How different foods affect blood sugar levels – compared to teaspoons of sugar


Different foods, different results

For people with diabetes, it’s not the carb count of a food that matters most, but how much it affects blood sugar levels. So how bad are different foods compared to, say, spoonfuls of sugar?

That’s something that Dr. David Unwin has focused on teaching his patients, with great results, according to this new paper.

Take a look at the picture above. A serving of potatoes has a similar effect as 8 teaspoons of sugar, and rice is even worse. Meanwhile eggs (a low-carb staple) was like 0 tea spoons.

So what happens to Dr. Unwin’s patients on a low-carb diet? His research shows that their body weight, waist circumference and blood glucose all fell while they reported high satisfaction with the diet and more energy.

It’s quite a mystery that the biggest diabetes associations and governments around the world keep recommending starchy and sugary foods as a suitable diet for diabetes and obesity patients.

The article

Journal of Insulin Resistance: It Is the Glycaemic Response to, Not the Carbohydrate Content of Food That Matters in Diabetes and Obesity: The Glycaemic Index Revisited

More visual low-carb guides

Top diabetes videos

  1. My low-carb story with Marc Gossange
  2. My success story with Kenneth Russell
  3. Part 8 of Dr. Jason Fung's diabetes course
  4. A low-carb story with Dr. Sanjeev Balakrishnan

More (for members) >


  1. Marcu
    What if you add coconut oil to the rice while cooking and let it cool for a few hours? Does it really change rice into more of a resistant starch?
  2. tz
    Potato starch - uncooked is supposed to be resistant, but I'd be careful.
    The high glycemic index of rice explains much - I was wondering why I felt so bad after supposedly small cheats.

    The final thing is after regaining a bit of weight and some blood work with high Urea and a high-ish blood sugar after a 12 hour fast (in the morning) I had to cut back protein. It is supposed to be LCHF(moderate protein), but I was really doing LCHPMF - since I don't normally drink olive oil or chew butter, it has to be on or in something. So I pushed for fattier meats (steak and salami over chicken or turkey), more butter stir-fried or sauteed vegetables, nuts. The protein apparently carb-loaded my Liver in the morning - I wasn't hungry but I wasn't in ketosis either. I'm dropping weight again, and am less hungry.

    Protein has a theoretically low glycemic index, but check what your liver is doing hours later if you eat more than needed

  3. gbl
    I see here why Asians eating their traditional diet do not get fat. If rice is the only high-glycemic food you are eating -- otherwise vegetables, fatty meat, seafood, sea vegetables, minor fruit, plain tea with no sugar or milk-- then one can eat two or three bowls of rice a day, as Asians do.
    Reply: #5
  4. Steve
    If you look at the book 'The Obesity Code' by Dr Jason Fung then it's the insulin response that matters not the GI. Taking apple cider vinegar with each meal containing carbs helps to lower the insulin response i.e. vinegar on chips(French fries); the Italians dip their bread in oil and vinegar before eating.
    Reply: #7
  5. Tor H
    According to Robert Lustig in "Sugar, the bitter Truth" they didn't eat much fructose or fat.
    That's why their traditional high carb low fat diet worked for them.
    Reply: #8
  6. Cindy C
    I was reading about the study, and revival of Native American foods. He does not use wheat, dairy or sugar, but looks like he uses modest amount of wild rice. Seems more of a hunter-gatherer diet.

    This is the article that led me to it.

  7. Apicius
    Steve...the Italians do not dip bread in olive oil and vinegar...that's a BS custom created by restaurant industry. Real italian family style eating does not do this at all!!! I'm italian...never saw this anywhere but restaurants. Also please be careful when using balsamic vinegar...look at the nutrition information on the bottle, as many have a high amount of sugar in them. I saw one just yesterday with 6 grams sugar per tablespoon. So, that's a very easy way to turn your bread into cake!!!!
  8. Apicius
    Not sure I agree with the high carb low fat statement. I've been to China several times and joined many locals for dinner. I often had dinner where there was not even a single grain of rice on the table...while everything was authentic Chinese food (mushrooms, fish, chicken, pork, all sorts of vegetables, etc). And the only beverage was water and tea. And of dessert at the end. Seems pretty obvious to me why they were all skinny!!!
    Reply: #9
  9. Tor H
    Wasn'n traditional chinese food a bit rice-heavy?
    Today there's probably way more variation than in the old days, even in the countryside.

    China even imports lots of rice according to this:’s-largest-rice-import...

    Wonder what they do with all that rice? :)

    Reply: #12
  10. Nasar Khan
    Hi Everyone,
    I used low carb diet for almost 3 months (May to August), lost 8kg weight, HBA1c dropped from 6.2 to 5.7 in 3 months !! My belly fat has reduced But it seems I have lost muscle mass too!! I just wonder if I cut my carb little too much?

    I didn't eat high fat much as I thought it shall increase my cholesterol further (it was 5.2 in May already- I didn't check cholesterol in August) though I read high fat doesn't necessarily increase cholesterol !

  11. Aurora
    What is not directly referred to in the article and obliquely referred to in a comment is the impact on blood glucose levels which is an individual response.
    For example, 1gm of carb will raise person's blood sugar by x so that with each additional gm of carb there is a high likelihood the person will go over normal limits if they have impaired glucose metabolism.
    This then follows that any diet for someone would be low enough to elicit a mild blood sugar response.
  12. Apicius
    TorH, That was my surprise, too. I was baffled when I was in China and often ate supper with my Chinese colleagues without touching a grain of rice. Really baffling! When I probed further, they explained that rice is for the peasants...poor people's food. They described it as a stomach filler. I found it interesting how similar that cultural aspect aligns with what we see in North America. Rich people can afford steak, while the poor eat Mac-and-cheese (the kind from a box, and just add hot water). There is a common theme of carbs is for the poor, while fat and protein for the rich. The problem is then the malnutrition of people on high carb diets. Leads to under performing kids in school,and adults developing diseases like diabetes, which shortens their life span.
  13. Tor H
    And still the poor people were lean and healthy when they ate the traditional food.
    Today they get fat and sick.
  14. Artie
    fascinating, I shall try traditional chinese food (rice free)
  15. Almarie
    When my parents grew up, the poor people grew their own fruit and veg. They kept chickens for eggs and, well, chicken. And people still walked to where they wanted to be. They also had less conveniences, like washing machines and vacuums. Housekeeping were done manually instead of using machines to do it. You baked your own bread, no going to the shop to buy. South Africa only got TV when I was about three years old in 1977, so no lazing in front of the telly. You played outside or went to visit friends.
    That is where our generation has gone wrong. People find it too hard to chop a carrot.
    Reply: #17
  16. Cheri Hoffer
    Right on, Almarie!
  17. Naseemah
    Spot on Almarie
  18. AFC
    I'm interested in the GI you have for basmati rice in your chart above (69). In all other testing I have seen it significantly lower... 50-58 GI.
    Are you sure you don't mean jasmine rice which has a much higher glycemic index and glycemic load?
    Reply: #19
  19. Crystal Pullen Team Diet Doctor

    I'm interested in the GI you have for basmati rice in your chart above (69). In all other testing I have seen it significantly lower... 50-58 GI.
    Are you sure you don't mean jasmine rice which has a much higher glycemic index and glycemic load?

    There are many varieties of basmati rice which is why a range is typically presented. Jasmine rice will be higher than noted here for basmati.

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