What Is The Glycemic Index?
You may have heard the term "glycemic index" tossed around recently. But is it a legitimate diet concern or just a trendy new diet? You may be surprised to learn that it can be both.
Basic definition of glycemic index
The glycemic index calculates how much your blood sugar increases two hours after you eat a particular food. Foods with high numbers will have a greater impact on your blood sugar. The glycemic index of a food is related to the amount and quality of the carbohydrates in that food. You may be wondering, "Why should I care about my blood sugar levels?" People with high blood sugar tend to store more fat, which has been linked to other health risks.
High glycemic index foods
Sugar, starches and simple carbohydrates tend to have a high glycemic index. These foods are metabolized quickly, giving you a swift increase in energy. But you will soon crash, feeling hungry and tired again. Some examples of high glycemic index foods are:
- White bread
- Regular pasta
- White rice
- Anything made from white flour
- Many baked goods, which are full of sugar and white flour
Low glycemic index foods
Complex carbohydrates have a lower glycemic index because they have more fiber and are absorbed more slowly by the body, which gives you lower blood sugar and insulin peaks. These foods will also keep you feeling full for a longer amount of time. Some examples of low glycemic index foods are:
- Whole grains
The inadequacies of the glycemic index
Not everyone considers the glycemic index to be a valid dieting tool. This is because it doesn't take into account how people actually eat. The glycemic index only calculates the impact of individual foods on blood sugar levels. Most people eat foods mixed together in meals and dishes, instead of eating a bowl of peas now, and a bowl of plain rice later on. The glycemic index is also affected by the presence of fiber and fat, how long the food is cooked and how finely a grain is ground. If you are dieting, doctors have found that calorie count matters more than the type of foods you eat. In one diet study, 34 overweight people were divided into two groups and given two very different diets: a low carb, low glycemic index diet and a low fat, high glycemic index diet. At the end of 12 months, both groups lost the same amount of weight- 8 percent of their body weight. If you are dieting, it is good to think about the glycemic index when you are choosing foods. However always keep in mind that fatty foods containing few carbohydrates will have a low glycemic index but are not necessarily good for you. If you are counting calories, keep in mind that low glycemic foods like whole grain bread and pasta have lots of calorie, while fruits and vegetables tend to have very few calories.