The Glycemic Index – What you need to know

In order to lose weight, you need to count calories, right? Not exactly.

A diet’s caloric value is not the only thing to consider. In addition to paying attention to how many calories a food has, it is important to assess the value of each calorie. The glycemic index can help us to do just this.

What exactly IS the Glycaemic Index?

The term ‘Glycaemic Index’ (GI) refers to a food’s ability to raise the blood sugar level. Pure glucose has the highest GI; its value is 100. This value is used as a reference point to which all other foods are compared. The higher the GI of a given food, the quicker the blood sugar level rises after its consumption.

Are foods with a high Glycaemic Index value dangerous?

When you consume a food with a high GI, a sharp and sudden spike in the blood’s sugar level occurs. In order to compensate for this spike, a large quantity of insulin is released into the blood stream. This surge of insulin decreases the amount of blood sugar, but at a price. The sudden drop in blood glucose signals you to eat more even though you may already be full. And thus, a vicious cycle is created. High GI food = increased insulin = low blood sugar = eating more food. In essence, you set the stage for unnecessary overeating when you choose to eat foods with a high glycemic index.

Research has shown that consistently eating foods with a high GI value leads to a disruption in the synthesis of insulin. As a result, hyperinsulinemia or an increase in the blood’s insulin level can develop. This ultimately leads to insulin resistance (a decrease in the body’s sensitivity to its own insulin). This state reduces the feeling of satiety and decreases the ability of the body to burn fat. In other words, an increase in appetite and weight gain is inevitable. Increased insulin levels are also linked to increased risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer.

Choose the right foods

The glycemic index can be used as an effective tool to determine which foods will not cause a drastic insulin response in the body. Foods can be categorized into 3 groups: low, medium, and high glycemic indices. Below is a list of examples from all 3 groups:

Low GI Foods (Equal to or less than 55): Broccoli, Mushrooms, Tomatoes, Green Beans, Red Peppers, cherries, apples, pears, coconut, strawberries, sourdough wheat bread, oats

Medium GI Foods (Value of 56-69): Beetroot, Bananas, Raisins, Pineapple, wholemeal rye bread

THigh GI Foods (Value of 70 and above): Pumpkin, watermelon, dates, doughnuts, crisps, bagels, white bread and pita, white rice, pasta, French fries or chips, refined white flours and sugars

Is it possible for the Glycaemic Index of a food to change?

Many factors can influence the glycemic index of a specific food.

The amount of fiber. The higher the fibre content, the lower the GI. The amount of fat. The higher the fat content, the higher the GI. The amount of protein. If you mix a food that has a higher GI with a protein, the overall glycemic index of the meal is lowered. For example, if you eat a fruit with some nuts, the overall effect of the meal will not cause a spike in blood sugar. Cooking. Cooking food can easily increase the GI of a food. If you choose Al Dente pasta versus very well cooked pasta, the latter will have a higher glycemic index. The presence of acids. Foods that are more acidic, like lemon or apple cider vinegar, decrease the GI of foods by allowing for slower absorption into the blood stream. Ripeness. The riper the fruit, the higher the GI.

Remember that choosing low glycemic index foods is basically like choosing a predominantly plant based diets. By incorporating various fruits and vegetables into your meal plan on a daily basis, you will maintain a normal body weight, control the amount of glucose and cholesterol in your blood, curb your appetite, and lower the risk of various diseases.

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