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Glycemic Index Explained

Not a Diet, It's a Plan

 The glycemic index (GI) of foods has become the holy grail of choices for diabetics, and non-diabetics who make these same choices to successfully lose weight. It has become part of today’s food culture. Advertisements claiming the health benefits of eating foods with a low glycemic index can be seen on TV and on restaurant menus.


If this sounds too complicated to study, relax – this explanation will be a revelation you won’t soon forget. You will probably tell yourself “… why didn’t I know this sooner?”  So first let me give the basic definition, and next we’ll get to the evidence.


Since foods with glucose have a measurable effect on blood sugar levels, researchers were able to devise a system that would allow the average person to control their blood sugar without insulin. Foods that react more slowly to your bodies insulin need, have a lower GI number, while the more sugary or starchy foods are higher. High glycemic foods are quickly digested requiring a “spike” in your body’s insulin or blood sugar level. When the pancreas cannot keep up with your high GI diet, it breaks down and the result is diabetes. Our goal is to avoid this by making better food choices.


Obviously ‘bad’ foods earn a high glycemic index score. But most people recognize that a baked potato is healthier than a bag of French fries, yet the fries have a GI of 75 while the baked potato is an 85 on the scale. Why is that? Fats enter the bloodstream slowly, hence the lower number. We will use plain common sense to see how the Index will work for us.


Generally speaking, foods that are white in color are high on the GI index; white breads, sugar, pasta and over processed foods. The closer a food is to nature, the lower it is on the GI; whole grains, fruits and vegetables, legumes and other forms of protein. When choosing foods based on their GI number, healthier choices can be made by choosing the majority of our daily consumption below 55… and a few with values between 55 and 70. Rarely (but yes it is allowed) we have a treat above 70.


I do not have a degree in nutrition, but any person can print out a glycemic index chart and keep it in the kitchen for reference. The researchers and scientists have done all the work for us. Take the simple food ‘glucose’, or simple-sugar… they reference all foods against this because if you were to eat some glucose your body would not have to break it down; it would travel directly to your bloodstream.


Therefore, all foods are tested by volunteers who eat a carefully measured amount of a test food containing 50 grams of carbs. Over the next 2 o 3 hours, blood samples are taken to measure how high the volunteers’ blood glucose rises. They are tested again, in the same way only this time they consume 50 grams of glucose – the reference food. The total elevation in blood glucose levels is noted, and the test food is then expressed as a percentage of that elevation.


Diabetics have been given hope for keeping their blood sugar balanced, and GI has helped all body-types to lose weight and keep it off. Glycemic Index Charts are easily found on the Internet and cover many pages. It will not take long for you to memorize that swapping this for that will shed pounds, ease the burden you have put on your pancreas and above all, avoid the dreaded side effects of diabetes.


Esther Smith, author

Smith has personally taken to the study of glycemic index charts to correct her own dietary needs. Losing weight has never been this easy, she tells us. For more on this subject go here:

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