Learn about insulin and carbohydrate foods based on their glycemic index ratings.
What is Glycemic Index?
So you're getting a "wiff" of new buzz words going around hyping a "new" meal planning tool called the Glycemic Index (GI). There is a lot of misunderstanding about the GI, which has actually been around for many years. It seems that "the industry" will find ways to reinvent the wheel and create buzz words out of the ordinary. Let's take a look at some of the benefits of eating a variety of foods with special emphasis on carbohydrates of a specific glycemic index rating and the affects of these foods on your overall health and fitness potential.
It is a good idea to get to know and understand the Glycemic Index, because choosing foods with a low GI rating more often than choosing those with a high GI may help you to:
• Control your blood glucose levels
• Control your cholesterol levels
• Control your appetite
• Lower your risk of getting heart disease
• Lower your risk of getting type II diabetes
The basics The Glycemic Index is a scale that ranks carbohydrate-rich foods by how much they raise blood glucose levels compared to glucose (100) or white bread (73).
When you eat food that contains carbohydrates, the sugar (glucose) from the food breaks down during digestion and gives you energy. After you eat, your blood glucose level rises; the speed at which the food is able to increase your blood glucose level is called the "glycemic response". This glycemic response is influenced by many factors, including how much food you eat, how much the food is processed or even how the food is prepared (for example, pasta that is cooked al dente (firm) has a slower glycemic response than pasta that is overcooked).
Good carbohydrates, better carbohydrates...
The Glycemic Index ranks carbohydrate-rich foods according to their glycemic response. Foods that raise your blood glucose level quickly have a higher GI rating than foods that raise your blood glucose level more slowly; in general, the lower the rating, the better the quality of carbohydrate.
Not only do low GI foods raise your blood glucose more slowly and to a less dramatic peak than higher GI foods, but most low GI foods are all-around healthier choices. Low GI foods are usually low in calories and fat, while also being high in fiber, nutrients and antioxidants. Choosing low GI foods more often may help you increase levels of HDL (healthy) cholesterol in your blood and might help you control your appetite, as they tend to keep you feeling fuller, longer.
Choose better carbohydrate foods...
Remember to always consult your doctor or nutritionist before making any changes in your diet. The suggestions made in this article are not meant to oppose the support and direct involvement and prescribed diet from your doctor. If suggested by your doctor - try to choose low and medium GI foods more often than high GI foods. A GI of 55 or less ranks as low, a GI of 56 to 69 is medium, and a GI of 70 or more ranks as high. Use the chart below to help you make healthier choices.
Here are some tips to help you lower the Glycemic Index of your daily meals:
• Base your food choices primarily on overall nutrition – including vitamins, minerals and fiber... Don't dismiss healthy foods such as white potatoes just because they have a high GI. Their additional nutritional benefits make them good choices.
• Try to choose at least one low GI food at each meal.
• If you choose a high GI food, combine it with a low GI food, for an overall medium GI meal. For example, half a bagel (high GI) with a bowl of chili (low GI), or corn flakes cereal (high GI) topped with a spoonful of All Bran (low GI) and some strawberries (low GI).
• Limit the amount of processed, refined starchy foods, as they tend to be low in fiber and other nutrients and have a higher GI.
• Try new foods that have a low GI. Experiment with beans, legumes and lentils by including them in dishes such as chili, soups and salad.
• Eat whole grain, pumpernickel and oat bran bread more often than white bread.
• Eat fresh fruit and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables have a low GI, so they break down into sugar slowly in your body.
• Choose parboiled, brown or white rice more often than instant rice.
• Eat pasta, rice, yams, lima beans or baked potatoes more often than mashed, boiled or instant potatoes. Eating potatoes cold, as in a salad, reduces their GI.
• Use vinaigrette instead of a creamy salad dressing. It's lower in fat, plus the acidity of the vinegar slows digestion, lowering the meal's GI.
• Watch your portion sizes; the bigger the portion, the more it will increase your blood glucose, regardless of its GI value. For more information about healthy portion sizes, visit the Diet Plan section of our site.
• Check your blood glucose level before eating and one to two hours afterwards to see how your body handles the meal.
Remember that the Glycemic Index is just one part healthy eating. Don't forget to:
• Eat at regular times
• Choose a variety of foods from all food groups
• Limit sugar and sweets
• Reduce the amount of fat you eat
• Include foods high in fiber
• Limit salt, alcohol and caffeine.
• Choose heart healthy fats such as canola and olive oil.
Eat a balanced diet, consider glycemic index ratings, and get a personal trainer for motivation, injury prevention, greater strength and safe weight loss.