Lately it seems, I’ve been hearing a lot about the glycemic index of certain foods and how it is a measurement that we need to be concerned with. While I pay close attention to any added sugars in my diet, I do love to eat fruit.
I figured I needed to research this area and determine what the glycemic index is all about. There is evidence that as a society we are eating way too much sugar. No wonder there is all this talk about measuring the sugar content of the foods we eat. Many foods have hidden sugars, so reading food labels is an absolute must. However learning how the glycemic index is determined was something I wanted to know.
It’s important to pay attention to the effect of food on your blood sugar, but the glycemic index has been called the imperfect tool to do so. Apparently there is much to be learned about the Glycemic Index’s limitations.
Glycemic refers to sugar, by the way, and the glycemic index of carbohydrate foods measures how a fixed amount of carbohydrate from assorted food sources affects blood sugar. Protein has less of an impact on blood sugar and fat has almost none, so carbs are the main foods that are measured.
The Glycemic Index, (GI) is a simple measure of how much and how quickly that amount of carbohydrate raises your blood sugar on a scale of 1-100. Foods that send your sugar levels soaring are definitely ones you should be aware of.
The GI, however, has two big limitations. The first one refers to a certain food when it is eaten by itself, like a piece of white bread. Often if you combine two different foods, like meat and bread, each has its own glycemic index, and this causes the overall rating of the foods to change. So while the piece of white bread by itself has a high glycemic index, when paired with a piece of meat, the GI drops considerably.
The second limitation for the glycemic index is the standard portion that applies rarely has much bearing on average portions consumed by individuals. In reality the portions that were used in the GI rating were much larger than normally eaten. Therefore the GI is going to be much higher.
Scientists however, have countered this problem with a much better measurement term. The glycemic load. This actually takes into account the portions eaten normally and gives a more realistic view of the amount of sugar. However, it still becomes tricky. There just doesn’t seem to be an easy formula to compute it accurately.
Eating a lot of high GI foods can be detrimental to your health because it pushes your body to extremes. This is especially true if you are overweight and sedentary. Switching to eating mainly low GI carbohydrates that slowly trickle glucose into your blood stream helps to keep your energy levels balanced which help you feel fuller for longer periods of time between meals.
Low GI diets help people lose and control weight
Low GI diets increase the body’s sensitivity to insulin
Low GI carbohydrates improve diabetes control
Low GI carbohydrates reduce the risk of heart disease
Low GI carbohydrates reduce blood cholesterol levels
Low GI carbohydrates reduce hunger and keep you fuller for longer
Low GI carbohydrates prolong physical endurance
An important note to remember after exercising is that High GI carbs help re-fuel carbohydrates stored in your body. That’s because sugar burns quicker than fat, so the body burns up the sugar first and then the fat. When you get finished with a strenuous workout, you might find that you sugar levels are lower than normal, or you might just feel really exhausted. Try a power bar or a banana with peanut butter. These foods will raise your blood sugar level to normal without adding too many calories or fat to your diet.
The best way to be sure that you aren’t overloading your glycemic load is to watch what you eat and select natural, wholesome foods rather than processed foods that come from packages. Just examine the food labels of your processed foods to see that there are a lot of additives that you simply won’t find in natural foods.
Making small substitutions in your choice of food can make a big difference when you are watching your glycemic levels and loads. Try these suggestions below:
• Use breakfast cereals based on oats, barley and bran
• Use breads with wholegrains, stone-ground flour, sour dough
• Reduce the amount of potatoes you eat
• Enjoy all other types of fruit and vegetables
• Use Basmati rice instead of white rice
• Enjoy pasta, noodles, quinoa—all whole grains
• Eat plenty of salad veggies with a vinaigrette dressing
Keeping close watch on your glycemic load or index may seem daunting at first. However, you will soon get a handle on how to determine what foods work best for you. That’s where a fitness journal can really come in handy. A fitness journal not only helps you measure your calories and fat, you can monitor the amount of sugar you eat each day, too.
By writing down everything you eat and drink and all of the activity that you do each day, you can better establish how these foods react in your body. It’s important to note any changes in your behavior, stress level or activity level following a high glycemic meal. You can use your fitness journal to show your physician how these changes have affected you. This is an excellent tool to help you monitor not only your weight loss, but your overall health.
So, whether your doctor has advised you to watch your Glycemic load or index, or you just want to consciously cut back on your sugar intake, you can easily do so by tracking what you eat, or going the scientific way and determining the true measurements of every piece of food that you consume. Remember the lower the number the better for your health.
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~ Karen Ficarelli
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