Glycemic Index – know your food GI number
As you are looking at the title. I’m going to discuss the Glycemic Index (GI).
Most of the time, we take carbohydrates in our diet, usually in breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Carbohydrates are base of our diet, especially in India.
Everyone needs carbohydrates, but it doesn’t mean we eat anything in our food. Our body is designed to eat right and healthy nutrients. We should know about nutrients and the glycemic number of our food.
First of all, you need to understand that all the carbohydrates are not similar. Some are a good source of carbs, and some are a bad source of carbs. Good carbs are also called complex carbohydrates, whereas bad carbs are called simple carbohydrates.
Bad carbs instantly digest, absorb and provide us quick energy, e.g., refined carbohydrates, pizza, burger, or street foods. Moreover, it quickly shoots up the blood glucose level.
But complex carbohydrates are slowly digested and don’t spike your blood sugar level. It also sustains the energy for a more extended period, e.g., whole-grain food, fruits, fiber diet, vegetables, etc.
Basically, the glycemic index tool was developed to control blood sugar in diabetic patients. But now it is also considered for those who are willing weight loss, and it is an essential factor for every healthy people.
It gives you a way to choose the best carbs for your diet. Let’s get more details of glycemic index –
What is the Glycemic Index?
The Glycemic index is basically your carbohydrate ranking system that reflects how quickly your food will influence blood glucose level.
In other words, whatever you eat carbohydrates in your daily life, it is converted into glucose and gets energy. This process determines how much raises your blood sugar level. It also gives an idea of the rate of absorption and digestion of your carbohydrates.
Carbohydrates → Glucose → Energy
It represents the scale from 0 to 100. This tool measures which type of food will boosts how much blood sugar.
The high GI number foods (more than 70) quickly absorb into the bloodstream and result in fluctuation in blood glucose level.
In contrast, a low GI number of foods (55 or less) is more slowly digested and causes a slower blood glucose rise.
The high GI number foods instantly give you energy for 1 to 2 hours; after that, your blood glucose level crash down. Then again, you will require carbs to get energy. It does not give you constant energy for a long time.
It disturbs the balance of blood glucose and energy. Due to this, you may have –
- Central obesity due to increase fat level
- Increase bad cholesterol (↑ LDL)
- Decrease good cholesterol (↓ HDL)
- High risk of developing diabetes
- Increased risk of developing heart disease
- Excess use of insulin in your body.
That’s why high glycemic foods are considered as bad carbohydrates.
What are the best low GI foods?
As per diabetes Canada, all the carbohydrate foods are categorized into three division –
- high GI (70 or more)
- medium GI (56-69)
- low GI (55 or less)
Let’s see the glycemic index table which includes –
- glycemic index of fruits – low
- glycemic index of vegetables – low
- glycemic index of wheat – high
- glycemic index of rice – high
High GI (70 or more)
· White bread (whole wheat)
· White naan (whole wheat)
· Corn flakes cereal
· White rice
· Boiled potato
· Banana (brown, overripe)
· Junk foods – cakes, burger, pizza etc.
Medium GI (56-69)
· White chapati (whole wheat)
· Wheat bread
· Whole grain wheat bread
· Basmati rice
· Brown rice
· Banana (yellow, ripe)
· Dried cranberries
Low GI (55 or less)
· Heavy mixed grain breads
· All bran cereals
· Pulse flours
· Sweet potato
· Almond milk
· Cow milk
· Soy milk
· Kidney beans
· Many fruits – apple, apricot (fresh, dried), banana (green, unripe), berries, honeydew melon, mango, orange, peach, pear, plum, pomegranate
· Many vegetables – broccoli, tomato, mushrooms, onions, spinach etc.
You need to select your glycemic number of foods. If you are taking high GI foods, you must stop and think. Is it the right food for you or not?
You may choose moderate GI but you should always prefer low GI foods.
What are the benefits of low glycemic food?
A low GI diet aims to sustain energy levels and curb the shoot-up of blood glucose levels. It is a beneficial tool to prevent chronic diseases. There are many other benefits of low GI like –
- It reduces obesity
- It reduces the risk of the development of diabetes and cardiovascular disease
- It reduces the LDL cholesterol level and increases HDL level
- You might choose this diet for weight reduction and maintain a healthy lifestyle.
- As per the American Academy of Dermatology – If you are struggling with acne problems, this will be a helpful diet.
How do carbohydrates convert into glucose?
Although all carbs are the same mechanism. The food goes to the gastrointestinal region and enters the bloodstream.
Most of the complex carbohydrates are full of fibers. Due to this, it slows the carbohydrate’s breakdown. Furthermore, it slowly absorbs into your bloodstream. That result, it doesn’t spike the blood glucose level. Then your food converts into glucose, and it enters into your cells. Eventually, it provides energy for a more extended period.
As far as a concern refined carbohydrates, it does not contain fibers. Due to this, it quickly absorbs into the bloodstream and spikes the blood glucose level. Then excess carbohydrates are stored in muscle and fat cells. As a result, your body converts this extra amount of carbohydrates into fat; that’s why we become obese and diabetic.
Are there any drawbacks of GI?
Here, the Glycemic Index theories are not giving clarity because it does not reflect the quantity of food. Glycemic index can change based on several factors –
1. Ripening – Excess ripped fruit may high GI. E.g., the GI of fruits like bananas goes up as they ripen.
Banana (green, unripe) – Low GI
Banana (ripe, yellow) – Medium GI
Banana (overripe, brown) – High GI
2. Processing – GI may alter in processed food like –
Fruit juice has a high GI rather than whole fruit. Another example is the refining of food like:
Wheat (low GI) → Maida → Snacks (High GI)
3. Cooking – Overcooking may also increase the GI of food. The longer you cook food or starches like pasta, the GI will be higher.
4. Variety – Brown rice has a low GI, whereas refined rice or white rice has a high GI.
Other limitations are that it does not describe the insulin production in our body, measured by the insulin index.
How to overcome the limitation of glycemic index?
To address this problem of glycemic index, researchers have developed the idea of glycemic load (GL). For the quantity and quality of food, glycemic load is the best way to compare blood glucose values.
Glycemic load (GL) = the amount of carbohydrate in a portion of food and how quickly it raises blood glucose levels.
The University of Sydney defines low, medium and high Glycemic loads as follows:
Low Glycemic Load (low GL): 0 to 10
Medium Glycemic load (med GL): 11 to 19
High Glycemic load (high GL): 20 and over
The low glycemic load will be better for you than medium and high.
Example of calculating glycemic load – baked potato
GL = GI of Baked Potato x carbohydrate (g) / 100
GL= 85 x 40 /100
GL=34 (High GL)
Sometimes GI gives us confusion while selecting carbs because GI may go high in good carbs (complex carbohydrates).
And, some simple carbs may present in healthy foods, such as milk or milk products, whole fruits, and some vegetables that contain a lot of nutrients and vitamins which cannot be avoided.
The Glycemic index is not a perfect system but a useful tool. So, it may give us better results while calculating with a glycemic load.
I hope you like this article.
Eat healthily and stay healthy.