Healthy Eating Tip #5

Know your glycemic index. A food’s glycemic index is a measure of how easily that food will raise glucose (sugar) levels in the blood. We all need to keep our blood sugar at stable levels.

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Glucose is important because the body uses it for energy. However, the body needs to keep our glucose levels within a surprisingly narrow range.

When we consume sugary foods, we spike our blood sugar levels. The body must respond by releasing insulin. Consistently high levels of insulin will cause all kinds of physical problems including obesity and type 2 diabetes.

In This Post:

  • Understanding carbohydrates
  • Where there’s hidden sugar even in healthy, natural foods….

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Hidden Sugar

Foods with hidden sugar is another good reason to avoid processed foods, which are often loaded with sugar and sodium. However, we can also eat foods in their natural form and still have problems with blood sugar if we’re not aware of their glycemic index.

Understanding Carbohydrates

Here, we must begin to understand carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are a measure of how much sugar is in our food.

Carbohydrates come in two forms: simple and complex. Simple carbs are simple in their chemical makeup and, as such, the body can more easily break them down during digestion.

This results in quicker absorption. This is why they tend to spike blood sugar more easily. When we consume simple carbohydrates, it is quite easy for our blood sugar levels to rise.

Natural simple carbs include carbohydrate from fruit, honey, maple syrup, molasses and the like. Processed simple carbs come from: high-fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, cane sugar, brown sugar, agave nectar, etc.

Whether from natural or processed sources, too much sugar is harmful. We all know that candy and doughnuts are full of sugar. But many foods that may sound healthy are full of sugar as well.

“Healthy” Foods High in Sugar

Healthy sounding foods typically high in sugar include:

  • Flavored yogurt
  • Barbeque sauce (and most marinades)
  • Salad dressings
  • Dried fruit
  • Fruit juice
  • Most snack bars
  • Sandwich bread
  • Breakfast cereals
  • Bagels, muffins and pastries and
  • Flavored vitamin water.

Be Careful With Grains

Another form of sugar that many people may not be aware of is grain. All grains are high in complex carbohydrate. Although they take a little longer for the body to break them down, they also quickly raise blood sugar levels.

Enriched wheat flour is one of the highest glycemic foods on any glycemic index table. A good rule of thumb is to think of grains the same way we think of sugar, because they behave much the same way in the body.

Yes, white flour is more processed and turns to sugar more easily. But don’t think for a minute that because you’re eating whole-grain bread that it doesn’t quickly turn into glucose and spike blood sugar levels. It most certainly does.

Root Vegetables

Another source of sugar is root vegetables. Potatoes, beets, turnips and carrots are all very high in sugar.

This is especially true if they are used for juicing. Sure, they add some sweetness, but that sweetness comes at a cost to our blood sugar levels.

Sugar Substitutes are a Poor Choice

One final important point: Forget chemical sugar substitutes such as Splenda, NutraSweet, Saccharin and the like. They are made in a laboratory, not natural and very harmful. Even stevia should be avoided because its sweetness is too intense, which only serves to keep your craving for sugar up.

Limiting our sugar intake is one of the primary ways we can improve our eating to improve our health.

Getting Started

  • Try cutting back on grains and see how you feel. Most people feel much better.
  • Buy some plain, whole fat, yogurt and add your own fruit for sweetness.
  • Don’t go near sugar substitutes.

Yours in Health,


About the Author David Sandstrom

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