What Is The Glycemic Index And Why Is it Important?

Understanding the effects certain types of foods can have on your blood sugar levels is an important first step in helping you make better dietary choices. If you’ve done any reading at all on the subject of good carbs versus bad carbs then you probably know that this whole glycemic index thing is somehow tied in to it. But what exactly is the glycemic index and why is it important for me to know more about it?

The Glycemic Index is a method of determining and measuring the relationship that carbohydrates have on the glucose levels in our bloodstream. In other words, nutritionists use this index to determine how quickly the sugars from carbohydrates are released into our blood. As an example, we can compare a donut to a small cup of broccoli. Both food sources contain carbohydrates which will convert to energy (glucose) in our bloodstream as we digest them.

Case Study: The Donut Versus Broccoli:

However, the glucose from the donut will be released very fast creating a spike in our blood sugar levels, while the glucose from the broccoli will be released very slowly. This provides an even, more sustained level of sugar in our bloodstream when compared to the donut. Although this is an obvious and rather extreme example, it illustrates for you the tremendous differences in carbohydrates from different foods.

When our bodies experience a spike in blood sugar levels, we develop a surplus of glucose that makes the storage of fat cells much easier and more efficient. This can contribute to weight gain, negative insulin responses and even diabetes. By utilizing the glycemic index to help us select foods that release sugars slowly we can make healthier and better decisions in terms of the foods we eat.

Unfortunately, not all foods are so easy to identify as our previous example. This is where the glycemic index becomes an invaluable tool when seeking out healthy food choices because it will show you the good carbs from the bad carbs in an objective and measured index. If this seems complicated or too difficult to grasp at first, don’t be discouraged, because it only takes a month or so to know by memory the differences in most of the foods you eat every day.

High Glycemic Foods Are Linked To Health Problems And Obesity

People who consume the majority of their carbohydrates from high glycemic foods are statistically shown to have higher levels of body fat and obesity. These same studies also show a greater incidence of diabetes and heart disease as well, providing us with enough information to know that the link between high glycemic diets and significant health problems is very real. However, it should also be pointed out that when it comes to losing weight, the number of calories consumed will always take precedent over the type of calories eaten.

Recent studies have shown that low fat, high glycemic dieters lost the same amount of weight as low carb, low glycemic dieters with similar reductions in calories. This shows us that there are many ways to achieve weight loss in the short term, and that choosing low glycemic foods with no regard for calories probably won’t work if losing weight is your primary goal. However, combining low glycemic foods with a reduced calorie plan is not only very effective for weight loss, but it is healthier and much easier to sustain over the long term.

Here Are Some Examples of Foods That Fall Into The High Glycemic Category:

  • low GI foodsWhite potatoes
  • White bread
  • Processed foods
  • Baked goods
  • White rice
  • Bagels
  • White Pita Bread
  • Regular sodas
  • Fruit Juices with no pulp (apple juice and orange juice are exceptions)
  • Alcohol
  • Chips
  • Watermelon
  • Pretzels
  • Weetabix
  • Cornflakes

Here’s A List Of Popular Foods That Are Low Glycemic:

  • Beans and lentils
  • Whole wheat pasta
  • Split green peas
  • Brown or wild rice
  • Whole grain bread
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Yogurt (no sugar)
  • Tomatoes
  • Peanuts
  • Bran
  • Orange juice
  • Green, yellow and red veggies
  • fat free or skim milk
  • Grapefruits
  • Peaches
  • Apples and apple juice
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