What Foods Don’t Cause Spikes in Blood Sugar?

What Foods Don’t Cause Spikes in Blood Sugar?

Managing blood glucose level is key to diabetes management. When assessing how different foods affect blood glucose levels after a meal, the glycemic index is commonly used. It indicates how much a carbohydrate-containing food raises postprandial (ie, post-meal) blood glucose level.1,2 

Foods with high glycemic index value are easily digested and can cause temporary spikes in blood sugar levels, whereas foods with low glycemic index value are digested and absorbed more slowly, allowing the body to maintain a stable blood glucose level.3 Consuming a diet with low glycemic index value affect postprandial blood glucose levels less dramatically and has been shown to improve glucose control in diabetic individuals.4


What Are Examples of Foods that Don’t Cause Spikes Blood Sugar? 

  1. Non-Starchy Vegetables 

Non-starchy vegetables are vegetables low in starch and don’t cause spikes in blood sugar levels.5 For instance, broccolis and onions are considered non-starchy vegetables while potatoes and sweet potatoes are considered starchy vegetables. Non-starchy vegetables are known to be high in natural dietary fiber, a form of complex carbohydrates that are not digested or absorbed by the human small intestine.6–9 The consumption of dietary fiber has been shown to improve glucose and insulin responses, satiety, and gut hormone.8 They are also rich in vitamins and minerals, but low in calorie.10


Sources of Non-Starchy Vegetables:1,11,12

  • Broccoli
  • Brussel sprouts
  • Cucumber
  • Celery
  • Carrots
  • Artichoke
  • Bean sprouts
  • Mushroom
  • Onion


  1. Whole Grains 

Whole grains are considered complex carbohydrates, which take more time to be digested and have less immediate and dramatic effect on blood sugar levels.13 Unlike refined grains, whole grains contain all the natural components of grains (ie, bran, germ, endosperm) rich in fiber, starch, vitamins, minerals, and fatty acids.14 The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that whole grains should constitute at least half of total grain intake.15

Sources of Whole Grains:15

  • Whole-wheat bread, cereals, cornmeal
  • Brown rice, wild rice
  • Oats
  • Buckwheat
  • Quinoa
  • Barley (not pearled)


  1. Nuts

Nuts are excellent sources of healthy dietary fat that are low in sugar and are slowly digested. They contain varying degrees of mono- and polyunsaturated fats, which are considered to be healthy fats.10,11 Nuts provide a rich source energy and help the body absorb other nutrients and fat-soluble vitamins while not causing spikes in blood glucose levels.18 

Sources of Nuts:15,19,20

  • Walnuts
  • Almonds
  • Peanuts
  • Cashews
  • Hazelnuts
  • Pecans
  • Sunflower seeds


  1. Legumes

Legumes refer to a subgroup of vegetables containing varieties of beans, peas, and lentils.15 Legumes contain nutrients found in both vegetables and proteins and are known to be high in dietary fibers. As such, legumes can be a great source of nutrition that also does not cause any dramatic changes to blood sugar levels.6–9

Sources of Legumes:

  • Chickpeas
  • Kidney beans
  • Pinto beans
  • White beans
  • Black beans
  • Lentils


  1. Fruits 

Fruits also provide a rich source of natural dietary fiber and are high in vitamins and various nutrients.6–9 It should be noted that consuming fresh whole fruits may be most beneficial for stabilizing blood sugar levels instead of consuming fruit juice, with studies showing that fruit juices can have more dramatic effects on glucose levels.21

Sources of Fruits:

