Psssst . . . There's sugar in there

You non-diabetics who check your postprandial blood sugars already know: There are hidden sources of sugar in so many foods.

By now, everybody should know that foods like breakfast cereals, breads, bagels, pretzels, and crackers cause blood sugar to skyrocket after you eat them. But sometimes you eat something you thought was safe only to find you're showing blood sugars of 120, 130, 150+ mg/dl.

Where can you find such "stealth" sources of sugars that can screw up your postprandial blood sugars, small LDL, inflammation, blood pressure, and cause you to grow visceral fat? Here's a few:

Balsamic vinaigrette
Many commercially-prepared balsamic vinaigrettes, especially the "light" varieties, have 3 or more grams carbohydrates per tablespoon. Generous use of a sugar-added vinaigrette can therefore provide 12+ grams carbs. (Some, like Emeril's and Wish Bone, also contain high-fructose corn syrup.)

I learned this lesson the hard way by taking my blood sugar after having a hamburger, turkey burger, or vegetarian burger (without bun): blood sugar would go way up. The effect is due to bread crumbs added to the meat or soy.

Tomato soup
If it were just tomatoes, it would still be somewhat high in sugars. But commercially-prepared tomato soup often contains added high-fructose corn syrup, sucrose, and wheat flour, bringing sugar totals to 12 to 20+ grams per half-cup. A typical 2-cup bowl of tomato soup can have upwards of 80 grams of sugar.

Sure, granola contains a lot of fiber. But most granolas come packed with sugars in various forms. One cup of Kellogg's Low-fat Granola with Raisins contains an incredible 72 grams (net) carbohydrates, of which 25 grams are sugar.

Given modern appetites and serving sizes, you can see that it is very easy to get carried away and, before you know it, get exposed to extraordinary amounts of sugar and carbohydrates eating foods you thought were healthy.

And don't be fooled by claims of "natural" sugar. Sugar is sugar--Just check your blood sugar and you'll see. So raw cane sugar, beet sugar, and brown sugar have the same impact as white table sugar. Honey, maple syrup, and agave? They're worse (due to fructose).

Comments (13) -

  • Benpercent

    3/1/2010 10:04:29 PM |

    Regarding the hamburgers: Was the blood sugar increase due to some sort of recipe used or did you purchase the ground beef not knowing bread was added to it? A strange place to find it I'd say! I'll probably switch to grinding my own now.

  • Steve Cooksey

    3/1/2010 10:32:17 PM |

    Doctor Davis... YOU ROCK!!

    I'm a T1.5... who lost 78lbs, I have normal blood sugar ...for non-diabetics.

    NO meds, NO insulin... Keep Spreading the word... to ALL.

    Love your blog ...


  • Anna

    3/2/2010 12:10:43 AM |

    I can pretty much count on higher BG readings when I eat at group meal gatherings away from home, unless I bring and eat only my own food.  I don't normally eat much processed convenience food, so I forget that boxed heat & serve breakfast sausage links can be full of sugar.  I also now know to steer clear of table grapes and fruit trays (I used to make sure to have fruit with the bacon or sausage and eggs for breakfast to deflect the comments from others, but now I don't bother with the fruit  because it's always too high-sugar.  

    At restaurants I ask for dressing on the side if I use dressing at all.  I dip my fork in the dressing before spearing a bite - that provides enough flavor without all the dressing.  Most of the time I avoid the dressings because they are made with soybean or canola oil anyway.  I ask for Olive Oil and Vinegar - not vinaigrette, which is often sweetened.  

    At home I always make salad dressing or simply toss with EVOO and a good vinegar, freshly ground SS & BP.  It's been years since I bought salad dressing.  Homemade is a breeze to make (even Ranch style) and economical, too.

    Frozen yogurt is far worse than full fat high quality ice cream.  Frozen yogurt almost always has more sugar and no fat or eggs to slow the absorption of the sugar.  Homemade ice cream is the best because you can control the sweetness level and use more cream and egg yolks (commercial is too sweet-tasting for me anymore, BG notwithstanding).  

    OJ - like a glass of pure sugar - absorbs into the blood stream nearly instantly.  I have a valencia orange tree in my garden but I don't dare drink the juice straight.  I put a tiny splash of freshly squeezed OJ or drop a squeezed orange wedge in a tall glass of Gerolsteiner sparkling mineral water (good source of magnesium).

    BBQ sauce & catsup - loaded with sugars - watch out for honey mustard sauce, too.

  • Anonymous

    3/2/2010 12:48:34 AM |

    Here is a link to a recent study that says vitamin D has no real link to heart health. Perhaps you can comment on this.


  • zach

    3/2/2010 1:23:16 AM |

    I looked at the back of my vinegar and it has 5 grams of carbs per tablespoon, 2 of which are sugars. But the only ingredients listed are red wine vinegar and grape musts.

  • David

    3/2/2010 4:24:59 AM |


    That article isn't talking about a new study per se, but rather a review of several select studies. In other words, it's not really providing any new information. It's a (biased) interpretation of a sampling of the existing data.

    I found this quote from the article to be pretty funny:

    "Now, if there are specific instances of vitamin D or calcium deficiency, then that's a separate issue that should be discussed with a personal physician."

    Uh, except it's hardly a separate issue since nearly everyone is deficient in vitamin D.


  • Anonymous

    3/2/2010 9:03:07 AM |

    grape musts? That should have given you a clue. Grapes are very high in sugar. It always comes down to the same thing: Always read the labels. Carefully. Never trust anything that is processed. Not even if you buy it in Health Food shops.

  • Peter

    3/2/2010 1:17:18 PM |

    You don't need to test your blood sugar.  You can figure whatever your favorite carbs are, those are the ones that are spiking your blood sugar the most.  

    Mostly this is because you ingest those in greater quantities since you like them, but partly because you choose those because the blood sugar rushes feel good.

  • David

    3/2/2010 4:50:50 PM |

    "You don't need to test your blood sugar. You can figure whatever your favorite carbs are, those are the ones that are spiking your blood sugar the most."

    No. This is not a reliable way to go about things, as it isn't always true. It's never good to simply trust your feelings. Being objective with a glucometer isn't difficult or expensive. There's nothing to lose.

  • caphuff

    3/2/2010 5:46:18 PM |

    re hamburgers, also watch out for worcestershire sauce! Just discovered (much to my dismay) that the brand I had been using contains molasses and high fructose corn syrup. Yech!

  • Nigel Kinbrum

    3/3/2010 10:23:18 AM |

    Michael said...
    "Here is a link to a recent study that says vitamin D has no real link to heart health. Perhaps you can comment on this.
    Calcium, vitamin D pills don't help heart: study"
    The RDA for Vitamin D is set for bone health. Therefore, an RDA dose of Vitamin D makes no difference to anything except bone health. It takes a dose about ten times the RDA to be effective elsewhere.

    If you give people one tenth the correct dose of a medication, would you be surprised that the medication is ineffective?


  • Kathy

    3/3/2010 11:13:22 AM |

    so easy to make homemade tomato soup, still a little high in carb's but nowhere near store boguht, handy if you absolutely must have a bowl of tomato soup.  Use tomato paste, water and some heavy cream and salt to taste.  you don't need the cream, but it tastes better.  One of the fastest "homemade' soups.  Keep in mind that tomatoes do have carbs, about 4 per 2 tbsp of paste.  You can add splenda to sweeten a little

  • renegadediabetic

    3/4/2010 2:26:14 PM |

    It's infuriating that sugar and starch show up in places you would least expect them.  You have to read labels very carefully.  I've been burned by failing to read labels.  Even better, eat real food prepared from scratch.