Understanding the Glycemic Index

November 17, 2011

The Gycemic Index, known as GI is a measure of how fast your body absorbs carbohydrates and increases blood sugar. Carbohydrates that break down quickly during digestion and release glucose rapidly into the bloodstream have a high GI, while carbohydrates that break down slower, and release glucose more gradually into the bloodstream, have a low GI. Low GI foods have  GI values of 55 or less, medium GI foods have values between 56 and 69 and high GI foods have GI values of 70 or  above. Researchers found that foods that rate 55 or lower on the glycemic index do not significantly raise your blood glucose levels, making them ideal for diabetics who need to control their blood sugar and for dieters who are trying to lose weight.  The four primary foods that fit this profile are:
  • Whole Grains: Oatmeal, bran cereal, brown rice, whole-wheat pasta, and whole-wheat bread are excellent low-GI whole-grain foods and should be part of your diet no matter what of your fitness goals may be.
  • Vegetables: Vegetables are among the most popular and ideal low-GI foods for dieters, because they are low in calories. They're also rich in dietary fiber, which can help control your appetite besides keeping your blood sugar levels stable. Look for non-starchy vegetables -- spinach, broccoli, green beans, bell peppers, green peas and lettuce are all low-GI vegetables.
  • Fresh Fruit: Fruits do contain sugar, but it is not  refined, unlike the sugars in  high-GI foods such as candy bars, and processed foods. Low-GI fruits include apples, bananas, grapefruit, grapes, pears, and oranges, which all have a GI rating below 55. Grapefruit is a GI lean machine, with a GI of 25.
  • Non-carbohydrates: The Joslin Diabetes Center at Harvard Medical School found that carbohydrates have the greatest effect on your blood glucose levels. Egg whites, fish, poultry and lean red meat do not significantly affect your blood sugar level.
Low GI foods also benefit fat storage. When the insulin index is lower, fat burns easier and it is  more difficult to store fat. This is extremely important for bodybuilders, as a thick layer of fat on top of the muscle will prohibit it from showing when at rest. But the best news is that focusing on a low GI diet can provide long-term benefits for your health!

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