Low Glycemic Foods, hype or not?

Which foods are low glycemic foods and how does one figure out glycemic levels?

The glycemic index rates carbohydrate foods on their effect on the body's blood glucose levels. It is important for everyone and especially those with:

  • Diabetes
  • Hypoglycemia
  • Athletes
  • Those who want to lose weight
Low glycemic foods

In North America foods are compared to white bread, which is given a GI of 100. In Europe they are compared to glucose.

Glycemic Index:
Low: 55 or less
Medium: 59-69
High: 70+

Another measurement that is used is glycemic load. This tells us how rapidly a carbohydrate turns into sugar and how much of the carbohydrate the food contains.

Eating high glycemic foods

What happens when you eat foods that are high on the glycemic index? 

The food releases glucose rapidly producing high blood levels of glucose. The pancreas secretes insulin to regulate glycemic levels. If this happens too often then the cells become overloaded and can not respond to insulin and take in the glucose. Just like a drug dependency the cells become "insulin resistant." They require higher levels of insulin in order to get the glucose into the cells.

When all the glucose reserves are full, excess glucose is converted to fat. 

In a study of the high glycemic phenomenon, young boys were given the same amount of calories for breakfast. However one group had instant oatmeal and the other group had a vegetable omelet and fruit. They were given either a low glycemic or high glycemic lunch of equal calories.

Following the noon meal both groups were allowed to eat as much as they wanted. The high glycemic group ate over 80% more calories than the group that ate the low glycemic meals. To ensure there wasn’t any difference between the groups, the researchers switched the meals between the two groups and had the exact same results.

The natural craving for more food and higher glycemic foods was created by the type of food, not the number of calories!¹

We are a carb addicted society

In his excellent book, Healthy For Life , Ray Strand MD, mentions, "What you have always considered as a lack of 'will power' when you have been trying your hardest to diet is in reality a natural craving (for high glycemic foods) that cannot be suppressed."²

Checking the glycemic index of foods can help you in making better choices towards more healthy foods. It is important to note that... 

GI is calculated by eating foods alone and 
we almost always eat foods together.

Things that affect the glycemic index

  • How ripe a fruit is
  • How the food is prepared, peeled, puréed, etc.
  • How the food was cooked
  • How long the food is cooked
  • How much water was used in cooking
  • How high the temperature is when cooking
  • How processed the food is
  • What the food is eaten with

  • If you want to follow a glycemic diet, how do you choose low glycemic foods? 

    Low glycemic foods

    Once again, it is the whole, natural foods that are low glycemic and the highly refined processed and fast foods that are very high on the glycemic index. It is essential to follow a healthy diet. 

    1. Ludwig, D.A. et al. "High Glycemic Index foods, Overeating, and Obesity." Pediatrics 103. (1999): e26.

    2. Strand, D. Ray, MD. Healthy for Life, Developing healthy lifestyles that have a side effect of permanent fat loss (Rapid City, South Dakota: Real Life Press 2005) 45.

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