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What Happens if You Have Red Wine or Avocados with a Meal?

Whole plant sources of sugar and fat can ameliorate some of the postprandial (after meal) inflammation caused by the consumption of refined carbohydrates and meat.

Studies have shown how adding even steamed skinless chicken breast can exacerbate the insulin spike from white rice, but fish may be worse. At 0:18 in my video The Effects of Avocados and Red Wine on Meal-Induced Inflammation, you can see how the insulin scores of a low-carbohydrate plant food, peanuts, is lower compared to common low-carb animal foods—eggs, cheese, and beef. Fish was even worse, with an insulin score closer to doughnut territory.

At 0:36 in my video, you can see the insulin spike when people are fed mashed white potatoes. What do you think happens when they’re also given tuna fish? Twice the insulin spike. The same is seen with white flour spaghetti versus white flour spaghetti with meat. The addition of animal protein may make the pancreas work twice as hard.

You can do it with straight sugar water, too. If you perform a glucose challenge to test for diabetes, drinking a certain amount of sugar, at 1:10 in my video, you can see the kind of spike in insulin you get. But, if you take in the exact same amount of sugar but with some meat added, you get a higher spike. And, as you can see at 1:25 in my video, the more meat you add, the worse it gets. Just adding a little meat to carbs doesn’t seem to do much, but once you get up to around a third of a chicken’s breast worth, you can elicit a significantly increased surge of insulin.

So, a chicken sandwich may aggravate the metabolic harm of the refined carb white bread it’s on, but what about a PB&J? At 1:49 in my video, you can see that adding nuts to Wonder Bread actually calms the insulin and blood sugar response. What if, instead of nuts, you smeared on an all fruit strawberry jam? Berries, which have even more antioxidants than nuts, can squelch the oxidation of cholesterol in response to a typical American breakfast and even reduce the amount of fat in your blood after the meal. And, with less oxidation, there is less inflammation when berries are added to a meal.

So, a whole plant food source of sugar can decrease inflammation in response to an “inflammatory stressor” meal, but what about a whole plant food source of fat? As you can see at 2:38 in my video, within hours of eating a burger topped with half an avocado, the level of an inflammatory biomarker goes up in your blood, but not as high as eating the burger without the avocado. This may be because all whole plant foods contain antioxidants, which decrease inflammation, and also contain fiber, which is one reason even high fat whole plant foods like nuts can lower cholesterol. And, the same could be said for avocados. At 3:12 in my video, you can see avocado causing a significant drop in cholesterol levels, especially in those with high cholesterol, with even a drop in triglycerides.

If eating berries with a meal decreases inflammation, what about drinking berries? Sipping wine with your white bread significantly blunts the blood sugar spike from the bread, but the alcohol increases the fat in the blood by about the same amount. As you can see at 3:40 in my video, you’ll get a triglycerides bump when you eat some cheese and crackers, but if you sip some wine with the same snack, triglycerides shoot through the roof. How do we know it was the alcohol? Because if you use dealcoholized red wine, the same wine but with the alcohol removed, you don’t get the same reaction. This has been shown in about a half dozen other studies, along with an increase in inflammatory markers. So, the dealcoholized red wine helps in some ways but not others.

A similar paradoxical effect was found with exercise. If people cycle at high intensity for about an hour a half-day before drinking a milkshake, the triglycerides response is less than without the prior exercise, yet the inflammatory response to the meal appeared worse, as you can see at 4:18 in my video. The bottom line is not to avoid exercise but to avoid milkshakes.

The healthiest approach is a whole food, plant-based diet, but there are “promising pharmacologic approaches to the normalization” of high blood sugars and fat by taking medications. “However, resorting to drug therapy for an epidemic caused by a maladaptive diet is less rational than simply realigning our eating habits with our physiological needs.”

Protein from meat can cause more of an insulin spike than pure table sugar. See the comparisons in my video Paleo Diets May Negate Benefits of Exercise.

Interested in more information on the almond butter study I mentioned? I discuss it further in How to Prevent Blood Sugar and Triglyceride Spikes After Meals.

Berries have their own sugar, so how can eating berries lower the blood sugar spike after a meal? Find out in If Fructose Is Bad, What About Fruit?

