Low Glycemic Index Foods and how They Affect Your Diet and Nutrition
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Low Glycemic Index Foods and how They Affect Your Diet and Nutrition

What is glycemic index or GI and why should you care.

Knowing the exact glycemic index (GI) of your food is probably not critical but having an overall understanding of how to maintain a healthy weight is important to overall quality of life. Understanding glycemic index will give you another tool to use when choosing foods that will contribute to a healthy lifestyle, better overall nutrition and assist you in your weight loss efforts.

Glycemic Index - What is it?

Glycemic index is a number that indicates how quickly the carbohydrates in the food you are eating metabolizes in your body. In other words, how quickly the food breaks down and sugar (glucose) gets into your blood. The higher the GI number the faster the glucose gets into your blood.

Pure glucose has a GI of 100 and foods are measured according to that standard. A food that falls in the category of a glycemic index between 70 and 100 is considered a High GI. Foods between 56 and 69 are considered a medium GI and foods 55 or below are considered low GI. The closer you get to 100 the closer you are to pure glucose.

Why should I be concerned about GI?

You may know an athlete or someone with diabetes who will “slam down” a high sugar (high GI) drink or juice. The reason they do this is to get sugar fast because they either need to recover from exercise or their blood sugar is low (hypoglycemia) due to their diabetes. Glucose is needed for your cells to function and for energy. Low blood sugar can have very serious consequences for diabetics. An athlete may also have a high glycemic index snack just before an event for a fast burst of energy.

For the average person, glycemic Index will be a consideration in controlling weight, hunger and energy in general. Those on a diet will want to avoid high GI foods. Choosing low GI foods that digest more slowly, or “stay with you” longer, will help maintain a steady energy level throughout the day and help avoid extreme highs and lows in your blood sugar. If you are consistently eating high GI foods, more often than not, you will be hungry more often and have lows throughout the day causing a vicious cycle of hunger and eating for bursts of energy.

How do I know what the glycemic index is for a particular food?

You probably won’t know the GI of a particular food unless you look it up on a Glycemic Index Chart. You may want to do that and educate yourself on various foods and food groups especially if you are struggling to lose weight. However that is not generally necessary if you follow a few guidelines.

Generally, foods that are very sweet, starchy or highly processed will have a higher GI. Most fruits and vegetables have a low GI, however sweet potatoes and watermelon are higher so you need to be aware. Choose fresh fruit and vegetables, whole grain breads, nuts, brown rice and legumes. The more you choose fresh natural unprocessed foods the more likely you will have made a better choice with a lower glycemic index.

Are there any diets that concern themselves with glycemic index?

There are several popular diets that concern themselves with glycemic index. If you notice the foods that you are allowed and check the glycemic index charts you will likely notice that the foods on your diet match up to lower glycemic indexes.

Chocolate cake and ice cream have low GI. Why?

It is true that chocolate cake and ice cream have a low glycemic index? The reason for this is that they are high in fat. High fat foods will have a low GI but that doesn’t mean it is a wise choice. Whenever fat is added to a food it will lower the glycemic index. Glycemic index is only one of a number of considerations when making food choices. You may be attending a special event that has scrumptious cake and ice cream and desserts. You might decide that you will just be extra vigilant and eat especially healthy the day before and after. 

Quality of life is affected by many things and a healthy diet is one way of enhancing your life. You will likely feel better and have more energy if you consider the foods that you eat and make good choices.

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Comments (4)

Really good overview, We can't live carrying a chart around, but we can learn to make good choices. Interesting about the fat content lowering the GI number, could get a little tricky

Yes, the fat slows down the quick sugar so when treating a sugar drop in a diabetic we will not generally give chocolate but instead give smarties or juice.

Thank you for the index... it will come in handy.