Hi Friends! It’s Olivia, back with another blog post, all about the glycemic index (GI). GI is a measurement of the amount of carbohydrates which corresponds to the subsequent rise in blood glucose (AKA blood sugar) levels after a meal. Foods with a GI of 55 or higher are considered to be high GI, and foods with a GI of 55 or less are low. The GI system compares all foods to pure glucose, which has a GI value of 100. So, what does this mean? High GI foods are ones that cause a rapid spike in blood glucose levels, and are metabolized and absorbed very quickly. Foods which have a high GI include refined grains, pasta, bread, potatoes, rice, crackers, and cereal. Low GI foods include fruits, vegetables, quinoa, legumes such as lentils and beans, soy products and yogurt. These release glucose slowly and the rate of metabolization and absorption is much slower.
The role of sugar from carbohydrates is very important in the body. For more information on sugar, refer to the previous blog post “Let’s Talk Sugar.” When we eat carbs, the sugars they contain are broken down into glucose molecules by the digestive system. Once the glucose molecules are produced, they enter the bloodstream and are dispersed to individual cells, which are used for energy. Any excess glucose that is not needed for immediate use gets stored in the liver and muscles. The hormones that regulate the uptake and release of glucose are insulin and glucagon. Insulin is responsible for moving sugar from the blood into individual cells for use. Glucagon does the opposite job and is the hormone responsible for releasing stored sugar from the liver when blood sugar levels are low.
Here’s where the glycemic index comes in. If we are consuming excess amounts of high GI foods, our blood sugar is going to be spiking drastically, which disrupts the natural balance of the storage and release of sugar in the bloodstream. Having an intake of lower GI foods is important because these foods will help regulate the release of sugar into the blood, and the increase in blood glucose levels is much slower. In addition, these foods will take longer to be digested, making it so you feel full for a longer period of time! Through monitoring the GI of the food you consume, you can control your blood sugar levels, which is important in individuals with diabetes and pregnant women, as well as for the maintenance of a healthy metabolism and can improve weight loss. Dr. Kelley has been working with many future moms to combat blood glucose levels, if you are interested in a session with her please reach out, maintaining blood glucose is so important! To view the glycemic index of common foods, visit this page.
Although the GI is a helpful guideline for monitoring carbohydrate intake, there are a few things to keep in mind when checking the GI of your diet. It is important to understand that how the food is prepared can affect its GI. For example, the longer you cook pasta, the more digestible its starch becomes, thus raising the GI. Roasting vegetables can also increase their GI score and steaming or boiling vegetables has the least impact on the GI. However, don’t get caught up in the numbers. If you love roasting your carrots and broccoli, by all means continue doing so. Fruits like watermelon have a high GI, but a low impact on blood sugar because of its low carbohydrate composition. Potatoes have a relatively high GI, but offer an abundance of health benefits, especially sweet potatoes!
If you are looking to decrease blood sugar levels, make healthy swaps instead of eliminating foods. In general, it is better to have a diet high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, low-fat protein such as white meat poultry or fish, and minimal processed and refined food. A big part of ESO’s nutrition
coaching is to have individuals eat a well-balanced diet, with a big emphasis on finding healthy alternatives for high GI foods. Working with clients on these swaps is something that both Vas and Dr. Kelly are experienced in, and they are experts on finding balanced diets that promote healthy blood glucose levels, which as we have learned is a pivotal aspect of the human diet!
Here are some healthy swaps for lower GI foods:
White rice for brown rice, quinoa or farro
Instant oatmeal for steel cut oats
Corn flakes for granola
White bread for whole wheat, sprouted bread
White pasta for lentil or brown rice pasta
Soda for sparkling water or lemon water