Do you know the difference between high glycemic foods and low glycemic foods? If not, we can explain. The Glycemic Index or GI is a scale that ranks foods, particularly high-carbohydrate foods, according to how much they raise your blood glucose levels in the two or three hours after eating.
The GI ranges from 0 to 100. Foods with a high GI are digested quickly and cause a significant spike in our blood sugar levels. This in turn causes a corresponding spike in insulin to bring those sugar levels back down. Pure glucose has a rating of 100 on the GI scale. Low glycemic index foods have less of an impact because they are digested and absorbed more slowly, so your body needs less insulin to control your blood sugar levels.
Choosing a low glycemic diet is beneficial to our health because controlling blood sugar and insulin levels is one of the keys to reducing our risk of heart disease and diabetes. Low glycemic diets are also useful for controlling your appetite and aiding in weight loss.
Our bodies perform best when blood sugar levels are maintained relatively stable. Research from the Harvard School of Public Health has shown that high GI diets are strongly linked to an increase in the risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease. The World Health Organization has recommended that people in developed countries consume as many low-GI meals as possible in order to prevent heart disease, diabetes, and obesity.
A century ago, our food simply took longer to digest. This is because it came straight from the farm to our table, in its natural state. Carbohydrates in particular were quite different because they still had the original fiber and other natural components they were grown with. Modern food processing practices have stripped our food of many of its natural properties, making it easy to package and store, and extremely quick to digest. And the faster we digest the food, the quicker we get hungry again.
This is the vicious cycle that happens when we consume too many high GI foods. High glycemic index foods may give you a bit of a rush and a burst of energy, but this is followed by a “crash” as the insulin takes the blood sugar back down and you feel hungry again. What's worse, these insulin spikes turn all that excess blood sugar into stored fat, usually right around the abdomen.
On the other hand, low glycemic foods such as fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains are gentler on our bodies. The rise in blood sugar is slower and more sustained over time, meaning we feel fuller longer. Our body's natural processes and energy levels are maintained throughout the day, which not only provides health benefits but also makes us feel better, because we're not on that “sugar rollercoaster” from morning to night.
If you would like to increase your consumption of low glycemic foods, here are some suggestions.
Interestingly, the cooking method can affect the GI rating of a food. For example, boiled potatoes are rated an 81 on the low glycemic food chart, while baked rate as 119 and mashed 104.
However, rather than obsess about individual GI food ratings,
remember that the most important goal is to have a low glycemic diet overall.
Eating the occasional high GI food is ok, especially if you also eat
low glycemic foods along with it. Try to focus on eating a healthy,
balanced diet including a wide variety of whole, natural, and fresh
foods. By doing so, you won't even have to consult the GI scale, because
you'll naturally be eating relatively low glycemic foods and gaining
all the benefits described here.
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