For more on avocados, check out:

And here are more videos on red wine:

In health,

Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my free videos here and watch my live presentations:


Michael Greger M.D., FACLM

Michael Greger, M.D. FACLM, is a physician, New York Times bestselling author, and internationally recognized professional speaker on a number of important public health issues. Dr. Greger has lectured at the Conference on World Affairs, the National Institutes of Health, and the International Bird Flu Summit, testified before Congress, appeared on The Dr. Oz Show and The Colbert Report, and was invited as an expert witness in defense of Oprah Winfrey at the infamous "meat defamation" trial.

19 responses to “What Happens if You Have Red Wine or Avocados with a Meal?

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  1. I got a lot out of this one.

    Yes, I still am not eating meat, but I forgot things like that an all-fruit jam could help.

    I think I put things like jam in the bad sugar category. I forgot the antioxidant part.

    I still am slightly confused, but not nearly as much.

    Mostly, I guess I have the FFA topic also trying to run through my mind at the same time and I pause at the vegetable fats and say, you are better for insulin, but if people are fat from eating the fats, does that still cause the whole FFA thing? Or something?

    1. And, if people have a sweet tooth and eat lots of things like jam, does that eventually become an FFA issue? I know that natural fruits weren’t, but that high levels of fructose were bad.

      Thank you for being patient with your audience.

      Some of us may be more confused than other people.

  2. I didn’t get that the takeaway message was to run out and buy jam at all. (not recommended for a sugar addict trying to lose weight anyway..)

    Berries, on the other hand, constitute a whole food antioxidant wonder-worker. Dr Greger includes them in his Daily Dozen.

      1. Fumbles, I can imagine you have access to many lovely friit and veg that grow in a tropical climate though. Do you have amla there?

        I have made jam for decades and I love it, but I refuse to even own a toaster because I am one of those that could live on tea and toast.

        1. Hi Barb

          No, no amla here. In fact, there are no berries of any kind that I’ve seen. Goji berries are available online though. On the plus side, there is plenty of fruit including grapes available.

          That said, any good supermarket in the UK/US/Aus will probably offer a wider range of fruits, berries, nuts and beans at a reasonable price..

  3. i thought the whole keto meat thing was meant to avoid insulin spikes. Sp meat causes insulin spikes??? Doesn’t this destroy the whole theory of Keto? HELP (I’m a WFPG guy but friends are Keto)

    1. The combination of fat and carb causes high spikes, if they eat no carbs at all no spikes. But they are getting more insulin resistant and setting themselves up for chronic diseases. Maybe you can get them to look at the evidence on this website.

    2. As I read this blog I was wondering the actual differences to health there are between a spike in blood sugar vs a spike in insulin response. They both seem bad. I wonder if Dr Gregor is saying that there are some foods low on the glycemic index that do not cause blood sugar spikes but do cause insulin spikes?

      1. Hi, David Pollock! Blood sugar spikes usually cause insulin spikes, and that effect is made worse by eating certain foods, especially animal-derived proteins and fats, with simple carbohydrate-rich foods. That is because animal-derived foods interfere with the ability of insulin to do its job in a dose-response manner. That means that the more animal fat and protein people consume, the more insulin resistant they are likely to become. It’s not really that some low-glycemic foods do not cause blood sugar spikes but do cause insulin spikes. It’s that animal-based foods tend to make insulin spikes caused by high glycemic foods worse. I hope that helps!

  4. Thank you for all the amazing, intellectually stimulating, and downright educational blogs and videos. My Doctor recommended following you and she was 100% spot on. You are truly a dedicated medical professional with a uniquely appealing delivery!
    Thank you again Dr. Gregor,
    In whole food health,
    Melina Balboni

  5. Hello, I’m a primary care doctor and recently gave birth to my second child. I love your blog and videos and recommend it frequently to patients. One question I have that is relevant to me personally is: what is the best approach to a plant based diet for a woman who is pregnant or breastfeeding? I am probably 95% vegan in regular life, but when pregnant my body craved meat (less so dairy) so I ate what I craved. Now that I’m nursing my cravings are different but I’m curious what the research (if any) shows regarding what is the healthiest approach to diet for a nursing mother. For example how much b12 does a nursing mother need and can you sustain breastfeeding on a vegan diet? Is that even healthy? I’m looking for a more scientific approach to nutrition for the pregnant or nursing mother.

    1. Susan,
      I believe that all of your questions have been answered at one time or another on this website by Dr Gregor. Just enter your searches on the search bar.

    2. As a nurse volunteering on this site, I applaud you for the great start you are giving your baby with breastfeeding while eating whole food plant based foods. Yes, definitely that is healthy. These articles will give you the science and practical tips you need to feel confident taking a proactive health from the start.
      Best of health to you and your children.

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