Did you know having a basic understanding of the glycaemic index can benefit your health and weight management?
I believe an understanding about the foods you’re eating and how they work with your body can help you achieve your health goals.
Oh come on, you must have at least one health goal on the boil? Lose a bit of body fat? Tone up? Cut down on processed ready-made meals?
The glycaemic index is useful as a weight management tool because it helps manage energy levels. Therefore, having an understanding of GI is handy to know when making choices about which carbohydrate foods to include in your meals.
Carbohydrates are found in foods like bread, rice, pasta, potatoes, cereals, fruit, vegetables and milk. If you’re still not convinced;
recent studies indicate that the risks of diseases such as type 2 diabetes and coronary heart disease are strongly related to the GI of the overall diet.
Understanding the Glycaemic Index
Glycaemic Index (GI) is a way of ranking carbohydrates.
Foods are given a GI number depending on how they affect your blood glucose levels and are put into one of 3 groups:
- Low: 1–55
- Medium: 56–69
- High: 70–100
Whenever you eat carbohydrates, it causes a rise in blood sugar levels. Your body isn’t keen on severe rises or dips in circulating blood sugar levels, so it uses hormones to keep them stable.
Foods that cause high fluctuations in blood sugar levels put the body under stress because it has to manage these extreme changes.
Carbohydrates that are easy to digest and absorb will produce a rapid increase in blood sugar levels. These carbohydrates will usually have a high GI value.
Low GI foods conversely are not so readily digested and absorbed and produce a slow rise in blood sugar and insulin levels.
Low GI diets have many benefits in terms of weight management, appetite suppression and diabetes management and prevention.
Cheese, Chips and Chocolate Cake
I thought that heading would get your attention. The point is that just because a food has a low GI, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a healthy food option (hence the picture of the chocolate cake).
Nothing’s ever simple, right? You also need to look at the fat content of the food or meal along with the GI value because fat is digested slowly and can lower the GI value.
And guess what, yeah, cheese, chocolate cake and chips (a bit of alliteration going on there) all have a low GI.
Stop! Do not head to the kitchen for a piece of chocolate cake. Remember what I just said? It’s important to take account of the overall nutritional content of food and not just its GI.
Choosing foods that promote steady blood sugar levels can help you to reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes as well as assisting with weight management.
I’ve mentioned before here that there would have to be a major catastrophe for me to leave the house without breakfast.
That said, I have friends who don’t eat breakfast. My advice, short and simple is, make the time, even if it’s grabbing a banana as you leave the house.
After your evening meal, your blood sugar rises. While you sleep, this will reach a peak and then slowly fall away. Throughout the night, your body uses glucose to maintain energy for all its bodily functions.
My friend Sarah is up bright and early, at 6 am and skips breakfast, not good. By 10 am her blood sugar levels are low, and her brain is telling her to sort it!
Sarah heads to the vending machine for a quick fix. She gets a packet of 3 chocolate cookies and grabs a coffee or a hot chocolate drink.
The high GI snack results in a sharp rise in blood sugar levels that quickly falls away again. The sharp increase and fall of blood sugar means she’ll likely crave another quick fix for her lunch.
By the end of the day, Sarah’s blood sugar level has been on a long roller-coaster ride. Her appetite and food choices compromised all because she decided to skip breakfast.
Eating a Low GI Breakfast
Now had Sarah eaten a low/medium GI breakfast, not chocolate cake, but a healthy breakfast, say a bowl of porridge with some berries, nuts or seeds, her blood sugar levels would have risen steadily so less likely to cause a sugar craving.
She would then likely have more control and choose a healthier mid-morning snack (one that didn’t result in a rapid increase and fall of blood sugars) to keep her going until lunch.
Common Sense and Parsnips
There is one more thing I want to mention before I conclude this post and frankly, I’m about to state the blooming obvious.
A common sense approach to your food choices and portion sizes is a must for weight management and staying healthy. And believe it or not, parsnips are a high GI food.
It’s to do with the ‘science’ and how they work out the Glycaemic Index. So without boring you with details as long as you eat a sensible-sized portion you’re good to eat parsnips. They are after all full of nutrients and not just for Christmas.
Usually, you’ll end up eating meals including a mix and balance of different foods and drinks. Eating all high GI foods = high GI meal. Having a combination of low and high GI foods = medium GI meal.
Fibre, protein and fat all lower the GI value of a meal. And the GI value of some foods may vary for different people.
To conclude, the glycaemic index isn’t straightforward. But for me, having a basic understanding of it and how it can influence my sugar cravings and therefore give me more control over my appetite and food choices makes it a great tool for my weight management and health.
Check www.glycemicindex.com for more information on the GI of foods.
Keep your food portion sizes sensible to help manage the total glycaemic load for carbohydrate-rich foods.
Including protein in a meal can help to lower the overall GI of the meal by slowing down the digestive process. Choosing lean meat reduces the fat content and calorific value of the meal.
Including at least one low GI food in your meal lowers the overall GI value even if there are high or medium GI foods included. The more low GI foods it includes, the better.
Including foods rich in fibre such as wholegrain, slows down the digestive process which in turn slows down the glycaemic response.
Information in this post was sourced and adapted from Future Fit Training.