Nutrition

The Glycemic Index

By July 24, 2008 November 28th, 2011 No Comments

Although the recent press coverage and celebrity endorsements have highlighted the advantages of a low GI diet, it has been known for some time that a diet high in complex, low sugar carbohydrate makes you healthy and energetic. The glycemic index is a grading of foods according to the time it takes them to release their glucose into the blood, from 1-100 (100 being the quickest). A high GI value means the food causes a fast and large rise in blood sugar levels, while a low GI value means the food has only a slow, low effect on blood sugar. Foods that have low GI values release sugar into the blood slowly, over a long period, providing constant energy through the day, meaning that hunger pangs are less likely to strike. High GI value foods, in contrast, flood the body with sugar fast, but the effect wears off just as quickly meaning you get hungry again. This is why a candy bar often seems such a good idea when we are starving, yet rarely satisfies. Low GI foods also use more energy to break down, so provide metabolic bursts where you are using calories.

When foods with a high GI release their sugars quickly your body reacts by producing lots of insulin, a chemical messenger which tells the body where to take them. Over time your pancreas (this makes all the insulin needed to deal with all that glycogen) gets worn out, you become insulin resistant (the messages get ignored) and will have a high chance of getting diabetes.You should be aiming to eat foods from 0-55 wherever possible. Although some processed foods have a low GI index and some natural foods have a high one, you should still try to stay natural. A useful way of looking at the advantages of the GI nutrition plan is to compare how much you can have of one thing and the equivalent amount of a high GI food. For a few slivers of chocolate (GI=very high!!) you could have heaps of broccoli, a fair bit of lean protein or lashings of salad! Also lower GI foods will fill you up for longer as your body has to work harder for longer to convert these low GI foods into fuel it can use. So if you are trying to improve your nutrition or you have a personal trainer who is suggesting following the low GI diet, our opinion is…go for it!

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