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Every so often a “new” diet is featured in the press, followed by Hollywood endorsement and praise for it’s ability to make you slim and healthy. Many of these are fads that are only successful in the short term, many are highly suspect and ineffective and some are actually dangerous as they omit essential food groups. One of these “new” fad diets touted in the press a few years ago was the glycaemic index. It’s not actually new though, and has been prescribed by doctors to help those suffering from diabetes since its creation in the early 80s. It also happens to be extremely effective in making non diabetics slim and healthy. So what is it, and why does it work?
The glycemic index or GI is a measure of the effects of carbohydrates on blood sugar levels. Carbohydrates that break down quickly during digestion and release glucose rapidly into the bloodstream have a high GI; carbohydrates that break down more slowly, releasing glucose more gradually into the bloodstream, have a low GI. The concept was developed in 1980–1981 at the University of Toronto in research to find out which foods were best for people with diabetes. A lower glycemic index means slower rates of digestion and absorption of the foods’ carbohydrates and creates a lower insulin demand after eating. In effect if you eat lots of sugary (high GI) foods the pancreas releases lots of insulin (a chemical messenger) that instructs your body to store glucose in the liver and muscles (your fuel tank). Over time you become resistant to this insulin onslaught and the messages don’t get through; you are now insulin resistant, and on the road to diabetes. Sugary (high GI) foods also get used up quickly, so that after the initial energy burst you get a trough in blood sugar levels, and a craving for more sweetness. In effect a sweet vicious cycle. High GI foods are also so easily digestible that you are much more likely to have a surplus of blood sugar – this excess energy will then be stored as fat!
Foods with a low GI have the opposite effect; they take longer to digest and so fill you up for longer, making it easier to avoid the chocolate gateaux. This means that you get out of the sugar craving cycle, so it’s easier to be good. They also contain more fibre, vitamins, nutrients, and are still in their natural state, so prevent heart disease, cancer and other killers. Most importantly for the dieter they are less calorie dense, so you can eat lots of them and not actually take in too many calories! To boot, low GI foods help to improve cholesterol and promote physical endurance. In short, great for weight loss and health!
What now? All you need to do is swap high GI foods for low ones; there are no complex calculations or calorie counting, no deprivation or hunger. Five tips to success are:
There is a list of common foods and their GI on the nutrition fact sheet on the Knowledge page, have a look. Remember that block bookings at Diets Don’t Work Personal training (London, Windsor and Maidenhead) include detailed nutritional assesment and help with eating.