the rate at which blood sugar levels rise,” Greene says.

Chocolate chip muffin

Blueberry, chocolate chips, cinnamon and many more. Muffins are sugar-filled pastries that can cause problems if you have high blood sugar. The sweet treat is high in simple carbohydrates, which means there will be rapid digestion and high sugar absorption, says Greene. “To help regulate the absorption of [the] carbs,” Greene suggests topping your muffin with nut butter to get the most out of it.

A good example is peanut butter, which not only has a low glycemic index, but also spread contains healthy oils, protein and fiber which can support controlled blood sugar levels.

white brown rice bowl

Not all forms of rice are bad, but eating too much white rice may be more harmful for some people with high blood sugar. The process of milling white rice removes many beneficial nutrients that the grain starts with, such as fiber. To research showed that people who consume large amounts of white rice are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes because the grain has a GI of 66 or more.

Therefore, if rice is a recurring food in your diet, Greene suggests pairing the carb with a protein, such as salmon or eggs. You can also try switching to brown rice or whole grains (quinoa) to fill in the nutritional gaps, as these are more complete complex carbohydrates.

RELATED: 5 Best Types of Rice for Belly Fat Loss – Ranked!


You can usually find these crunchy bites on the snack table at a party, but you might want to think about how your blood sugar levels might fluctuate before diving into them. On their own, pretzels are considered refined, processed carbohydrates that lack fiber. Eating the salty snack alone will lead to unwanted amounts of glucose, and so, “those with high blood sugar [may] have more difficulty controlling their blood sugar,” explains Molly Hembree, MS, RD, LDanother registered dietitian on our Medical Expert Council.

However, combining pretzels with a dip can increase the nutritional value in one bite. Made from chickpeas, hummus is a fantastic plant-based protein that contains healthy fats and tons of fiber to help support stable digestion and manage blood sugar. A study in the Nutrition review found that, compared to white bread, hummus raised blood sugar levels four times less and did not drastically alter the body’s insulin levels.

plain pasta

Plain pasta is another white food made from refined flour that can cause a rapid spike in blood sugar in the body. Like many others on the list, pasta is high in carbs and low in digestion-slowing nutrients, such as protein and fat.

“Refined starches [that] contain little or no fiber can cause blood sugar spikes,” says Hembree. You can get more bang for your buck by adding vegetables or beans to have equal levels of fiber alongside your carbs, she recommends.


Although it may seem simple enough, one of the worst things you can do for your blood sugar is to eat mostly sugary foods. Breakfast cereals, even those labeled “healthy,” contain low amounts of protein, a macronutrient that can not only keep you satisfied but also help stabilize blood sugar.

For a better balance of carbs and protein in your breakfast, replace your sugary cereal with a bowl of oatmeal topped with fruit. This combination of whole grains and berries offers fiber, protein and a more reasonable amount of carbohydrates which digest slower and more safely in terms of blood sugar. Plus, with the addition of berries, you won’t have to give up a sweet and tasty meal.


Technically, french fries come from a vegetable — potatoes — but they’re high-carb foods that can cause blood sugar mayhem. French fries can have a high glycemic index, with a GI up to 82, forcing your body to absorb food far too quickly and see blood sugar levels soar, Hembree says. According Harvard Health, a cup of potatoes has the same effects on blood sugar as consuming a can of soda. Plus, once they’re boiled, fried, and coated in salt, the damage can extend from your blood sugar to your waistline and even your blood pressure.

RELATED: 8 Best Carbs You Should Eat Every Day, Dietitians Say

Many people swap this must-have side for sweet potato fries because they’re packed with vitamin C, potassium and a good amount of fiber. Additionally, sweet potatoes have a lower glycemic index of 64, making them a “mid level carbsin terms of glycemic control. That being said, sweet potato fries are still fried like regular fries, so if you’re concerned about your blood sugar, consider a baked sweet potato instead.

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