The glycemic index concerns foods high in carbohydrates. Foods high in fat or protein don’t cause your blood glucose level to raise much, carbohydrates do.
The glycemic index measures how fast a food is likely to raise your blood sugar. Not all carbohydrates act the same. Some are quickly broken down in the intestine, causing the blood glucose level to rise rapidly. These carbohydrates have a high glycemic index.
What does the glycemic index mean?
Glucose (sugar) is given an arbitrary value of 100 and other foods are given a number relative to glucose. The glycemic index ranks carbohydrates on their immediate effect on blood glucose (blood sugar) levels. It compares foods gram for gram. Faster carbs (higher numbers) are great for raising low blood sugars faster because they break down quickly and release the glucose into the blood stream quickly. Carbs that break down slowly release glucose gradually into the blood stream – they thus have a low glycemic index. Slower carbs (lower numbers) raise the blood sugar more slowly.
The impact a food will have on the blood sugar depends on many other factors such as ripeness, cooking time, fiber and fat content, time of day, blood insulin levels, and recent activity. Use the Glycemic Index is just one of the many tools you have available to monitor the way you eat.
What is the Significance of Glycemic Index?
• Low GI means a smaller rise in blood glucose levels after meals
• Low GI diets can help people lose weight
• Low GI diets can improve the body’s sensitivity to insulin
• High GI foods help re-fuel carbohydrate stores after exercise
• Low GI can improve diabetes control (for more information see Diabetic Diets)
• Low GI foods keep you fuller for longer
• Low GI can prolong physical endurance
Low GI = 55 or less
Medium GI = 56 – 69
High GI = 70 or more
How to Switch to a Low GI Diet
• Use breakfast cereals based on oats, barley and bran
• Use “grainy” breads made with whole seeds
• Reduce the amount of potatoes you eat
• Enjoy all types of fruit and vegetables (except potatoes)
• Eat plenty of salad vegetables with vinaigrette dressing
When you make use of the glycemic index to prepare healthy meals, it helps to keep your blood glucose levels under control.
Regarding Diabetes, experts, led by endocrinologists like Dr. Richard K. Bernstein, recommend a low-carbohydrate diet, because carbohydrates can raise blood glucose to dangerous levels. See Diabetic Diets
Many of the glycemic index results have been surprises. For example, baked potatoes have a glycemic index considerably higher than that of table sugar.
A more pleasant surprise is the very low glycemic index of a tasty bean called chana dal, Another pleasant surprise is pearled barley, which has a glycemic index of 36. That’s much lower than any other grain. For example, brown rice has a glycemic index of 79, and wheat is even higher.
Hulless barley—particularly the non-waxy variety—almost certainly has an even lower glycemic index than pearled barley, because pearling removes some of the fiber.
Scientists have so far measured the glycemic indexes of about 750 high-carbohydrate foods. The key is to eat little of those foods with a high glycemic index and more of those foods with a low index.
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