What Is The Glycemic Index?
In simple terms, the Glycemic Index or GI of any given food, is the measure given to the effect that any given food has on the concentration of glucose found in the blood – this is known as glycemia. Glycemia means the presence of glucose or levels of glucose in the blood and glucose is a medical term meaning sugar, that is produced from carbohydrate intake.
Foods that release glucose into the blood quickly after they have been eaten are known as high GI foods and foods that release glucose slowly are known as low GI foods.
For strength of body and mind, carbohydrates are a necessary component to give the body the fuel it needs in order to survive, however it is easy to exceed carbohydrate intake.
Too many carbohydrate foods (there are both simple and complex carbohydrate foods) can lead to weight gain and obesity. It is therefore important to manage carbohydrate intake to keep the GI in check and blood sugar levels from exceeding moderate levels.
It should be noted that carbohydrates are a necessary and very important part of any diet and should not be discarded, but they need to be consumed with practicality.
Pasta, bread, rice, grains, potatoes and anything with sugar are all sources of carbohydrates and are foods that we often over-indulge in because they taste great! It takes personal resolution to practice self-discipline when maintaining a steady, healthy diet and moderate carbohydrate intake.
To keep the body running optimally, healthy blood glucose levels should be given consideration. Who sits down to eat and considers their GI levels? I know I never used to, but it is something to keep in mind when planning meals as sugar levels rise after food is consumed, which immediately signals the pancreas to release insulin. It is the pancreas’s job to release insulin so blood sugar levels do not exceed normal levels.
Years of over-indulgence can cause the pancreas to eventually stop producing insulin how it should and this is when real health problems can begin. Health problems resulting in Type 2 diabetes which could eventually lead to permanent damage of the eyes and nerves.
It is never too early to begin giving Glycemic Index levels some consideration. Tests for the GI delve a little deeper when checked by a health practitioner, revealing the actual influence food has on blood sugar levels.
Importance of Maintaining Steady GI Levels
There are many diets today for weight loss and many have focused exclusively on low carbohydrate intake, which is equivalent to one that keeps GI levels in check. People are becoming more aware that a diet high in fat and carbohydrates has been linked to many medical conditions, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, kidney disease etc.
GI Rating System and GI Values
Since the GI has become an integral part of how health care professionals measure blood sugar or glucose levels, health care organizations have classified foods into categories – high, medium, low and very low.
- 0 to 55 is considered low
- 56 to 69 is considered medium
- 70 or higher is considered high.
Examples Of Food Impact
Carbohydrate intake and GI go hand in hand but not all carbohydrates have the same effect and are unique when it comes to measurement. For example, there is a difference between a slice of whole wheat bread versus a slice of plain white bread.
Both share equal amounts of starch but starch from the white bread when broken down by the digestive system coverts the starch into sugar more rapidly than the whole grain bread. The pancreas therefore has to work harder to maintain sugar levels than it would if the same person had made the whole-wheat choice instead.
- Using the simple example above to measure GI, different foods such as white and whole wheat bread, break down differently once digested. It would then be fair to say that whole grain foods have a lower GI value than those made from processed white flour.
The lower the GI level, the easier it is for the pancreas to keep blood sugar levels low, which in time if not kept low but are consistently high, can then overtax the pancreas, which again, can lead to devastating health related issues later on in life.
- It is fair to assume that foods that are less processed will have a lower GI than those foods that are “over processed” as so many foods are that we tend to overindulge in.
- If you tend to shun foods that have the words “whole grain” or “natural” as part of their description…you may want to reconsider.
Your diet will be better and the less stress you put on any of your organs, especially ones as hard working as the pancreas and the kidneys, the less chance there is of promoting future health problems associated with kidney or pancreatic decay.
Several diets follow this theory including, the Zone Diet and the Low Carb Diet.
The following is a list of some foods that fall into the low GI category:
- Bell Peppers
- Garlic and onions
- Sesame Seeds
- Sunflower Seeds
- Kidney Beans
- Navy Beans
- Pinto Beans
- Lima Beans
- Grass fed beef
- Pasture raised poultry
- Grass fed lamb
- Brown Rice
- Whole Wheat
Lowest GI Herbs And Spice Selections
- Cumin Seeds
- Mustard Seeds
- Black Pepper
- Chili Pepper
Some of the items in the categories above may be surprising to you, but it should be noted that those in the Meat and Dairy categories that are considered “low” on the GI are those that were acquired from animals that are “grass-fed” and “pasture-raised.”
This would indicate that those products that are not raised “organically” would be higher on the GI scale.
In conclusion, diet modification and good nutrition is never easy. It takes time and above all discipline to acquire new habits. Hopefully, this article has given you more understanding on the Glycemic Index and your blood sugar levels and the overall effects that over consumption can have on the body.