What? Foods That Act Like Sugar?

I write a lot about sugar and foods that act like sugar in this blog.

Lately, I’ve been getting  questions about what I mean by “foods that act like sugar,” so here is the explanation and it all start with an understanding of the glycemic index.

Foods that act like sugar

The Glycemic Index

By now, most people have heard of the glycemic index, but I’ll take a moment to explain it.

The way the glycemic index works is that a scientist will measure the blood sugar of a volunteer and then feed that volunteer a single food. After two or three hours, the volunteer’s blood sugar is measured again. What scientists have discovered through this kind of testing is that certain foods increase blood sugar a little, others increase blood sugar moderately, and still other foods increase blood sugar dramatically.

While there are complicated glycemic index charts that show hundreds of foods, here is a typical one:

What you want to notice about this list is that sugars (left-hand column) are mostly in the high top part of the chart. Sucrose (table sugar) and glucose are always found near the top, but, here is the kicker: so are white rice, pancakes, bread, corn flakes, crackers, parsnips, potatoes and many other foods. These are the Foods That Act Like Sugar in your body.

Here is a partial list of foods that act like sugar


  • Brown rice
  • Glutinous rice
  • Instant rice
  • Jasmine rice
  • Long grain rice
  • Parboiled rice
  • Sweet corn
  • White rice
  • Wild rice


  • Breads (all breads)
  • Bagel
  • Baguette, white
  • Blueberry muffin
  • Bran muffin
  • Corn tortilla
  • English Muffin
  • Kaiser bread rolls
  • Rice Pasta
  • White bread
  • Whole Grain bread
  • Wonder Bread™

Breakfast Cereals (almost all)

  • Cheerios™
  • Coco Pops™
  • Corn Chex™
  • Corn Pops™
  • Cornflakes™
  • Crispix™
  • Grapenuts Flakes™
  • Grapenuts™
  • Instant Cream of Wheat
  • Life ™
  • Quick Oatmeal
  • Raisin Bran™
  • Rice Chex™
  • Rice Krispies™
  • Shredded Wheat™
  • Special K™
  • Special K™
  • Total™

Crackers and Chips (almost all)

  • Corn chips
  • Popcorn
  • Potato chips
  • Pretzels
  • Puffed rice cakes
  • Rice cracker
  • Soda Crackers
  • Water crackers

Other Breakfast Foods

  • Croissant
  • Cupcake
  • Doughnut
  • Muffins
  • Oatmeal muffin
  • Pancakes
  • Pop Tarts™
  • Waffles


  • Almost all cakes
  • Angel food cake


  • Carrots, boiled
  • French fries
  • Parsnips
  • Potato: Baked, Instant, Mashed
  • Pumpkin
  • Sweet potato
  • Tapioca


  • Banana
  • Dates, dried
  • Raisins
  • Watermelon

Fruit Products

  • Fruit Roll-Ups®
  • Fruit Juices
  • Jams and Jellies
  • Processed fruit bars, fruit wraps…


  • Most sugary snacks
  • Candy Bars
  • Glucose
  • Honey
  • Jelly beans
  • Sucrose
  • Syrup


  • All fruit juices
  • All sodas
  • Most sport drinks


  • Yoghurt, low fat
  • Ice cream


  • Broad beans
  • Kidney beans


  • Macaroni and Cheese
  • Pizza, cheese
  • Popcorn
  • Soup, green pea
  • Soup, split pea


A Sugar is a Sugar

The take home message from the studies done on glycemic index is that a sugar is a sugar, no matter what the source. To your body, it doesn’t matter if you pick up a tablespoon of sugar and put it in your mouth, or if you pick up a baguette and start munching on it: the results are the same. Up up up goes your blood sugar every time you eat these foods.

If you want to maintain good blood sugar control, I always recommend eating low or below the glycemic index.


    1. David,

      It is difficult to put all the information you need into a reply. But, in general, you need to exercise, avoid all sugar and the foods that act like sugar, eat more low-sugar vegetables, don’t be afraid of protein and good fats. Consider taking a supplement that supports good blood sugar.

      Dr. Scott

  1. I just looked up two search parameters: “health benefits of parsnips” and “parsnips high in carbs convert to sugar”

    I got far more articles on the health benefits of parsnips than those stating how parsnips are bad in the way you describe. You probably say all the carbs convert directly to sugar. Thats your belief in the matter, correct? Just as bad as white potatoes, huh? Whats the GI of white potatoes vs that of sweet potatoes?

    What I seem to have discovered is that parsnips have a higher glycemic index than carrots. Thats odd to me because I would say that carrots tend to taste sweeter. I’m not diabetic but I guess people who are would need to limit their intake of parsnips. However I am guessing that most people who eat them do so in moderation instead of making a meal of them and eating a whole bags worth to themselves in one sitting. I guess by the same token maybe you think carrots and beets are bad as well? Must not matter if they contain beta carotene, potassium, trace minerals and betaine, huh?

    Also factor in if the parsnips or carrots are eaten as part of a meal then the carbs will probably absorb more slowly than if they were eaten plain by themselves. And different body types with unique chemistry are also probably all going to respond a little differently. There are several variables that could be taken into account, like whether the parsnips are cooked(if so to what degree and by which method), eaten raw, juiced, time of day consumed, a persons activity level, a persons overall diet and consumption of other carbs. Many factors. Remember the phrase “all things in moderation”…

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