A buzz word we have most likely heard at some point in the health community is “glycemic index”. What is it? Should I be concerned about the glycemic index in foods? Let’s dive in to this popular term and you can determine for yourself if it is something you want to pay attention to.
Glycemic index (GI) is a term used to describe the ability of a food or beverage to raise our blood sugar to a particular level within a period of time. The glycemic index ranks foods and beverages based on how quickly they raise our blood sugar levels. The system rates these items from 0 (low glycemic index = slow rise in blood glucose) to 100 (high glycemic index = quick rise in blood sugar). The GI is used when referring to carbohydrate foods, such as beverages, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains because they consist largely of carbohydrates. These types of carbohydrates affect our blood sugar levels the most. Foods that contain a majority of fat and protein are not calculated because they do not affect our blood sugar levels nearly as much.
Examples of Low Glycemic Foods
(55 or less)
Examples of Medium Glycemic Foods (56-69)
Examples of High Glycemic Foods
(70 or more)
For more examples check out: http://www.health.harvard.edu/newsweek/Glycemic_index_and_glycemic_load_for_100_foods.htm
The GI can assist individuals who are diabetic. These individuals have most likely heard about the glycemic index because they have to pay special attention to their blood sugar levels. For example, if a diabetic is suffering a diabetic shock (hypoglycemia) it means their blood sugar levels are very low. In this situation, they will need a high glycemic food or beverage, like a piece of fruit or fruit juice, to get in to their system very quickly.
The GI can also assist in those looking to lose a few pounds. According to WebMD, taking in foods with a lower glycemic index can help with weight loss because low GI foods keep you fuller longer. If you have high cholesterol, eating lower GI foods has also been linked to better HDL “good cholesterol” levels and lower triglycerides (a type of blood fat).
Be aware though that how your body absorbs carbohydrates depends on several factors. The Mayo Clinic states that how much you eat, how the food is ripened, how the food is processed
and/or prepared, the time of day the carbohydrate is eaten, what foods you eat with the carbohydrate, are all factors that can influence how a carbohydrate is absorbed and handled in the body. This means that the GI may not give a complete accurate picture of how one specific food can affect your blood sugar. It is just another tool to add to the arsenal if interested.
Written by: Brittany Schneider
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