The Glycemic Index (GI) was developed in 1980 by Dr. David J. Jenkins. He was testing to see which foods were best for people with diabetes by measuring the blood glucose response to each food.
The GI is a useful tool for controlling blood glucose or for losing weight. It allows us to easily choose foods based on their ratings. High-GI foods are digested and absorbed quickly and cause blood glucose and insulin levels to rise quickly. Low-GI foods are digested and absorbed slowly, cause gradual rises in blood glucose and insulin levels. People who eat more high-GI foods tend to have a higher level of body fat (BMI). High BMIs are linked to obesity, heart disease and diabetes.
- Low (good): 55 or less
- Medium: 56–69
- High (bad): 70 or higher
Your body performs best when your blood glucose operates within a narrow band. If your blood sugar drops too low, you will experience headaches, fatigue, hunger and cravings for sugar or carbohydrates . If it goes too high, your brain signals your pancreas to secrete more insulin. Insulin brings your blood glucose back down, by converting the excess glucose to fat. The higher the rate of increase of blood glucose the more chance that your body will release an excess amount of insulin which drops your blood sugar back down too low, creating a sugar roller coaster.
Although it started as a tool for diabetics, everyone can benefit from adjusting their diets to include more low glycemic foods. It is easy to look at the list and substitute an ingredient that has a lower GI. The idea is to choose foods from the low and medium range and avoid foods high on the glycemic index. Choosing to have steel cut oats for breakfast (GI: 52) instead of instant oatmeal (GI: 83) can make a big impact on everyone’s overall health. A diet rich in vegetables, fruits, healthy fats, proteins and complex carbohydrates is ideal. Unprocessed foods have lower glycemic index values than refined foods, making it important to increase whole foods and whole grains, while reducing processed foods.
- There are many benefits to eating low GI foods:
There are a few critics of the Glycemic Index because it is not exact. It will vary based on much the food is processed, how it is cooked and how ripe it is. It can still be a useful tool to get an idea of the impact of a food on the body. If you do not want to measure and track your eating, the GI can be a great guideline that helps you compare foods and choose the better option.
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