Glycemic index is the measure of how quickly a particular food will raise your blood sugar levels. Having consumed more foods with a high glycemic index can make you fall at risk of developing diabetes which is really harmful for your overall health. Some foods that are known to digest quickly including white bread, mashed potatoes, and processed foods. These foods have a high glycemic index and it is best to avoid eating these in regular basis.
There are high glycemic foods and low glycemic foods depending on how they will release sugar into the blood stream. The low glycemic index foods will release sugar slowly as they are known to digest slowly. Such foods include whole wheat pasta, brown rice, milk, most of the vegetables, and pulses.
A Low Glycemic Index Diet
The concept of including low glycemic foods in your diet has shown improvements in overall health. A low glycemic diet has several benefits as you will be able to notice weight loss, reduced blood sugar levels, decreased risk of heart disease, and reduced risk of diabetes. However, it was seen that the overall healthiness of foods were not justified by the ranking according their glycemic index values.
What is Glycemic Index?
Different types of carbohydrates will have different effects on your blood sugar. Glycemic index takes carbohydrates into account when determining how they will affect the raising blood sugar levels. Since carbohydrates can be found in various foods including bread, cereals, fruits, vegetables, and dairy foods, their type should be taken into account to classify them as low or high glycemic index foods.
Consuming any food that contains carbohydrates will break them down as digestion takes place to enter the blood stream as sugar. The foods are measured in comparison with how 50 grams of pure glucose having GI value of 100 is absorbed into the blood stream. There are three classifications of foods according to their GI values.
Low GI foods have values 55 and below.
Medium GI foods have values 56 to 69.
High GI foods have values of 70 or more.
Foods having low GI values are preferred to be included in the diet plan as they get absorbed slowly in the bloodstream. On the other hand, high glycemic foods will quickly get absorbed into the blood stream raising blood sugar levels. It should also be noted that carbohydrates determine the glycemic index of foods so there will be no GI value for foods containing no carbohydrates. Foods such as beef, chicken, herbs, spices, fish, and eggs will not be ranked in the GI list of foods as they are free from carbohydrates. Quinoa is well known for its low GI.
What Affects the Glycemic Index of Foods
The type of sugar has a role in determining the Glycemic index as it ranges from 19 to 105 for fructose to maltose. This proves that not all sugars are bad and high in glycemic index.
The structure of starch will also affect the glycemic index value of foods. Starch contains two components mainly amylose and amylopectin. The two have different GI values which will determine how particular foods will raise blood sugar. Foods that have high amylose content will have low GI value because those are difficult to digest whereas foods containing more amylopectin will be easier to digest and so have high GI value.
Processed foods have higher GI values because processing alters the structure of starch. Grinding and refining is known to disrupt the molecules which will raise GI values. Such foods are therefore not recommended to be included in the diet.
The composition of foods also change glycemic index of foods. Fats and acid content will have an effect on the glycemic index of foods. Therefore, it can be concluded that adding fats and acid content to foods will lower the glycemic value of foods. This will slow down digestion and absorption in the bloodstream and will not raise blood sugar levels.
Method of Cooking
The way you cook foods will also have an effect on the glycemic index. The increased time of cooking will also increase the rate of food digestion and absorption of sugars in the blood stream. Therefore, it is better to cook for as less time as possible to retain the nutritional value of foods and also keep GI values low.
Unripe fruits take longer to digest as the ripeness make them digest faster. For example, the more ripe a banana is, the more will its GI value be. Overall, the factors affecting GI of foods will decide how beneficial they are for your health. You can take care of some factors to retain nutrition of foods and make them digest slowly in your system.
Role of Carbohydrates in Glycemic Index
Carbohydrate content measures the glycemic index value of foods but other factors such as the nutrient composition, type of carbohydrates, and amount of food eaten will alter the values as well. The glycemic load was developed to take the amount of food into consideration as glycemic index does not measure this.
The glycemic load takes the amount of food and type of food into account and then measures its effects on the system. However, glycemic index is still most important for knowing what foods to include in your diet.
How Do Low Glycemic Index Foods Prevent Diabetes?
Diabetes is a growing disease that affects millions of people worldwide. Diabetes makes the system inable to process sugars which causes blood sugar levels to increase. Glycemic index plays its role here where people want to opt for foods that will not spike blood sugar. Low GI foods when included in the diet will effectively reduce blood sugar levels. This will also prevent or delay the onset of diabetes and other diseases.
What are the Benefits of Low Glycemic Foods?
The benefits of low glycemic foods will never fail to surprise you as they improve cholesterol levels, help you lose weight, reduce the risk of cancer, and reduce the risk of heart disease. High GI foods will increase the risk of chronic diseases.
What Foods to Include in a Low Glycemic Index Diet?
You should be able to opt for low glycemic foods for an overall healthy immune system. Choose wisely and have good health. Foods including ehole grain bread, oats cereals, apples, peaches, strawberries, plums, kiwi, carrots, cauliflower, celery, tomatoes, broccoli, sweet potatoes, corns, lentils, chickpeas, kidney beans, noodles, brown rice, semolina, milk, cheese, yogurt, custard, soy milk, and almond milk.
Meat, fish, nuts, spices, herbs, butter, and margarine do not have carbohydrates and therefore do not list on the glycemic index.
What Foods Should be Avoided in a Low Glycemic Diet?
It is recommended to include low glycemic foods instead of the high glycemic foods. There are no foods that are banned on the low glycemic diet plan. Try to avoid white bread, naan bread, instant oats, corn flakes, instant mashed potatoes, instant noodles, white rice, rice milk, oat milk, watermelon, rice crackers, pretzels, rice cakes, cupcakes, cookies, doughnuts, waffles, and scones.
Are there any Drawbacks of Low Glycemic Diet?
There are several benefits of a low glycemic diet as foods will digest slowly and will not raise blood sugar levels but there may be drawbacks of such foods as well. Low glycemic foods do not provide full nutrition content if fats, protein, sugar, and fiber are concerned. The body may be deprived of the essential nutrition it requires if you only stick to low glycemic foods. It should also be noted that there are foods having low glycemic values but are unhealthy. Therefore, considering only GI of certain foods may not give you a clear picture of how healthy that food is for your health.