Glycemic Index: What Is It?

Understanding the Glycemic Index, which one is better and how it can help people with Diabetes

Several different diets are based on the concept of the Glycemic Index. Each year, 62 million Americans are diagnosed with a digestive disorder. 

Learning how to lower your GI food intake can help you reduce your weight, help with chronic conditions such as Diabetes as well as can help lower your risk of heart disease. 

This article will help you understand the Glycemic Index, how it is measured, and the benefits of a low GI diet. 

What Is The Glycemic Index?

According to Harvard, The Glycemic Index is a value assigned to foods based on how slowly or how quickly those foods cause increases in blood glucose levels. GI is affected by several factors, including the amount and type of carbohydrate a portion of food contains, the fat and protein content of the food, and how much organic acid (or their salts) is present in the food.  

Foods can achieve slow and steady glucose release with a low glycemic index. The foods that are high on the GI release glucose quickly. Foods with a low glycemic index tend to encourage weight loss, while foods with high glycemic index help athletes recover from fatigue or mitigate hypo- (or insufficient) glucose levels after exercise.

There are three GI ratings:

  1. Low– 55 or less
  2. Medium– 56-69
  3. High– 70 or above 

Refined carbohydrates and sugar are digested more quickly and often have a high GI, whereas food high in protein, fat, and fiber tends to have a low GI. No GI is assigned to foods that do not contain carbs, including meats, fish, poultry, nuts, seeds, herbs, spices, and oils. A low GI diet can be achieved by knowing where your favorite foods fall on the GI scale. 

Factors that Affect The GI of foods

Factors that affect the GI of foods include the ripeness, cooking method, type of sugar it contains, and amount of processing it has undergone. 

  • A riper fruit contains more sugars, thereby increasing GI.
  • Methods of cooking – cooked foods are more likely to break their cellular structure, digest more quickly and have a greater tendency to raise blood glucose levels.
  • Processed grains, such as flour, have a higher GI than whole grains because grinding breaks down their protective layers, as well as the time spent in storage. One notable example is potatoes, which range in GI from moderate to very high even within the same variety. 

Two hours after consuming a food, the glucose index shows the impact on blood sugar. Diabetes patients experience elevated blood sugar levels for four hours or longer after eating certain foods.

What Is Better: High or Low glycemic Foods?

GI-low foods are the preferred option, suggests Healthline. Slow digestion and absorption cause a smaller rise in blood sugar levels. Foods with a high GI value, on the other hand, should be limited. They raise and lower blood sugar levels rapidly as they are digested and absorbed. 

With that being said, high Gi foods are needed to increase your blood sugar levels quickly. This can be useful for those who have a sugar level drop and need something fast to help stabilize their levels until they can seek the medical attention they need. 

Benefits of a Low GI Diet

Identifying foods with a high GI and swapping them with low GI alternatives is part of following a low GI diet. By eating a low-glycemic diet, you may manage your blood sugar levels, reduce your cholesterol, and lose short-term weight.

Improved Cholesterol levels

According to a study, Low GI diets reduced the total cholesterol of participants by 9.6%. 8.6% of the bad cholesterol was reduced. Heart disease and stroke are also associated with high cholesterol levels. 

Weight loss

A low GI diet may help you lose weight, based on some evidence. There are some concerns regarding the effectiveness of low GI diets for long-term weight loss, so more research is needed. 

May reduce risk of cancer

Researchers have found that people who consume high GI diets are more likely to develop certain types of cancer, such as endometrial, colorectal, and breast cancer than those who consume low GI diets. 

The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported in 2007 that age-related adult macular degeneration (AMD), which causes blindness, is 42% higher among people with a high-GI diet. And concluded that eating a lower-GI diet could prevent 20% of AMD cases.

What is Glycemic Index Good for Diabetes?

There are three main types of diabetes. There are millions of diabetics in the world every year because of this complex disease. A diabetic’s inability to process sugars effectively can make maintaining a healthy blood sugar level difficult.

However, reasonable blood sugar control can help prevent and delay complications, such as heart disease, stroke, and damage to the kidneys and nerves. Diabetes patients with low GI diets reduce their blood sugar levels, according to several studies. 

A 2019 review of 54 studies concluded that low GI diets reduced hemoglobin A1C (a long-term marker of blood sugar control), body weight, and fasting blood sugar levels in people with prediabetes or diabetes. 

In addition, some research suggests that high GI diets are associated with a greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Approximately 33% more type 2 diabetes risk was found among those consuming the highest GI diet than those consuming the lowest GI diet, according to a study of over 205,000 individuals. 

Foods To Eat on A Low GI Diet

  • Bread: whole grain, multigrain, rye, sourdough
  • Breakfast cereals: steel-cut oats, bran flakes
  • Fruit: apples, strawberries, apricots, peaches, plums, pears, kiwi, tomatoes, and more
  • Vegetables: carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, celery, zucchini, and more
  • Starchy vegetables: sweet potatoes with orange flesh, corn, yams, winter squash
  • Legumes: lentils, chickpeas, baked beans, butter beans, kidney beans, and more
  • Pasta and noodles: pasta, soba noodles, vermicelli noodles, rice noodles
  • Rice: basmati, Doongara, long grain, brown
  • Grains: quinoa, barley, pearl couscous, buckwheat, freekeh, semolina
  • Dairy and dairy replacements: milk, cheese, yogurt, coconut milk, soy milk, almond milk

Final Thoughts 

Reduced blood sugar levels, weight loss, and a reduced risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes are some of the benefits of a low GI diet. There are, however, several disadvantages to the diet as well if it is not followed correctly.

No matter your GI score, it is essential that you consume a healthy, balanced diet consisting of whole, unprocessed foods. 

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