What is Glycemic Index?

Probably you have heard or read about the Glycemic Index before, but do you know what it really is? The Glycemic Index (GI) measures how quickly food raises your blood sugar levels, taking portion sizes into account too.

Avoiding high glycemic foods is especially important for people trying to lose weight, or people with type 2 diabetes. Insulin is a hormone that’s released when the sugar levels in your blood are high. The amount of insulin that the body releases to lower blood glucose levels can cause your blood sugar to drop so quickly that many people feel a rapid return of hunger — and want to eat again, even if their body doesn’t need it, thus causing another rapid rise of blood sugar.

Low GI foods do not have this effect, they have a much more subtle effect on blood sugar levels.

Chronic consumption of carbohydrates with high GI can increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance and fatty liver disease.

The food’s GI levels depend on the rate of digestion. The faster a food is digested, the higher the GI. Low GI foods are mainly high in fiber content, and therefore can slow down digestion — they delay the return of hunger after you consume them by slowing and delaying gastric emptying.

If you start paying attention to which carbohydrate sources you are consuming you will definitely feel positive affects on your health! It’s actually much more than just weight loss or type 2 diabetes. Studies show that a diet high in refined carbohydrates with a higher GI, such as bread, white rice, soda and pasta, will cause responses in the body that result in mood changes, fatigue and symptoms of depression.

The glycemic index of all foods ranges from 0 to 100. Low GI is a level below 50, medium is form 50 to 70, and high GI is levels above 70.

Practical examples of simple carbohydrate foods with a high GI are those containing one or two simple sugars, such as desserts, processed grain, jam, white potatoes etc. Although not all simple carbohydrates are considered bad for you — some good ones are fruits, such as apples, strawberries or peaches.

Examples of complex carbohydrates with a lower GI are beans, veggies, oatmeal, legumes and brown rice.

Changing your food sources and eating non-processed, high fiber foods can improve your health by stabilizing your blood sugar, slowing down digestion, and delaying rapid absorption due to enzyme release. For example, leafy green vegetables, avocados, chia seeds, sweet potatoes and flax seeds. Also, consuming carbohydrates together with lean protein sources or healthy fats (olive oil, coconut oil) can be helpful for managing blood sugar levels and hunger.

Remember, when you eat food, you turn that food into your body — choosing healthy food will create a healthy you!


Ayda Ersoy is a nutrition and fitness director at The Diet Doc Hawaii. She can be reached at DietDocHawaii.com, Ayda@DietDocHawaii.com or (808) 276-6892


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