Wellness: The Glycemic Index
What is the Glycemic Index?
The Glycemic Index (GI) is a relative ranking of carbohydrate in foods according to how they affect blood glucose levels. Foods with a low GI (GI ≤ 55) release glucose into the bloodstream at a slow sustainable rate. And, the scientific evidence supporting the health benefits of a healthy low GI diet is overwhelming.
Lowering the GI of your diet will help prevent and manage overweight and obesity, which are the major underlying causes of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and some cancers. For people who have diabetes, low GI diets have been proven to improve blood glucose management and to reduce the risk of complications.
Carbohydrates and their Importance
Carbohydrates are one of the most important sources of energy for our bodies and are mainly found in plants (fruits, vegetables, grains & legumes) or in foods made from plant sources.
Carbohydrates take two forms namely starches (such as potatoes, cereals, bread, and pasta) and sugars such as table sugar (sucrose), milk sugar (lactose), and fruit sugar (fructose). All carbohydrates are eventually broken down by the body into glucose, which is:
– A universal fuel for most organs and tissues in our bodies
– The only fuel source for our brain, red blood cells and a growing fetus, and
– The main source of energy for our muscles during strenuous exercise
Why You Need To Worry About Your Blood Glucose/Sugar Levels
When digested, the starches and sugars in carbohydrates are broken down into millions of glucose molecules which are released into the bloodstream. Therefore, when blood glucose levels rise, your body releases a hormone called insulin. This allows glucose to enter cells where it can be used to provide fuel for our brains, muscles and other vital organs.
Insulin also plays a key role in fat storage. When insulin levels rise, our cells are forced to burn glucose rather than fat. Unfortunately most of the carbohydrates we eat tend to be highly processed and high GI.
Likewise, they break down quickly during digestion and cause blood glucose to rise fast and high for a short time. So, it’s like a roller-coaster ride on your insides – you spike then crash.
Low GI carbohydrates – those that are slowly digested and absorbed – cause a much lower and slower rise in blood glucose and, therefore, insulin levels.
This will help sustain energy levels longer, improving mental and physical performance and helping weight loss and the risk of developing lifestyle related diseases.
What Are The Benefits of Focusing on a Low Glycemic Index Diet?
A healthy low GI diet will help you to lose body fat by:
Overcoming hunger: Because low GI foods take longer to digest, they make you feel satisfied for longer and trigger natural appetite suppressors.
Fat burning: Reducing insulin levels over the course of the day. This makes fat easier to burn and less likely to be stored.
Maintaining your metabolic rate: a low GI diet does not result in the same steep fall in metabolic rate. This is the body’s natural response to the large drop in food intake required by most quick-fix diets. You need to keep your engine revs high to lose weight and keep it off.
Below is a chart I have created listing low, middle, and high GI foods. I adjusted some of the GI values based on data I found across multiple sites. My chart reflects only my recommendations based on my extensive internet research.
There are other factors you can explore such as the Insulin Index. Such as the Glycemic Load of each food. However, it can get pretty dizzying studying all the different data. You cannot go wrong using the Glycemic Index. It is not a fad, it is scientific nutritional fact. Within a week you will find your energy stabilized, your mood improved, and your appetite under control if you eat according to the chart below.
If you follow the basic premises of the chart, you are on the way to a healthier you! Used in conjunction with a sensible workout plan, and good sleep habits, I am confident that within two months your body will thank you for focusing on the Glycemic Index!