If you are watching sugar for diabetes, good health, or weight, this will help you understand ‘sugar’ is not just ‘sugar’

Carbohydrates metabolize into sugar in your body. However, there are healthy ways to get the carbohydrates your body needs.

The Glycemic Index is a rating of carbohydrate foods from 0 to 100. Each food is rated according to how it affects the blood sugar level. The higher the rating of the food on the scale, the more difficult time your body has metabolizing it.

Let's take the example of a baked potato with a glycemic index of 90 (100 is the highest level in the index, it means it metabolizes to the highest level of sugar). The sugar from the carbohydrates in the baked potato is easily absorbed into the bloodstream and creates high blood sugar levels. If you're a Type 2 diabetic, then your pancreas will release a big burst of insulin (called the insulin response) in an attempt to deal with the high blood sugar. This then causes a rebound low blood sugar level that leaves you with low blood sugar symptoms such as cravings, headaches, irritability, fatigue and lack of concentration.

Now let's take the example of a cup of blueberries. Their glycemic index is 40. Low glycemic index foods are rated 0-55. Medium glycemic index foods are 56-69 and anything rated 70 and above will cause the same reaction as the baked potato mentioned above. When you eat the blueberries, your body can handle the amount of carbohydrates in them and you won't end up with all the symptoms that people experience when they eat high glycemic index foods. Instead, for the next three hours your energy is at a good level – not too crazy high and not low. You can think and make decisions rationally, and your body feels good.

The key to managing blood sugar levels starts with understanding the Glycemic Index of foods. With this in mind, it's important to know the major four mistakes people make with the Index.

Here's a list of mistakes and myths:

1. Carrots are high glycemic index. This is a myth. Originally the researchers testing foods for glycemic index thought carrots were high but after they were re-tested, it was discovered that they were truly a low glycemic index food. Carrots are full of beta-carotene, an excellent nutrient for good vision and for free radical quenching, some things that every diabetic needs.

2. Rice cakes are low calorie so they must be low on the Glycemic index. This is not true. Rice cakes and any puffed products are high on the Index and should be avoided because they will cause the insulin response mentioned previously.

3. Bread is okay if it's whole grain. This is not true. You must check the level of carbohydrates in the slice of bread. If one slice has 20 or more grams of carbohydrates and you're eating a sandwich, the food already exceeds the level your body can handle, which is about 30 to 35 grams total in a meal.

4. Whole wheat is a good food for diabetics. Not true. Whole wheat is generally genetically-modified wheat and it is rated 68 or higher on the Glycemic Index. This is too high and will cause the insulin response. Learn about the Glycemic Index of foods and you'll be amazed at how much control you really do have over your blood sugar levels

A list of the Glycemic Index for various foods can be found here:

You can now understand why, if you are having a low sugar (hypoglycemic) episode, like in the afternoons, or mornings, sugar or carbohydrates are NOT going to help (only temporarily). Your best bet is a protein like cheese, peanut butter, etc. In addition, you should always eat a small amount of protein within 30 minutes of waking in the morning, which helps your body produce glucagons, which in turn, helps control sugar throughout the day. As in any lifechange you are making, you must do this consistently for it to work consistently. Your body gets into a bad state due to years of improper diet and intake/processing of nutrients, minerals and enzymes, it can take weeks to months to correct that.

Author's Bio: 

Lisa C. Baker, CNC, RNHP, is a certified Nutritional Counselor, and also holds a certificate in Complementary and Integrative Health. She is a member of the American Nutritional Association, the International Association of Natural Health Practitioners, International Institute for Complementary Therapists, and is a Registered Natural Health Practitioner by the IANHP.

Mrs. Baker is a musician and recording artist, a mother of one, and resides in Muskogee, Oklahoma with her husband and their kitties.