The Worst Simple Carbs You Should Cut Out For Your Blood Sugar And Digestion: Granola Bars And More

woman eating a granola bar
woman eating a granola bar

In the realm of nutrition, understanding the impact of carbohydrates on our health is crucial, particularly when it comes to distinguishing between simple and complex carbs. Simple carbohydrates, often found in refined sugars and processed foods, can play a significant role in blood sugar fluctuations and digestive challenges. The body quickly breaks down these sugars, causing a rapid spike in blood sugar levels. This sudden surge can lead to a cascade of effects, including energy crashes and potential long-term health issues.

We spoke with dietitian Krutika Nanavati; Lisa Richards, nutritionist and founder of The Candida Diet; Emily Johnson, RD, nutritionist from Juicereport, and Destini Moody, RD, CSSD, LD, to learn about the two worst simple carbs for blood sugar and digestion. They revealed that granola bars and sugary cereals are the simple carbs to minimize.

Granola Bars

Granola bars, often perceived as a convenient and healthy snack option, can have negative effects on blood sugar and digestion due to their composition. Many commercial granola bars are laden with added sugars and refined carbohydrates, categorized as simple carbs. When consumed, these quickly elevate blood sugar levels, causing a rapid insulin response. This sudden spike and subsequent drop in blood sugar can contribute to feelings of fatigue and increased cravings for more sugary snacks. Additionally, some granola bars may lack sufficient fiber, which is essential for healthy digestion.

"Granola bars may seem like a healthy snack, but they are often loaded with added sugars, syrups, and oils," Nanavati says. "They also tend to be low in protein and fiber, which can help regulate blood sugar levels and keep you feeling full." According to her, the average granola bar will pack in about 11 grams of sugar and 120 calories. "Some granola bars also contain chocolate chips, candy pieces, or dried fruits, which can add even more sugar and calories," she warns.

"While [granola bars] may be convenient, they can prevent weight loss efforts, among other negative side effects," Richards says, adding that "processed foods are manufactured with refined carbohydrates that are highly inflammatory and wreak havoc on gut health."

Sugary Cereals

Sugary cereals, despite their popularity and convenience, can exert detrimental effects on blood sugar and digestion. Packed with refined sugars and low in essential nutrients, these cereals can cause rapid spikes in blood sugar levels upon consumption. The quick absorption of these simple sugars prompts an equally swift insulin response, leading to crashes in energy levels.

Moody dives into detail and says that "many cereals are very low in fiber. The reason fiber is important is because it helps slow digestion which keeps you feeling full. There usually isn’t enough fiber in either the cereal or the milk to make a significant enough impact on digestion speed. When your cereal digests too quickly, those refined carbs cause a sharp spike in blood sugar which is accompanied by a rebounding crash. When your blood sugar crashes, it usually results in intense feelings of hunger not long after you’ve finished your cereal."

She notes that "by this time, you’ll likely still be stuck at your desk, very far away from your lunch break which can typically result in poorer food choices or extra snacks that will hurt your weight loss efforts."

Johnson agrees and highlights that "these sugary cereals tend to have a lot of added sugars and refined carbs which spikes blood sugar and insulin levels resulting in a slower metabolism, and increases fat storage in the belly."