Understanding the Glycemic Index
Carbohydrates are one of the six essential nutrients. Despite common talk about avoiding carbohydrates for weight loss, our bodies require them to thrive. Carbohydrates contain sugar. When you eat carbohydrates, your body breaks down that sugar and absorbs it into the cells with the help of a hormone called insulin, where it is then converted to fuel and used for energy.
The trouble is that in the contemporary American diet, carbohydrates are everywhere. When you eat too many carbs, it may become difficult for your body to process them efficiently. High levels of glucose (sugar) in the blood stream require faster production of insulin, and your body can’t keep up with that fast pace forever.
In time, insulin levels will deplete and glucose levels will continue to rise in the blood, unable to transfer into the cells. This is what happens in someone with type-2 diabetes, and the carbohydrates in your diet play a direct role in the disease’s onset.
Spotting Sugar in Carbohydrates
Carbohydrates are classified as either simple or complex. Simple carbohydrates include sugars, such as table sugar, honey and syrups. Complex carbohydrates include whole grains, starchy vegetables and beans. Eating a diet rich in whole grains is said to help with weight loss and encourage fullness. While this may be true, being health conscious while eating carbohydrates isn’t that clear-cut. Eating certain carbohydrates can affect the level of sugar in the bloodstream. This is why it helps to understand the glycemic index.
About the Glycemic Index
The rate at which sugars turn into glucose to become fuel within the body is known as the glycemic response. A scale known as the glycemic index ranks carbs based on how rapid this conversion will take place.
The glycemic index is a scale of 0 to 100. The higher the score on the glycemic scale, the faster your blood sugar will rise after eating that food.
When you eat foods that have a high score on the glycemic index, you are likely to experience a surge in energy and mood initially after eating. Then, there will be a crash. These spikes and drops in energy are due to the inconsistency of sugar in your bloodstream. To manage your blood sugar levels, you are encouraged to eat foods that have a low or moderate GI score. This will keep blood sugar levels stable.
Here are a few examples of where common foods stand on the glycemic index:
- Peanuts: 14
- Grapefruit: 25
- Spaghetti: 42
- Brown rice: 55
- Oatmeal: 58
- White rice: 64
- Baked potato: 85
If a food has a glycemic index lower than 55, it is considered to have a low GI score. Foods with a glycemic index greater than 70 are considered high. People who have type-2 diabetes are encouraged to watch the glycemic index of the foods they eat, and to manage their blood sugar levels by eating foods with low GI scores.