  • Apples
  • Bananas
  • Strawberries
  • Oranges
  • Pears
  • Peaches


1. Chiavaroli L, Lee D, Ahmed A, et al. Effect of Low Glycaemic Index or Load Dietary Patterns on Glycaemic Control and Cardiometabolic Risk Factors in Diabetes: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomised Controlled Trials. BMJ. 2021;374:n1651. doi:10.1136/bmj.n1651
2. Esfahani A, Wong JMW, Mirrahimi A, Srichaikul K, Jenkins DJA, Kendall CWC. The Glycemic Index: Physiological Significance. J Am Coll Nutr. 2009;28(sup4):439S-445S. doi:10.1080/07315724.2009.10718109
3. Dominiczak M, Logue J. Nutrients and Diets, Chapter 32. In: Baynes J, ed. Medical Biochemistry. Elsevier; 2022:471-487.
4. Zafar MI, Mills KE, Zheng J, et al. Low-Glycemic Index Diets as an Intervention for Diabetes: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Am J Clin Nutr. 2019;110(4):891-902. doi:10.1093/ajcn/nqz149
5. Li Y, Xiong B, Zhu M, et al. Associations of Starchy and Non-Starchy Vegetables with Risk of Metabolic Syndrome: Evidence from the Nhanes 1999–2018. Nutr Metab (Lond). 2023;20:36. doi:10.1186/s12986-023-00760-1
6. Lattimer JM, Haub MD. Effects of Dietary Fiber and Its Components on Metabolic Health. Nutrients. 2010;2(12):1266-1289. doi:10.3390/nu2121266
7. Kimura Y, Yoshida D, Hirakawa Y, et al. Dietary Fiber Intake and Risk of Type 2 Diabetes in a General Japanese Population: The Hisayama Study. J Diabetes Investig. 2021;12(4):527-536. doi:10.1111/jdi.13377
8. Mao T, Huang F, Zhu X, Wei D, Chen L. Effects of Dietary Fiber on Glycemic Control and Insulin Sensitivity in Patients With Type 2 Diabetes: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. J Funct Foods. 2021;82:104500. doi:10.1016/j.jff.2021.104500
9. Nutrition C for FS and A. Questions and Answers on Dietary Fiber. FDA. Published online December 15, 2021. Accessed March 1, 2023. https://www.fda.gov/food/food-labeling-nutrition/questions-and-answers-dietary-fiber
10. Non-starchy Vegetables | ADA. Accessed February 21, 2023. https://diabetes.org/healthy-living/recipes-nutrition/eating-well/non-starchy-vegetables
11. Gray A, Threlkeld RJ. Nutritional Recommendations for Individuals with Diabetes. In: Feingold KR, Anawalt B, Blackman MR, et al., eds. Endotext. MDText.com, Inc.; 2000. Accessed February 15, 2023. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279012/
12. Atkinson FS, Foster-Powell K, Brand-Miller JC. International Tables of Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load Values: 2008. Diabetes Care. 2008;31(12):2281-2283. doi:10.2337/dc08-1239
13. Holesh JE, Aslam S, Martin A. Physiology, Carbohydrates. In: StatPearls. StatPearls Publishing; 2023. Accessed June 7, 2023. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK459280/
14. Types of Carbohydrates | ADA. Accessed June 9, 2023. https://diabetes.org/healthy-living/recipes-nutrition/understanding-carbs/types-carbohydrates
15. U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025. 9th Edition. December 2020. Available at DietaryGuidelines.gov.
16. White B. Dietary Fatty Acids. Am Fam Physician. 2009;80(4):345-350.
17. Forouhi NG, Krauss RM, Taubes G, Willett W. Dietary Fat and Cardiometabolic Health: Evidence, Controversies, and Consensus for Guidance. Br Med J. 2018;361:k2139. doi:10.1136/bmj.k2139
18. Field CJ, Robinson L. Dietary Fats. Adv Nutr. 2019;10(4):722-724. doi:10.1093/advances/nmz052
19. Fats | ADA. Accessed March 16, 2023. https://diabetes.org/healthy-living/recipes-nutrition/eating-well/fats
20. Sacks FM, Lichtenstein AH, Wu JHY, et al. Dietary Fats and Cardiovascular Disease: A Presidential Advisory From the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2017;136(3):e1-e23. doi:10.1161/CIR.0000000000000510
21. Murillo S, Mallol A, Adot A, et al. Culinary Strategies to Manage Glycemic Response in People with Type 2 Diabetes: A Narrative Review. Front Nutr. 2022;9:1025993. doi:10.3389/fnut.2022.1025993



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