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Glycemic Index: What is it and why should you care?

Posted Feb 10 2009 11:04am

by Brett Blumenthal

You may have heard of the Glycemic Index or the GI diet.  There was a lot of buzz about it a few years ago, especially when the Zone Diet was popular.  Why has it become all the rage?  In very simple terms, it helps you to understand what is a worthwhile carbohydrate and what isn’t.

The Glycemic Index (GI) is a way to measure how quickly your blood sugar rises after ingesting a carbohydrate.  Each food is assigned a value on a scale of 0 - 100, based on how fast your blood sugar rises in the two hours after you consume the carb.  The higher the number, the more rapidly your blood sugar rises.  The lower the number, the more slowly your blood sugar rises.

Why is this important?  In the most simplest of explanations, the higher your blood sugar levels, the more insulin is released into your body.  Too much insulin in your body results in your body gaining fat.  This is not a good situation if you are trying to lose weight or even maintain a healthy weight.  Additional benefits of eating a diet that has a lower overall GI include: stable energy levels, suppressed appetite and leaner body mass.

So what is considered a low GI food?  Mostly foods under a GI of 55.  Foods between 55 and 70 are considered moderate and foods over 70 are high.  Eating higher GI foods, however, can be counteracted by combining them with low GI foods, thus lowering the overall GI of a meal.  In essence, this is accomplished by combining your carbohydrates with proteins and fats.  The Zone Diet incorporates this philosophy by prescribing that you eat meals that are balanced and made up of 40% Carbohydrates, 30% Protein and 30% Fat.

Below are lists of low, moderate and high GI foods:

Low GI Foods:

  • Starchy Carbs: Oats, Flax Seed, Barley
  • Simple Carbs: Apples, Citrus Fruits, Cherries, Pears
  • Fibrous Carbohydrates: most vegetables (except carrots)
  • All Proteins
  • All Fats

Moderate GI Foods:

  • Starchy Carbs: Brown Rice, Potatoes, Corn and Peas
  • Simple Carbs: Bananas, Apricots, Mango, Papaya

High GI Foods:

  • Starchy Carbs: White Rice, Whole Wheat Bread, White Bread,
  • Simple Carbs: Candy, Sugar, Juice
  • Fibrous Carbs: Carrots

If you eat any foods that are higher on the GI, try combining them with a protein and a healthy fat to lower the overall meal’s GI rating.

Have you tried the GI Diet or Zone Diet?  What did you think?


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