From salsa to hummus to tapenade, dips and spreads are a convenient and often overlooked way to pack more nutrition into your day. The best options are made with simple lists of high-quality, flavorful ingredients that provide blood sugar-stabilizing nutrients such as healthy fats, fiber, and protein, as well as disease-fighting micronutrients.
But not all bean dips, salsa, and guacamole are A-list choices. First, most options that contain oil (like hummus or pesto) are made with vegetable and refined seed oils. These oils can be high in linoleic acid, an omega-6 fatty acid that may contribute to inflammation and insulin resistance when consumed in excess.
Second, even the healthiest dip can be dragged down when paired with carb-heavy, highly processed chips or crackers, which can cause blood glucose spikes. Consider opting for a lower-carb vehicle (like flaxseed crackers) or veggies to get the most out of these dips and spreads.
Here are a few simple parameters to keep in mind when shopping for dips and spreads.
- Look for a short ingredient list with no added sugars.
- Choose dips made with nutritious whole foods unlikely to spike blood sugar, like nuts, avocados, and beans.
- Steer clear of ingredients lists containing vegetable and refined seed oils, such as soybean oil and canola oil. Go for dips made with healthy alternatives, such as olive oil and avocado oil.
- Avoid unnecessary additives such as dyes, gums, and fillers.
The Best Dips and Spreads for Metabolic Health
This refrigerated salsa from Target’s house brand has a short ingredients list—only nine items—and just enough heat. Plus, it’s hard to beat the price. Pair the salsa-fresca-like dip with grain-free tortilla chips for a cantina-style snack.
Per serving (2 tablespoons): 5 calories, 0 g fat (0 g sat), 2 g carbs, <1 g fiber, 0 g sugars, 0 g protein, 125 mg sodium
Price: $4.89 for a 16-ounce tub
Fiber-filled black beans and whole corn make this organic salsa heartier than most. While the corn contains some sugar, black beans have been shown to help decrease blood sugar rise when paired with simple carbs.
Per serving (2 tablespoons): 15 calories, 0 g fat (0 g sat), 3 g carbs, 1 g fiber, 1 g sugars, 1 g protein, 150 mg sodium
Price: $5.79* for a 14.7-ounce jar
While your average queso is high in saturated fat, this plant-based version—which gets its cheesy taste from nutritional yeast—is packed with heart-healthy monounsaturated fats from olive oil. Research has shown that monounsaturated fats are less likely to contribute to inflammation, insulin resistance, and weight gain than the long-chain saturated fatty acids prevalent in dairy products.
Per serving (2 tablespoons): 100 calories, 10 g fat (1.5 g sat), 3 g carbs, 1 g fiber, 0 g sugars, 3 g protein, 190 mg sodium
Price: $7.99 for an 8.8-ounce jar
Switch up your usual hummus rotation with this refreshingly citrusy fava bean dip. The buttery texture of this underappreciated legume makes for a perfectly creamy purée. This one is brightened up with lemon juice and peel.
Per serving (2 tablespoons): 38 calories, 1.5 g fat (0 g sat), 5 g carbs, 2 g fiber, 0 g sugars, 2 g protein, 100 mg sodium
Price: $5.49 for an 8-ounce tub
Sick of avocados going from almost ripe to overripe overnight? Stop throwing money in the trash with these single-serving cups. Made with just four ingredients—avocados, lemon juice, sea salt, and black pepper—they pack an impressive combo of fat (eight grams) and fiber (four grams) to help keep you satisfied and your blood sugar stable on the go.
Per serving (1 mini cup): 90 calories, 8 g fat (1 g sat), 5 g carbs, 4 g fiber, 0 g sugars, 1 g protein, 220 mg sodium
Price: $4.99 for 4 2-ounce mini cups
Parsley, cilantro, peppers, and spices give this dip its zesty flavor, and the first ingredient is extra-virgin olive oil. Along with healthy fats, olive oil is high in oleuropein, a type of antioxidant—or substance that may help prevent or delay some types of cell damage—that scientists think may help regulate blood sugar.
Per serving (2 tablespoons): 70 calories, 7 g fat (1 g sat), 1 g carbs, 0 g fiber, 0 g sugars, 0 g protein, 150 mg sodium
Price: $6.99 for a 6.5-ounce tub
This tzatziki-inspired dip skips the dairy—which research shows tends to spike insulin production—in favor of nutrient-rich nuts and cauliflower. It also contains a touch of tangy apple cider vinegar (ACV), which studies have shown may reduce fasting and average blood sugar. How ACV does this isn’t totally understood, but two of the best theories are that it may slow down stomach emptying (and digestion) and help your cells more efficiently take up glucose from the bloodstream.
Per serving (2 tablespoons): 30 calories, 2 g fat (0 g sat), 2 g carbs, 1 g fiber, 1 g sugars, 1 g protein, 180 mg sodium
Price: $7.99 for an 8-ounce tub
While many pestos are made with sunflower oil and cheese, this dairy-free, leafy greens-packed version is made with organic extra-virgin olive oil, pepitas, and sunflower seeds. The added kale is an excellent source of vitamin K, higher levels of which are linked to improved insulin sensitivity and blood sugar regulation. Try this on low-carb crackers or tossed with zucchini noodles or hearts of palm pasta.
Per serving (¼ cup): 145 calories, 15 g fat (2.5 g sat), 3 g carbs, 1 g fiber, 1 g sugars, 3 g protein, 134 mg sodium
Price: $9.99 for a 15.6-ounce jar
Smoky eggplant meets nutty and nutritionally potent tahini (sesame paste) in this simple baba ganoush, which may provide a little more sustenance than other varieties thanks to the addition of chickpeas. It would be fantastic on a coconut flour wrap.
Per serving (2 tablespoons): 31 calories, 1.5 g fat (0 g sat), 3 g carbs, 1 g fiber, 0 g sugars, 1 g protein, 73 mg sodium
Price: $3.99 for an 8-ounce tub
This meat-free take on pâté is made from a savory blend of almonds, olives, and seasonings. Dates add a touch of sweetness (and only one gram of sugar per serving). Enjoy it spread on grain-free crackers with olives and cornichons on the side for a nutritious charcuterie board.
Per serving (2 tablespoons): 110 calories, 10 g fat (1 g sat), 3 g carbs, 1 g fiber, 1 g sugars, 2 g protein, 320 mg sodium
Price: $5.99 for a 3-ounce jar
This olive spread wins points for its concise ingredients list: Kalamata olives, salt, red wine vinegar, garlic, oregano, and extra-virgin olive oil. While many similar spreads incorporate refined seed or vegetable oil (like canola or safflower oil) alongside olive oil, this one relies purely on the good stuff.
Per serving (2 tablespoons): 75 calories, 8 g fat (0.5 g sat), 1 g carbs, 1 g fiber, 0 g sugars, 0 g protein, 300 mg sodium
Price: $7.99 for a 7.6-ounce tub
*The prices in this article reflect those the retailer listed at the publication time. Prices and local store availability may vary.
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