Understanding the Glycemic Index

Within the health food, disease prevention, and weight loss communities, there has been a lot of discussion about the Glycemic Index. You may have seen “low GI”  or “Low Glycemic” labeled on foods and wondered what it meant. This article outlines essential points of the Glycemic Index and why a low glycemic diet will improve your health. Information contained in this blog article came from Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load; an excellent article written by the Linus Pauling Institute, a micronutrient research center of Oregon State University.

Remember the low-carb diet craze? Did you try it? It did help many to lose weight quickly, but it won't necessarily improve their long-term health goals. Healthy carbohydrates are an essential component of a healthy diet, but not carbs are created equal. The Glycemic Index helps measures the quality of carbs contained in food.

One of the failures of the low-carb diet was it simplified carbs as either simple or complex, depending on the number of sugars in a molecule. Simple carbs were thought to be bad, and starchy or complex carbs were assumed to be good, because it would, “ lead to smaller increases in blood glucose than sugary foods (1).” The low carb movement helped change nutritional guidelines, but it’s overly simplistic because blood sugar (glycemic) levels will vary significantly between complex carbs. It became apparent that a more accurate system was needed for understanding what carbs would have a minimal effect on blood sugar. The glycemic index was developed to tell us how significantly different carbohydrates alter blood sugar levels.

How the Glycemic Index (GI) is measured
Determining if a food is low GI or high GI is done by comparing a carbohydrate to pure glucose or white bread. Blood samples are taken before and after eating a carb at regular intervals for several hours. A baked potato has a GI of 76 when measure against glucose, meaning “that the blood glucose response to the carbohydrate in a baked potato is 76% of the blood glucose response to the same amount of carbohydrate in pure glucose(2).” The GI of cooked brown rice is  “55 relative to glucose and 79 relative to white bread (3).”  Before the Glycemic Index was developed, brown rice and potatoes were classified as complex carbs, despite the fact though they both have a significantly different effects on blood glucose levels.

How bodies respond to high and low GI foods
According to Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load , “the consumption of high-glycemic index foods results in higher and more rapid increases in blood glucose [sugar] levels than the consumption of low-glycemic index foods.” A  rapid increase in blood sugar triggers insulin secretion. High insulin levels caused by eating high GI foods, will cause a dramatic drop in blood glucose levels after a few hours.  Low GI foods cause a lower and longer sustained increase in blood sugar levels and will not result in high insulin secretion or a sharp drop in blood sugar levels. Therefor, low GI foods do not cause a sugar crash like high GI foods. Low GI foods result in sustained energy over more time.

Why Blood Sugar Levels Matter
Diabetes  Prevention  Excessive and repeated insulin secretion caused by high GI foods over time is believed to contribute to “the loss of insulin-secreting function… that leads to irreversible diabetes (4). High dietary glycemic loads have been associated with an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes mellitus (DM) in several large prospective studies.”

Cardiovascular Disease “Impaired glucose tolerance and insulin resistance are known to be risk factors for cardiovascular disease and type 2 DM” (Diabetes Mellitus).

Obesity A meal with 500 calories and a high GI load will cause blood sugar levels to rise higher than a 500 calorie meal with low GI. The high blood sugar levels will cause a higher secretion of insulin that will trigger a sharper drop in blood sugar levels then a low GI meal. The sharp drop in blood sugar levels will lead to feeling hunger faster than a low GI meal. “15 out of 16 published studies found that the consumption of low-glycemic index foods delayed the return of hunger, decreased subsequent food intake, and increased satiety (feeling full) when compared to high-glycemic index foods(5).”
Gallbladder Disease According to the article, “results of two studies indicate that dietary glycemic index and glycemic load may be positively related to risk of gallbladder disease. Higher dietary glycemic loads were associated with significantly increased risks of developing gallstones in a cohort of men participating in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study (43)and in a cohort of women participating in the Nurses' Health Study (6).

Diabetes Mellitus
Multiple studies suggest that a low GI diet improves glood sugar control for indidividuals with type 1 and type 2 diabetes.

Strategizes to lower your consumption of high GI foods
-Consume less high GI foods like potatoes, white rice, and white bread.
-Eat more whole grains, beans, fruits, nuts, and non-starchy vegetables.
-Minimize consumption of sugary foods, such as soft drinks and desserts.

Kay’s naturals knows a low GI diet is very important. All of our snacks and cereals have a low GI and are diabetic friendly! Every 1.2 oz serving has 12 grams of protein and is also certified gluten free! You have to try them to believe how wonderfully crunchy they are. Visit http://shop.kaysnaturals.com/?Click=2852 to learn more. For a list of carbs and their GI levels, visit the University of Sydney’s GI Web site.


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